Noise, Piped-In And Otherwise Comment Count

Brian September 15th, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Apparently it's ND Nation week on MGoBlog. Eh.

eminem_lose_yourself_grammys2    vs    mmb



This is, without question, a first:

I was there too, with a UM friend of mine.  He was at the UM game against WMU the weekend before, and he said the music was not played that weekend. In fact, he said he's never heard music played at any Michigan home game. Yesterday was his first ND/Michigan game in the Big House. Maybe it's just something they do for us. Wouldn't surprise me.

We both thought it was bulls---. With those new press box/fan suite things they've built at the top of the stadium, that place got really loud. The Eminem songs only made it worse.

I guess that's why they call it home field advantage.

Leaving aside this guy's probably-fictional Michigan friend who went to the Western game and didn't notice the RAWK MUSIC, this is an opposing fan complaining about the noise level in the stadium. Even if this is just more complaining to complain, it's still a 180 from the usual laughter at the 110,000 quietest people in America or whatever. As a group of people naturally inclined to laugh at all things Michigan, statements like this are as close to proof as you're ever going to get about the effect of the new boxes:

I thought the place seemed so much more intimidating
by BigEND (2009-09-13 21:09:28)

with the skyboxes there. It was louder and felt like you were really in a "big house". I still can't understand why so many people complained when the plan was originally announced. That stadium will be 10 times better with those boxes finished.

You and me both, BigEND. Meanwhile, email from people who would know confirms the third-party impressions:

Brian -

I attended the WMU game with siblings who are recent graduates and former band members. The word they got from contacts still in the band is that the on-the-field noise is significantly louder, even if it doesn't seem so to the layman sitting in the 67th row.

Without having any sort of technical knowledge, my guess is that the new structures are aiming sound back into the bowl. Clearly not all of it, but enough to make it louder the deeper you are inside. (That's what she said?)

So, it might not seem much louder to us, but clearly LOUDER FIELD > LOUDER STANDS from a competitive standpoint. In other words, my screaming is more directly helping Brandon Graham to murderfy Jimmah this weekend.

Go Blue!

And this was just for Western. The initial take, then, appears to be that the optimistic projections this blog's scoffed at more than once are basically accurate. The luxury boxes are a huge aid to the noise on the field to the point where complaint-inclined opposing fans focus on it. This is a major win.


So, then, the other matter at hand. Last week everyone had a little conniption fit and I posted a poll about whether piped-in music should be slain out of hand or not. The results:

5: I love it.
17% (685 votes)
4: It's better than nothing
26% (1067 votes)
3: It's the same as nothing
14% (573 votes)
2: It's worse than nothing
17% (699 votes)
1: It is the devil.
26% (1090 votes)
Total votes: 4114

Of the 75% who care, respondents were evenly split between pro-and-con, but the con side was more strongly opposed. This was shocking to me, but I guess this blog's readership skews away from bluehairs. I also have one main explanation: it's the band's fault. Multiple band members have sent in emails about the shift in the MMB's focus over the last ten or so years, and 90% are along these lines:


I was in the band for the last few years of Professor Nix's turn at the helm, from 2003-2007*, and I would say that there was plenty of "blame" to spread around for the quieter band. During my years, we frowned upon bands like Notre Dame's that would sacrifice precision for loudness. I believe most of us felt this way, and while it's reasonable to say this mentality started at the top, which would mean Professor Haithcock, I think Professor Nix and his appreciation for the newer, drum corp influenced style of a marching ensemble was the biggest factor. And now, with Director Boerma, who also has strong drum corp ties, I'm sure that influence is just as strong or stronger. But, Haithcock did hire them, so we can just blame him.


I've got other emails claiming Nix was a huge proponent of loud and that Haithcock asked about making the band louder and etc etc etc and I don't care about who is at fault for what, all I know is that the main reason that poll above came out the way it did is because the band is not doing its job. Saturday I could barely make out the Victors on any of Michigan's touchdowns. About the only thing I heard at halftime was the drum corps. I've gotten plenty of complaints from kids in the student section who say they can barely hear the band and it's 30 rows away from them.

This does not have to be the case. I vividly remember going down to Auburn last year. I sat in the upper deck on the 40; the LSU band was stuck in the corner of the opposite endzone, and I could hear them loud and clear. They were blasting it. Auburn's band was also louder than the MMB. Click the link and see where we were, man… we were in orbit around a football game.

