A cappella group performing on stage
The A Cappella Blog

Fabricating an Inter-Group Rivalry

Absurdist A Cappella

This time we discuss fabricating an inter-group rivalry to get the crowd behind you.

Setting the Stage: You want for your a cappella group to be loved. Sometimes the easiest way to get people pro-you, is to get them anti-someone else. Think about it. Would people love Rocky were he not matched against Apollo’s bravado? Would they get behind The Celtics were The Lakers not their foils? Would Batman be half as cool without a cast of cool villains like The Joker and Catwoman to thwart? Rivals inspire drama, give us sides to pick, and give fans more of a personal in what they’re watching because a victory for their heroes feels like a victory for them, themselves.

In the context of a cappella, you can garner more support for your group by painting another group as your archrivals.

Song Selection: Once you’ve identified the group you will oppose, your song selections should set you up as natural rivals. There are two main lines of thought here. You could perform the same type of music as your rivals to provide a natural basis of comparison and, in a sense, a natural reason why you would compete—who really covers The Script and John Mayer the best? Furthermore, it opens the opportunity for you to invent new drama. Keep an eye on your rival’s YouTube channel, wait for a new arrangement to come up, transcribe it directly and record your own version, then claim they stole it from you--the jerks.

The alternative is to espouse a totally different style from your rivals. They sing mainstream pop so you pick the most fringe alternative you can find. They sing jazz, so you focus on hip hop. This well help you develop a niche audience and may set you up as counter-culture to “the man” as represented by your rival (or as normal as opposed to those weirdos).

Setting: Use setting to create conflict. Book a show the same night, in the same building as your rival. The night of, post signs directing the audience toward your performance space with vague directions like “a cappella show this way.” Book the best lighting and sound people on campus and reserve the best equipment. If all else fails, send plants into their audience to stand up in the middle of show, complain loudly about how awful the harmonies were on the last song and announce that they’re headed to your show. The sheep will follow.

Choreography: Similar to song selection, there’s plenty of room to beat your rival group at its own game or to go in the opposite direction to assert your own authority. Particularly with the choreography, there’s also the opportunity to copy some of your rivals' moves in a mocking way to draw some laughs.

Other Notes: Outside of your actual performances, consider fanning the flames of rivalry through inflammatory Facebook posts and statements in the press. The key is to always make it seem like your group is innocent and the other is the aggressor. It may mean hacking into their accounts to start the flame wars, or it may mean concocting rationales for your “counter”attacks (“well, after X group said that we were completely out of tune every time we hit the stage, we felt compelled to point out they’re choreography is awfully lame”).

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