L.A., here’s how to win Beyoncé’s mute challenge. The experts weigh in

Beyonce in a tracksuit, backed by flames
Everybody on mute.
(adidas x IVY PARK)

Hi Los Angeles. You know how we like to win things?

In case you haven’t noticed the finest silver fashions flying off the racks lately, The Queen is coming to town.

Beyoncé will be performing three nights at SoFi Stadium on Friday, Saturday and Monday — which means local fans have three shots to win the mute challenge.


Also known as the “everybody on mute” (or “eerbody on mute.” challenge), it works like this: When Beyoncé performs “Energy,” she sings: “Big wave in the room, the crowd gon’ move / Look around, everybody on mute.”

As soon as she says mute, she and her backup dancers freeze and put their fingers over their lips. The music stops too. The challenge is for the tens of thousands of people in the stadium to stay silent for about five seconds, until Beyoncé continues with the next line: “Look around, it’s me and my crew / Big energy.”

On Aug. 7, Beyoncé posted on her website that Washington, D.C., was the winner of the challenge. Though by Aug. 11, she had verbally declared Atlanta the new winner.

But the tour is not over yet.

Beyoncé’s Labor Day weekend shows in Inglewood are part of the last leg of the tour. Atlanta Beyhive holds the lead, and if Angelenos want this (merely symbolic) crown, they need to rally.

There’s more than city and county pride on the line. It’s Virgo Season. It’s Beyoncé’s birthday weekend; she’s even performing at SoFi on her birthday, Sept. 4.

To help guide the local Beyhive, The Times consulted four experts in concert-hall sound: Stig Edgren, a producer and designer of major concerts; Catherine Provenzano, UCLA assistant professor of musicology; Bill Sindelar, an audience warm-up comedian for shows including “The Talk” and “The Voice;” and Neal Stulberg, conductor of the UCLA Symphony Orchestra. Here are their tips.

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Why is this challenge more difficult than it seems?

Edgren — who has produced concert tours for Cher, Gloria Estefan and Earth, Wind & Fire — said the mute challenge makes him laugh every time he thinks about it “because it’s so hard to coordinate and get that many people in a stadium to be quiet for that many seconds.”


It’d be different if there was an obvious cue. If Beyoncé started the song by announcing “It’s time to do the mute challenge” — and there was a countdown flashing on the video screens — it wouldn’t be hard to get a crowd to go silent in one or two seconds, he said.

But if you’re trying to quiet a rowdy audience, he estimates it could take up to 30 seconds for everyone to even realize they are supposed to be quiet.

The five seconds of silence in “Energy” comes and goes really quickly, he said. “And it’s gotta be clean,“ he added, referring to how on-beat some audiences have been with their mute.

If you watch a compilation of mute challenge moments, you can see that during the early European legs of the tour, people hadn’t quite gotten the message yet, said Edgren. But by the time she got to the U.S., the challenge had started spreading on social media.

You can see Beyoncé’s reaction to the challenge change over the course of the tour, Provenzano said. “Early on, you can see she has her teacher-face on, but as the audiences start getting better, she starts to smile and get excited when they do it right.”

A moment of silence is fragile. Many will by nature be quietly enjoying the concert, but even the audiences that have successfully muted on beat sometimes have a hard time keeping silent for the full five seconds.


They get too excited. “It’s like getting a toddler to not be excited about the thing that they’re excited about,” Provenzano said.

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What are the main obstacles to winning?

For starters, this is not the type of concert that encourages listening in silence.

In the classical music concerts that Stulberg performs with his orchestra, audience members are shushed when they fidget. As the conductor, his back is to the audience, but if he hears a lot of coughs and commotion, he knows he’s lost the crowd.

By contrast, you go to a Beyoncé concert to scream, dance and cheer. And because the moment of silence departs from the recorded version of the song, it catches some audience members off guard, said Provenzano.

“It’s powerful,” she said. “It shows her command that she can get an audience to be quiet in a song called ‘Energy.’”

There’s a massive amount of people involved, however.

In SoFi Stadium, which has 70,240 available seats for events, Edgren estimated it’d only take about 50 or 100 people to ruin the moment of silence. “10 to 20 people could ruin it, if they were really loud,” he said.

