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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Best Damn Year

This is where magic happens.
If they're talking about you, you're doing something right, and they've been talking about The Ohio State Marching Band all season long.

The Best Damn Band in the Land was in the public eye for perhaps an unprecedented amount of time this year, based largely on the viral status of a couple of this year's halftime shows. This year's attention started with a moonwalking Michael Jackson, continued through Hollywood, and again with the Gettysburg Address. Millions of viewers later, Ohio State wrapped up their season at the Orange Bowl, but even non-band people will be waiting to see what comes next in future seasons. What made them so successful this year? I see a few key points:


  • Accessible shows. My stance has long been that marching shows should be programmed with the audience in mind, and if you're audience is there for a football game, that's who you should have in mind. This isn't me calling football fans dumb - Lord knows I am one - but if the bulk of your crowd doesn't know a diddle from doodoo and Shostakovich from sh - well you get the picture - then they will use the time to grab a beer or hit the restroom. My belief that Ohio State was doing it right was cemented as I watched this year's big shows with my two year old daughter in the room and she was telling me exactly what she was seeing. I'm not saying there's not a place abstract drill and original compositions, but know your audience.
  • Technology. Much was made about the fact that TBDBITL was using iPads instead of dot books to learn the drill. Add that to the use of drillwriting software, and it makes for efficient practice and makes drill less limited by the writer's own artistic limitations, resulting in some of the best animations I've ever seen.
  • Controlling their own distribution. The shows mentioned above garnered over 27 million views on YouTube - and each of those views were on official Ohio State conduits BuckeyeTV, OSUMB Videos, and the official University channel. In addition to counting those captive eyes, it also ensures that there is quality video available of each show. While there's a good chance that with over 100,000 assembled, someone's bot a good cell phone video, but why risk it when you can put it out yourself?
  • Being true to their own style. I've got friends who are fans/former HBCU marchers who gave Ohio State the sideeye for doing what HBCUs have done for years. While this is true, it's not a case of cultural appropriation - save that for the bands playing Neck. No, the fact that the Big Ten and HBCUs both exemplify traditional marching keeps their style closer to one another than to most corps style groups. While this may steal some HBCU shine, it's not because it stole their style; it has far more to do with the fact that Ohio State is a household name.
Ohio State has long been on the map with those who follow marching bands, but this year in particular, they made an even bigger splash. In the coming season, I'm sure some will be watching for more than just Script Ohio.
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