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Do You Hate Your Playlist?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by THUNDERGODX, Dec 11, 2018.



    Mar 29, 2006
    I recently left a band that I helped start, but never really had any influence in. This included auditioning several drummers, losing much time,before ever finally becoming a solid unit.
    The self-acknowledged leader of the band, a truly talented, experienced, and committed guy, also became the one who decided what material we would play. At the beginning, I was all for learning new, current material that I hadnt played before, having always been an 80's metalhead. But the songs we were picking up made no sense to me in terms of commercial popularity. Many werent danceable, too slow, or just didnt get a rise out of the audience.
    Also, the songs were always dropped down from original key, not just detuned.
    I came to hate playing our list, and it seemed that anything new was absurdly out of context for a rock and roll band. (Love Yourself, by Justin Beeber??? And OMG that damn Seven Nation army- we passed out kazoos for audience participation.)
    When I started the band, the leader and the singer were always talking about a previous bassplayer who was always critical of their material choices, ("Why do you want to learn THAT song?") Not wanting to be "that guy" I accepted the songs and learned them without comment. My mistake.
    Further, any ideas I had about song endings, transitions into other songs, etc. were never implemented.
    Every time I would suggest learning a song, It was- Can you sing it? Its too high for our singer.
    I soon felt like an orbiting planet rather than an integral member of the band, and consequently, my interest soon diminished to the point that the band was just another obligation, especially with the three-hour setup time and additional hour to town. A whole day burned over a three or four hour gig.
    I didnt make an issue over the drive, but three hours for setup when it could have been done in an hour to 90 minutes ...
    I guess my main gripe is not having any say, yea or nay, about the band's musical image. It wasnt that I wanted to make decisions, just that I didnt like the decisions that were being made.
    Everybody has songs they dont want to play, but the band that I invested two years of my life in helping create had become something I never wanted.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2018
  2. I don't love all of the tunes we play, but the couple that I truly hate are good crowd pleasers so I suck it up. Playing fun stuff like Brandy and I Want You Back make up for 500 Miles by the Proclaimers. :smug:
  3. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I hear ya brother. I'm kind of entering this same situation myself. I don't hate our playlist, just think it could be stronger - even by just swapping a few current players with some stuff off our "bench" list. But the BL has a vision of where he thinks we should be heading - that I'm not sure the rest of the band shares. To be fair, he is dealing with a couple of egos that require a few songs that don't really fit, but I'm not sure he's in touch with everyone's long term goals. I've only played 4 gigs with them so don't have a very good sample of what people are reacting to - we don't fill dance floors. I can't say if it's us, or just the venues (they tend to be sports bars).

    If they're content to stay in the dive bar scene at $50 a pop, the there's no need for me to worry about it too much. I'd sure like to see us aim for a step up though - $50 for 10-11 hour gig commitments and pretty much the allocation if a full weekend is hard to justify for very long. If it doesn't improve after a while, it's time to consider moving on, but I'm trying to build a resume and willing to tolerate quite a bit at this time. The hang and music are decent, the pay not so much (but at least there is some pay and I'm getting some much needed stage experience!)
  4. If you dont like the playlist and the band is becoming an obligation then it sounds like you are ready to fly robin fly.
    Since you have a good idea of a playlist now. start your own band and realize your rock and roll fantasies!!
    kesslari, mikeyjm2, BurnOut and 6 others like this.
  5. The only possible resolution is a discussion with the entire band, face to face, no electronic messaging that is so easily misinterpreted. If you try and have an honest discussion and are shot down or out voted, at least you tried.

    The band I left was one I started too, hell I was playing with that drummer for 26+ years. Some discussions were had, but it was also obvious that all the discussions that were needed would have only opened the door to resentment and bad feelings. So I chose to leave instead and keep things as friendly as possible.
  6. FunkBear


    Jan 2, 2009
    Ah, the old "the band leader is picking music based on his personal preferences that he thinks the crowd is going to love because he loves it." Been there before. Also, telling you that they wont play a song because you cant sing it, when the band changes keys for the singer in every other situation, is a total passive-aggressive cop out. They dont want your input; THEY are the band, and you play bass.