Host and comedian Sindelar has warmed up crowds of up to 90,000 people.

“When you’re dealing with crowds, whether it’s 10 people of 100,000 people, there’s always that one person” who doesn’t follow directions, he said. “Most of the time it’s innocent, but people these days are very easily distracted.”


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How to win the mute challenge

Tip No. 1: Get very familiar with “Energy.” People talk about the line that triggers the challenge — “Look around, everybody on mute” — but it’s helpful to know where it falls in the song.

It’s at the end of the first Beyoncé verse, right before the chorus. Listen for Cancun and Saint-Tropez references.

Wait, I hear you just got paid, make it rain, energy
She more Cancún, he more Saint-Tropez
Big wave in the room, the crowd gon’ move
Look around, everybody on mute
[Here’s where you mute]
Look around, it’s me and my crew
Big energy

Tip No. 2: Know when “Energy” is coming in the lineup. Although Beyoncé has made minor edits to her show, the set list has mostly been the same.

There are seven acts and an encore. “Energy” comes in Act 3, and it’s easy to remember where, because it follows “Cuff It.” This is the same order as on the “Renaissance” album.

So when you’re dancing along to “Cuff It” — “Bet you you’ll see far / Bet you you’ll see stars” — that’s also your signal to prepare yourself (and others around you) for the imminent arrival of the mute challenge.

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Tip No. 3: To know how long to stay silent for, sing along to the song — but sing “Look around, it’s me and my crew / Big energy” silently to yourself.


This one requires some explanation, but Provenzano thinks it’s the secret to winning the challenge.

The silence, done correctly, is about five seconds or eight beats. But more accurately, according to Provenzano, Beyoncé stops for the exact amount of time that it takes to sing the next phrase. “Look around, it’s me and my crew / Big energy.”

So if you sing this line once, silently to yourself, and sing it again a second time, along with Beyoncé — this is the cue that it’s OK to make noise again — then you’ll be mute for the exact amount of time required.

One reason it’s designed like that, she said, is probably so that even if the audience fails at the mute challenge —they keep singing through the break, for instance — they never get out of the groove of the song.

These moments in big pop music concerts are highly choreographed, Provenzano explained. From the very beginning of her tour, Provenzano said, the sound team would dampen the last note Beyoncé sings before the mute, so there’s no reverberation in the space that they want to silence.

Provenzano thinks it’s very likely that Beyoncé is staying on the beat by singing the line to herself in her head, while she’s watching the crowd, before singing it again out loud.


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Extra credit: Organize. There will inevitably be fans at the concert who have not heard of the mute challenge. So awareness is key.

Fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey passed out business cards that said “During Energy, when Beyoncé says “Everybody on mute,” be mute! No cheering, no hollering, no finishing the lyric.”

If it were up to Sindelar, he’d designate a ring leader for every section to keep people in check. “People need to know that the Beyhive is going to sting themif they yell, he said. “They’ll never let you attend another concert again.”

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It’s more than whether you win or lose (even though you should win)

A lot of live performances in pop music are trying to re-create the experience of listening to the album, Provenzano said.

But the mute challenge is a nod to the beauty and unpredictability of live performance. This is a moment that cannot be re-created at home with your speakers or headphones. You have to be there with a crowd — with a community of fellow Beyhive fans — to experience it.

What Stulberg hopes fans will appreciate is how Beyoncé uses music to play with the manipulation of time.


“Music has forward motion, it can spill forward, it can screech to a halt,” he said. “There can be a steady beat or no beat. It can create the illusion of moving forward or holding back.”

He also points to John Cage’s oft-referenced silent composition, “4:33,” in which ambient sounds become a part of the musical experience.

SoFi Stadium is partly outdoors and also near the freeway and airport, Sindelar points out.

Will an airplane fly across the sky at the exact moment of the mute challenge? Will there be car horns honking?

And despite any factors beyond its control, will the L.A. audience deliver stellar five-second-long mute performances up to and through Sept. 4?

“Now I’m getting excited,” Edgren said. “Come on, Los Angeles. We have to win. It’s her birthday.”


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