And then there's the SWAC:

That's Southern University making a strong argument for Michigan scheduling a SWAC school, any SWAC school, the next time it reaches into the I-AA ranks for an opponent.

What's the point of a marching band? To be audible outside in a stadium of 110,000. If you want musicality, there are a dozen other bands on campus you can join. Scott Boerma and his superiors are completely missing the point, and if the band is being marginalized on gameday it is entirely their fault. Personally, I hate it. I want the band to be awesome and wish piped-in music would die a fiery death. But when "Lose Yourself" gets vastly more reaction than anything you do and large sections of the stadium can't hear you at all, that's on you. What the hell is the point of a piccolo when the only people who can hear it are the ones playing it? Have you ever thought about the poor schmucks in section 16 who have never once heard The Victors after a touchdown? Think of the children, and do this:

On the band:  I used to play clarinet in the Ann Arbor Huron marching band.  (Why?  Beats me.  I should have learned how to play guitar like Slash instead.)  Clarinet, while fine inside, is a waste of time outside.  It cannot be heard.  Ditto the flute and the piccolo. 

What the MMB needs to do is (1) get rid of all the clarinets, flutes and piccolos, and (2) add 150-200 more trumpets and trombones.  Made the band bigger, and sacrifice a measure of technical proficiency (which 98% of the crowd wouldn't notice) in exchange for a big ol' Wall of Sound.


Brandt Goldstein


Or something. Your prime directive should be loud; if it's not no one can help you fight your slide into irrelevance.

PS: and dammit the hockey band director should dance, you communists.


Old Blue

September 15th, 2009 at 3:04 PM ^

I like the piped in music, but feel it could be executed much better. Better timing. Maybe a better mix. I am almost three decades removed from college, but some GnR or ACDC or even Eminem at the right moment gets my blood going, just as it seems to for the young people playing the game and watching from the student section. We (collectively) forget sometimes that this is about them more than us.

I was on the field for a good chunk of the game Saturday, and along the Michigan sideline at the south end of the stadium the MMB was very hard to hear. I'm no expert, as some who have posted seem to be, but I assume that no change in technique or instruments used can completely compensate for location and direction. I was directly across from the ND band. They were loud (and incessant and annoying). Not surprising since they were playing directly "at" me.

On a related note, why can't the basketball pep band be more like the hockey band? The hockey band, with its emphasis on drums, stimulating music and a dancing director, gets the crowd in Yost fired up and involved. The basketball band, with its smooth tunes and classics repertoire, jazz band drum set and a boring director, more often silences the crowd at key moments. There's a buzz in Crisler when the alumni band is pinch-hitting (which, not coincidentally has an entertaining director). Maybe the current band should take note.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:09 PM ^

I think a healthy mixture of the band playing and then some piped in music are the way to go. The band needs to get A TON louder. Over in the south side of the endzone (sections 12 usually, sat in 13 for ND), I can barely hear the band no matter what. I would have to agree with Brian on this one, if the band doesn't get proper play time, it's their own fault. With the new renovations, maybe the band needs to be upgraded too.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:22 PM ^

I happened to go to the Auburn v. Miss. State game this weekend and I felt they had the perfect mix of band and piped-in music. The band was loud and they did the fight song and the other "traditional" stuff. The piped-in music tastefully highlighted and augmented the band's efforts. Unlike Brian's experience last year at Auburn stadium, they didn't pipe in any cheesy music thankfully.

Auburn fans also each have a blue and orange pom-pom on a stick that they use to accentuate the cadences of their fight song which was really cool.

P.S. - This was my first game at Jordan-Hare and holy crap are the women dressed to the 9's there. Tight tops, sundresses, and full make-up make for a pleasant viewing experience.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:21 PM ^

My tickets were in sections 12 and 13 the past two games and we literally could not hear the band at all, which is very disappointing. I think the piped in music has a definite role, but there are still implementation issues to be fine-tuned, so to speak.

I wish the band would relocate to the end zone near the student section and face the center of the field. It seems like that would maximize the dispersion of their sound. It would still be very close to the student section.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:46 PM ^

I think that them relocating would actually help a lot. That is the main problem, really. I think they just plain play quietly, though. During the half time show our band was pretty quiet. It was hard to hear even then. Most of the piped in music is pretty decent music, and I kind of like it. It really gets the crowd pumped up. Sorry to the band, but they just cant compete unless they play so everybody can hear them clear as day.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:20 PM ^

Regardless of each fan's stance on the issue, I think we can all agree that it is fantastic that this is the most discussed "problem" we have this year so far. Simply amazing how far things have come.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:23 PM ^

There are two problems facing the band.