    I was in a cover band where I was able to suggest songs but they were always passed over on the set lists because the singer claimed those songs would "kill our momentum right now." Every. Single. Time. I was eventually asked to be part of another group with half of those guys, but their setlist was still bogged down with old tunes that they thought the audience would love because it is the music they like. It comes down to someone's ego and the thought of "this is what we are going to play because the audience will really like it because I really like it and know what the audience wants."
    mikeyjm2, THUNDERGODX, smogg and 7 others like this.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Well, if you're not happy, you're not happy. Better to move on.

    Still, some of these points are not anything I would have had an issue with. If there's a song the group can't pull off, you can't do it. One of the principal limitations is always going to be the singer's range; they can't just play higher on the neck. If a proposed song is too high, it's too high. There are a number of songs that we had on Six Cowards' set list for a while that we finally had to admit defeat on and drop for exactly that reason.

    I would agree that three-hour setup time is absurd. Unless you're the touring crew for Rush or something, you ought to be able to get in and set up in 90 minutes.

    As for individual songs you mention - I've seen lots of strong audience response and dancing to Seven Nation Army. It's a simple song, sure. Doesn't hurt anyone to play a simple song sometimes. Love Yourself was a huge hit recently, it is a slow one, but I wouldn't have a problem with trying it. To some extent, set lists are trial and error - if you lose the crowd on a song, cut it and find another.

    The more important thing to me is cohesion - does the list fit together and make sense? What I really don't like is, "Here's a song our singer wanted to do. Now here's a totally different one our drummer wanted to do. Now here's an even more totally different song that the guitarist wanted to do." Too many cover band set lists are like that. Then they try to market by saying, "We're a cover band - with a twist!" The twist being that they play three or four obscure deep cuts that no one likes but the guitarist... same as every other cover band does.
  8. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Yeah, that's one of my problems with our overall approach - we try to please everybody's taste : a little true classic rock, a little 80-90s rock, a little newer country, a little newer indie rock. I get that he wants to include everybody, but I'd like to see us pick an identity and go with it - get bookings where our style fits rather then try to fit everywhere. we're all around 60 years old except for one 40 something - I think we should play to our strengths rather then play to what we think is cool now - we collectively really have no idea what the younger crowd wants. And apparently, our songs get different reactions at different venues - a song that may get the floor full at one venue, does draws crickets at another one. We really need to start tracking what hits where and build our set lists around response at certain venues - something I'll start doing soon.
  9. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    If you want to play the music that will appeal to your own demographic, you'll join a legion of bands that are playing stuff audiences don't really care about anymore, and you won't have much work. There are more ads for non working "southern or classic" rock bands on Craigslist than you can imagine. Some of them are trying to find work, so you're competing with all of that, and vying for an audience that doesn't go out anymore. Full disclosure: I will be 60 in April.

    What your band is doing is trying to find a way to give a randomly thrown together audience a little bit of everything, which is not a bad strategy if you're doing weddings, private parties, festivals and other functions where your audience is likely to be diverse in age and background. That's actually a pretty good way to go if you want to be able to charge a premium for your services.

    So I'm going to suggest that maybe you look at this from a purely technical viewpoint. If there are songs the singer can't sing, or songs that sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks when they're capo'ed up to the singer's range, those might need to go. But other than that, this seems more like a decision for you to make as to whether you'll be happier doing a classic rock band that probably won't work very much or sticking with this mix that's more likely to be called in for a situation where diverse music is appropriate.

    I'm the opposite of you, I think. I am completely sick of bands doing the music I grew up with. But I also don't want to play a lot of newer music, so I play in an originals band that writes really poppy and accessible tunes, and I do a few other odd projects on the side that are purely for fun, playing standards and stuff. I'm not expecting to make much money with it, but it keeps me happy, musically speaking.
    Jhengsman, KJMO, mrcbass and 5 others like this.
  10. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Im in three bands, two as employee. The other is 6 piece Soul-Jazz band is one of the reasons I get up in the mornings. Great players, we write and play our own tunes, good people albeit a bit Portlandia in perspective.

    Like most bands we play a dance set or two and here’s where it gets funky (not syncopated funky either). The band chooses to play Bessie Smith, Hoagie Carmichael, Jobim, and obscure B sides. I struggle with the set list as I put them together for most if not all our gigs. Not my choices but after two years of getting this tight, how can I not play along?
  11. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    It’s one of unfairnesses of being the bass guitarist: little to no control over repertoire.

