When people think of the music that a DJ spins at fashion shows, especially New York City fashion shows, they probably imagine the songs that play as the models walk down the runway and the cameras flash. Whether this music be the often-used fast, pulsating beats of electronic house music or something else, the music used for the actual “show” part of the fashion show is often the most fussed over by the event organizers, designers, and the DJ. This is expected, as this is the music that most directly will be accenting the presentation of the clothing designs and influencing the mood the designs leave with the audience.
But when it comes to the “framing music” – songs played when people arrive, in between designers' clothing lines, for curtain calls, and for exit songs – we’ve seen at the fashion shows we've DJ-ed (photos of these shows are featured here), that there is less of a concern as to its craft as there is crafting the runway music. However, if done well, the framing music can be used to steer the audience’s mood to the way an organizer or designers wish, just as songs played while the models are on the runway. More importantly, though, if the framing music is not done well, or an untested DJ is given too much freedom to improvise, the framing music can detract from the atmosphere you want to be in place throughout the show. (For a post exclusively on advice for fashion show arrival music, go here.)
Here are some of the most important things we think there are to consider, and then to discuss with your DJ, about your fashion show framing music so that you can work together make the music the most effective it can be to enliven the feel that you want to create:
Length – No one in the audience likes to arrive on time but then be rushed to their seats, nor do they like to wait so long that they grow impatient. Whether for arrivals or for intermissions, the “sweet spot” lies in having enough time to take in the surroundings for a bit and to let the feel of the music sink in. This is especially important if there is a different mood being created after each presentation of designs, whether from the same designer or different ones. The music needs time to work to shift people’s mood, and that often takes at least a few songs, but should not last a half-hour, either. Often the time that music is played for arrivals and intermissions is dictated by the time needed to prep for each designer or clothing line presentation, but this does not mean that just because a five-minute turnaround is possible means that the intermission should also be this length.
Energy – While framing music can be of many, many styles, generally it tends to be fairly upbeat and friendly. However, if a designer wants to put the audience in a more dark atmosphere or a more coarse one to accent the mood of a clothing line, they should, first, not be shy about it (as long as the music isn’t extremely intense as to cause annoyance or ear damage, of course), as it can become part of the fun of the show, and, second, they will need to communicate this to the DJ, as moods like this can often require a more carefully-crafted approach.
Familiarity – Some organizers and/or designers prefer to include framing music at their fashion shows that is accessible, cool-sounding stuff that is very obscure and likely has not been heard by most in the audience. Others prefer to play a mix of songs that are very well known. Still others mix it up, playing a few interesting obscurities followed by an “anchor” of a more familiar song to make people feel comfortable. The important thing here is to think about what you believe the designs need and what the audience would like. Sometimes these match; other times they don’t. Regardless, thinking about which situation it might be will give you one more valuable piece of information for the DJ to make your event’s music the best it can be.
Shape – If an organizer or designer chooses to have some sort of stylistic progression to their fashion show – say, where more subtle designs are shown first, followed by ones that are increasingly loud – it could work to give the audience a more sharp sense of the designers’ style spectrum to build the framing music along with the progression of the clothing's mood. In the case mentioned, this could mean using songs that are more ethereal to start the arrivals, followed by music that is increasingly more intense with each intermission. Of course, the musical “shape” of your framing music will depend on what kind of atmospheric build (if any) there is to your fashion show.
Variation – If a show is made up of many different designers who have very different styles, all kinds of musical variation can be a great thing, and something to consider featuring in your show. A complete change in the musical mood at intermission can be a great technique to use to perfectly emphasize a “clean break” with the previous designs, and get the audience into the mood that you want for the upcoming designs. For these kind of shows, the audience arrival time can be covered with a well-crafted mix of all the music styles you have chosen to use.