The first problem is the placement of the band. I've been to every B10 stadium, and the MMB by far has the worst placement of any band for maximizing the number of people who can hear them. Ideally they should be placed in the back of the endzone. If not, just moving them over a few sections so that they are projecting out of the corner would make a huge difference.

The second and much larger problem is the current director. He just doesn't care nor does he ever plan on caring about UM football. As long as this holds true, the problem will remain. He doesn't grasp what "matters" in terms of the MMB and game day in conjunction with the football team and/or experience. This makes him incapable of delivering the product required. He's more interested in playing technical with contrasting volumes (ie quiet) than melting your face with sound. There is a time and place for everything, and the Big House requires face melting sound at all times.

To sum up the difference between the band now and a few years ago, the previous director was a football fan who happened to have a job (the MMB) which allowed him to contribute to the football experience. The current director is a band/music fan that happens to have a job that requires him to go to football games that he'd rather not be at.

Section 1

September 15th, 2009 at 3:26 PM ^

I suggested to Bill Martin that if they want some hip-hop and funk in the stadium (I don't oppose it), they should do it during pre-game.
At that point, the band(s) are down at Revelli Hall, or in their busses.
During pre-game, in fact, I propose an NBA-style hip-hop deejay competition. Every home game would be given to some University-based deejay. Let the various dorms, or whatever, have their own comptitions to nominate deejay contestants. The season-long winner (internet polling? I dunno) gets to come back to do the pre-game for the last home game.
If it has the effect of getting people, and especially students, into the stadium earlier, and entertaining them while they are there, that is all for the better.

Please, though -- leave the game to the band(s). I can't believe that I am the only Alum who despises the notion that anyone would wish to make Michigan Stadium "more like" Joe Louis Arena or Ford Field, with a lot of tired rock songs and AM radio hits.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:51 PM ^

Please, though -- leave the game to the band(s). I can't believe that I am the only Alum who despises the notion that anyone would wish to make Michigan Stadium "more like" Joe Louis Arena or Ford Field, with a lot of tired rock songs and AM radio hits.

Why? Why should we "leave the game to the band?" If I can't hear the band anyway, why should I care one way or another whether music is piped-in or not?

And there's the problem- nobody is there just to hear the band. And if nobody can hear the band, then logically nobody would care if music was piped in or not. Piped in music will take over unless the band director and his cohorts can get over themselves and make themselves actually heard on game day.


September 15th, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

Your reasoning does not follow logically follow. No, I don't come just to hear the band, but I do enjoy hearing them greatly. The fact that large portions of the stadium apparently can't hear the band does not mean that this situation is acceptable to people - or else we wouldn't be having this discussion.


September 15th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

Because 'Don't Stop Believing' is cheese dick, okay? I don't want anything cheese dick in Michigan Stadium. I'd rather hear nothing than hear Journey at Michigan Stadium (unless the band is playing it, which makes no sense and isn't helping my case, but that's how I feel, so fuck it).


September 15th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

I would like Michigan Stadium to be more like JLA if this involves championships. Not much like Ford Field because they suck.

And based on what I just said, I think we can all agree on the following: Does anyone seriously give a fuck about music or the band if we're winning games and beating rivals at home? Just win baby.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:09 PM ^

I don't understand why you and other people are making this an either/or thing. It's not like a louder band would cause the football team to lose. Marching bands are part of what makes college football unique. I think it's terrible that many in the stands can't hear them. Why can't we win AND have a loud band? We did in the past.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:48 PM ^

I feel like you didn't read all the comments where people said the band can't/refuses to play louder.

It's not either/or, it's if/then. If the band will not play louder, then Rawk music it is. I'm pretty sure 99.9% of this board would love the band to be loud enough for everyone to hear.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:33 PM ^

Here is an idea, although I said it months ago and got shredded by a few bando's.

But: How about two bands? If the visiting team is not bringing their band, why not stick a smaller version of the MMB on the field where the ND band was.

There would be no worries about cross playing or mixing each other up, since we cant hear the main band. But, I kept thinking on Saturday how cool it would be to have a mini MMB down there in the corner.