    How many times (in Ronco guy voice) have you been solicited for song choices then provide a list, none of which will ever be used? Too many to count? Seriously, I can’t remember one instance of the band learning a song I suggested. If had a few where the BL goes, “yeah! I’ve always wanted to do that tune!” Those don’t honestly count.

    I’m kind of to the point where I won’t draft a list. It’s just an exercise in frustration. It’s also a shame since I know a boatload of music.

    You can’t let it get you down. At the same time, if you can’t stomach the songlist, it’s time to find a band that has one more to your liking.
  12. redwingxix


    Oct 21, 2015
    I hear you. Anytime our singer isn't thrilled with a song, we get the old I can't sing that one. Sometimes it's legit, sometimes I know it's BS. If it's one we really want to then someone else will sing it but it's rarely as good as if it was a song sung by our singer.

    It does sound like your band has become an obligation rather than recreation. And three hours for set up is absurd.

    I wonder if there are bands where every member is completely happy with everything?
  13. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Yes I hate ours. It not the songs per say it’s just that we do the same songs gig after gig often in the same order for almost a year. We added a handful and still pull a few not in the list at gigs but this setlist needs to go. We talked about totally revamping the list soon..thank God.
  14. redwingxix


    Oct 21, 2015
    We've never played the same list twice in a row. That would drive me bonkers. We always add at least one new song every show, usually two. Most we've ever added at once was seven.

    Same set list every show. Only way I could see that working is if you're a big touring band that had a lot of songs that people were paying a lot of money to see and would be really disappointed if they didn;t hear those songs when you're in their town.
  15. redwingxix


    Oct 21, 2015
    I guess my answer to the original question would be no. There are some songs I like less than others and some I really like but we all get to pick the songs. Even as a bass player you should have some input on the material if you are really in a band and not just a hired gun. If it wasn't for me half our tunes would be obscure Beatles songs, but as it is I've got it vetoed down to no more than one per show.

    I looked back at our setlist from last week and out of 38 songs we played eight of them were ones I wanted or wrote:

    Loving Cup
    Let Love Rule
    Land Down Under
    Hymn 43
    Soul Kitchen
    Trouble (original)
    Quinn The Eskimo.

    Since we are a five piece I actually got more than my share at 21% this time. Sometimes it's a little more sometimes it's a little less. Our gigs are usually no more than a buck a man bar gigs so if I hated the setlists I'd really probably be doing something else.
    THUNDERGODX, LBS-bass and BurnOut like this.
  16. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Hate? Nah. But I sure as heck am bored!
  17. the_home

    the_home Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2005
    Pensacola, FL
    Been there... quit that.
    FerK, THUNDERGODX, fclefgeoff and 2 others like this.
  18. Yup...it sucks
    THUNDERGODX and BurnOut like this.
  19. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    I'd have wasted about one rehearsal with a band that was unable to transpose a tune to the singer's range. The other poodoo would not have mattered.
    THUNDERGODX and Pbassmanca like this.
  20. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    I don't hate our song list, but growing tired of it. We've been doing essentially the same list for 3 years. We've add a few here and there but not many.
    When we first got together I had just switched to bass from guitar. Though I had jammed for years, I was never in a real band. I couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time, I sang a couple songs that was about it. We don't have a singer, so if you wanna do something, you are more than likely singing it. As time went my skill set has improved vastly and fast becoming our strongest singer. I've brought quite a few songs to the table, we get em about 1/2 to 2/3's done and some big thing would come up. They'd get pushed to the side while we prepared for the big thing. Plus some drummer drama thrown in for good measure. The last one was Free-All Right Now, one guitar player was ready to pooh pooh it with "who's gonna sing it?". His mouth fell open when I did. Had it about ready to roll and something came up.
    Wanted to use the winter lull to learn a big new set of stuff, can't get everyone to rehearse now. Hopefully come new year we'll do that.
    I've been considering getting in a 2nd band to do more harder music. I'd stay with the other band, just wanna slight change of things.
    Peace N Chicken Grease
    THUNDERGODX and Pbassmanca like this.

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