I also think the MMB has fallen off when it comes to the traveling pep band that goes around the stadium. I remember usually getting to hear 3-4 songs from those guys when they came to our section and we would even yell out requests and Rocky/Bullwinkle or the Blues Brothers and so forth. Now they show up, play a soft Victors and hit the road. Yawn.

On an aside, how come they dont play Rocky and Bullwinkle anymore?

I bet if they piped in the theme song over the PA, it would bring the freaking house down.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:48 PM ^

Rocky and Bullwinkle is hard, especially for the woodwinds (lots of awkward register changes; I hate the arranger). We never played it (other than Fanfare Band) until Boerma brought it back, and even then, we've maybe practiced it once or twice. Basketball band on the other hand...


September 15th, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

Before the season the thought of piped in music made my skin crawl. But I have to admit that after going to the WMU game, I liked the RAWK! I would love to hear the MMB better and think that they are an integral part of an excellent college football game experience, but I think the piped in music is good too, and should stay. I don't see any reason why we can't have both.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:43 PM ^

(I feel) The reason they moved the band to the student section was about $$$$$$. The MMB used to sit in section 42. Moving the band to the student section allows the athletic department to make more on PSDs and ticket prices. The athletic department will never move them anywhere else in the stadium.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:45 PM ^

I was a band member for four years, back when we were on the opposite side of the stadium (or on the sidelines) and through the current director.

First, the band is getting smaller. I don't know why, but I don't think it's because of the cuts. We've gone from about 400 my freshman year to about 330 right now. That's a big drop, especially since we've been hurting for brass for a few years now.

Second, I'm in Section 31, and I can hear the band, though not perfectly. I agree that I can hear the opposing team's band much better than ours, especially since they're basically playing at us. On the field, it's LOUD; any band member from last year or this year can tell you that. Much louder than years before.

Since it's louder on the field, I would venture that if we put the band closer to the field, they can be heard by more people in the stadium. Now, there isn't much room down there, let me tell you. Moving equipment down there for three years taught me that much (long story). Two options seem clear to me:

1. Put the band in the endzone seats.
2. Put the band on the sidelines near the endzone.

Logistical nightmare? Yes. Loss of money-making seats? Maybe. Louder band? Yes.

PS The band sounds a lot better under Boerma than it did under Nix, and it sounded good under Nix.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:48 PM ^

moving the Band to the north endzone while keeping it in the student section will have no net effect on the ticket prices as all that is happening is shuffling around student tickets, which I believe are all the same price. There would be capital expenditures with moving bleachers and the like, but nothing that is long term.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:46 PM ^

I played in the MMB, 1998-2001. During my tenure, barely anything was played other than "let's go blue" and the "victors trio" in-between downs (and Temptation, of course). Maybe something in between quarters, or "Respect" if we were winning by 3 points and on defense. Props to whoever, I think both Nix and Boerma, for adding in more consistent action on third down and such.

That said, I thought that "Thunderstruck" was nice touch after all the traditional TD WOO music from the Band. I think that both Rock and Band can complement one another. Case in point: Wisconsin. Their band sounds like shit, but is super loud and uber fun to watch. Plenty of piped in music as well - Jump Around in particular. Used judiciously, I'm all for it.

Also, I think that the Wisconsin folks have a better handle on the proper role of a college band (minus the harassment charges and theft). I'll never forget during the 98' season watching the Wisconsin band for the first time, blow the crap out of the big house and receive a partial standing ovation (at least on the home sideline). Again, they sounded pretty awful, but were quite visual and louder than you can imagine. Then, the MMB proceeded to play a rather lifeless performance of Earth Wind and Fire (not even the best arrangement on file, sadly), a commissioned piece commemorating our 100th anniversary, and then spent the rest of the time standing still while some state congressman gave us an award and called us the best marching band in america. woo?

I love the MMB to death, and we played some great music during the 3 years I played, but it seemed to me on many occasions that we were simply trying to play more notes and pound out more charts than the musical competition, rather than just simply doing our part to add to the atmosphere of the game in every way possible.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:37 PM ^

...."I think that the Wisconsin folks have a better handle on the proper role of a college band .... I'll never forget during the 98' season watching the Wisconsin band for the first time, blow the crap out of the big house and receive a partial standing ovation (at least on the home sideline). Again, they sounded pretty awful, but were quite visual and louder than you can imagine. ...I love the MMB to death, and we played some great music during the 3 years I played, but it seemed to me on many occasions that we were simply trying to play more notes and pound out more charts than the musical competition, rather than just simply doing our part to add to the atmosphere of the game in every way possible."

They were doing that back in the 80s too. Their director at that time, while not strong on the music, put on a better show than anyone. He knew his purpose as a band director (as did Revelli and Cavender). Would that UM would get that now.....


September 15th, 2009 at 3:54 PM ^

I am a former MMB member 2001-2004.

There's not necessarily an issue of whether or not the band is loud vs. sounding good. The band is loud. The sound from the band is also very directional. This is most obvious during the Let's Go Blue rotation during the pre-game show. Each sideline and endzone gets one shot. I'm also guessing that the students have never heard the MMB play the opposing fight song every week to the south endzone.

When the band was on the visitor's sideline, it was very loud to the student section, but still couldn't be heard very well in the south end zone at all. From time to time, Prof Nix would have the band turn toward another direction, and the band could be heard well in the direction of the pointing.

The 2 band idea would only work if they were not supposed to be playing the same thing at the same time. There are multiple issues with concerning phasing and echoes and listening for intonation and things like that.

Until there is a way to direct the sound everywhere, this problem will just continue to exist. And to test my theory of band loudness. Go walk on Hoover street just west of Division between 4:45 and 6:15 during the week (at least that was the schedule a few years ago). There is plenty of volume coming out of the band. (Yes, I know this is the opposite end of Elbel Field... attempting to have the point proven from some distance)

Btw, most other college bands that blast at high volumes sound terrible. (See Wisconsin, specifically, sounds painful) I would hate to hear Michigan play the Victors similar to how it sounded on 1986 UM vs. ND replay. That was awful.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:45 PM ^

You have been brainwashed into believing drivel, young one. Revelli and Cavender proved that musicality and volume are not mutually exclusive. The band sat in the student section, and could be heard across the stadium. Recent (and current) band administrations are feeding you this jibberish because they are not up to the task of playing loud and well. Then, knowing nothing of the energy and passion that has long since disappeared from Elbel (mcuh less Michigan Stadium) you convince yourself its true.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:57 PM ^

Based on the links provided - sent an email and got this back.


We attempted to mic the band this fall but discovered that it was against Big Ten/NCAA rules. There simply is no way we can compete with the volume of piped in music. I guarantee that we are playing as loud as we possibly can.

Write to Athletics, specifically Mark Riordan, Marty Bodnar, and the AD.


Scott Boerma
University of Michigan
Associate Director of Bands
Director of Michigan Marching and Athletic Bands
Donald R. Shepherd Associate Professor of Conducting

Revelli Hall
350 E. Hoover
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3707
w (734) 764-6102; f (734) 763-2018
[email protected]

On Sep 15, 2009, at 3:19 PM, Ben Giovanelli, CPA wrote:


In the past few years as you are aware, we have gone thru a painful yet necessary adjustment in the Men’s football program relative to 21st Century realities. Over the same time frame I (and a multitude of others) have witnessed the Michigan Marching Band fall into irrelevance at football games. And as an alum and a season ticket holder in section 10, rows 68 & 69, that breaks my heart.

I don’t know what the answer is. Mic the band. Change the mix. Don’t know. Just know that I detest the piped in music and hate to see my beloved Michigan Marching Band fall into irrelevance. We need you now more than ever!

To get a feel for what your fans think you might want to check out this string:

Kind regards and GO BLUE!

st barth

September 15th, 2009 at 3:58 PM ^

i like the music. but they need to be careful with some of the choices...journey...neil diamond...really?

loved it when they used music with a local, michigan connection such as eminem, white stripes. how about iggy & the stooges? can we get some mathew dear in there too. in fact, let's just put ann arbor's own Ghostly International in charge of the music and scrape the marching band altogether.

Blue in Saint Lou

September 15th, 2009 at 4:01 PM ^

My dad is alumni of a MEAC school (they compete against the SWAC) and I can tell you that the clip you saw of the Southern band is the rule and not an exception of what bands are like in those conferences. The football teams are pretty bad and honestly, most people come to see the band. They usually do a pre-game show, a halftime show, and a post-game battle of the bands. They also play during the course of the game. On more than one occasion I have seen the band instructed by the announcer to quiet down at the request of the officials because they were rockin' too hard (I doubt the officials put it like that, but you get my point). Nonetheless, I'm not saying MMB needs to change their marching style or anything like that, and they certainly will never become the focal point on game day, but they could do a whole lot more to improve the game day experience.