1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Song selection criteria?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hrodbert696, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I know it's been done in various ways, but just want to revisit set list issues.

    We recently had an argument running in my cover band over song choices. Basically, we just played a successful gig (our first) and were talking about what new tunes to add. The set list is eclectic, with Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix at one end and recent radio pop at the other, but we have a cohesive style that seems to make it all work together and people complimented us on the mix of tunes.

    Anyway, I suggested playing an Arctic Monkeys tune, and the reaction was "I've never heard of them" and "We shouldn't play anything that hasn't had a lot of radio exposure," and "NO MORE OBSCURE SONGS!"

    Now, my take on all this was that it's an up-and-coming band that's well-known to the younger crowd we say we want to expand our appeal to, and that the younger crowd doesn't listen to the radio any more, they get their music via social networking and youtube, and the radio is not the only guide to what will appeal to the under-30 set. Even if a song IS obscure, in my opinion it's healthy for a band to allow 5-10% or so of its set list to be obscure tunes, as long as they have a great groove and you can "sell" them to the crowd in the midst of better-known sure-fire material. It helps keep you from getting stale.

    So my question is not just on the Arctic Monkeys specifically, but set list choices generally - what criteria are everybody's cover bands using to choose songs? Is the radio an important criterion to you? Chart positions? Media buzz? Do you think bands can take chances on more obscure material, and if so, how much?
  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    For me it's as simple as "Do people like it?"

    We play a fair amount of somewhat obscure or slower paced tunes and they seem to work okay. If I were the BL I would drop a few of them as it's pretty obvious that people don't recognize a couple and we don't get much of a response. But there will be one person that seems to enjoy it so that is his excuse to keep them in the list.

    I'm always willing to try something a few times, but after that if it's not working I think it should be dropped.
  3. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    If a song goes over big, it's a keeper. If a song doesn't go over big, don't hold onto it hoping it will go over big someday.

    Most songs that go over big got lots of airplay for the simple reason that they do indeed go over big.

    That's not to say an Arctic Monkeys tune won't go over big, but if it doesn't be prepared to cut it from the set list after a few weeks.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I agree that the final test is how people like it - this is more with deciding whether to try a tune out in the first place, though. At the opening gig I talked about, for instance, we played Cage the Elephant's "In One Ear." The crowd was mostly 40-something friends of our 40-something band, but there were a couple of 20-somethings there who were clearly thrilled that we played it. So overall crowd reaction wasn't great, but I felt that we should take a hint from who DID like it.

    Part of the issue is also fit of the song to the band. Off the newest Arctic Monkeys album, the singles with lots of Youtube views are "Do I Wanna Know" and "RU Mine?", but it's hard for me to believe anyone would dance to those. Meanwhile, based on charts, they don't sell a lot of singles but they do sell albums, and there are other album tracks that are much better dance tunes.
  5. The issue sounds like no clear vision in what your bands unique sound is. Democracy can often end up wishy-washy.

    I have a pretty large say in songs for a Jazz/Motown/Corporate band. We've ended up with a Soul-Jazz sound.... more Aretha-meets-Ella Fitzgerald.... as that's what we do really really well and the songs go over a treat with all ages.

    Song Choice
    - I've axed several songs the first time we rehearse them. It's pretty clear they just don't have the 'magic' (compared to our other songs) or achieve our 'sonic image'.

    Next is audience response
    - we could sound great in rehearsals but it just doesn't go over big live. Sometimes they just want lame pop rubbish, which annoys me as an artist, but I suck it up and play it.

    Ultimately - you can't be upset if another funk song is introduced when you're playing in a funk band. ;)
  6. I had to go to youtube and listen to arctic monkeys.. some of the worst music i've ever heard, sorry..

    28 btw.. idk if that helps.
  7. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Here is my own process for songs I bring to the set list

    1. Do I like it?
    2. Will it go over?
    3. Will my band be happy to play it, or will they hold their noses?
    4. Can we do it justice?
    5. Does it go over?

    Here is my process for songs the other members bring:

    1. Play it
  8. duff beer

    duff beer

    Dec 2, 2007
    One of my bands prides itself on keeping the dance floor full. Therefore, all of the songs must be ones that people like and will dance to. We've shared gigs with some bands that have superior musicianship but can't understand why we get a better response than they do.

    They fail to grasp the fact that although there are 3 drunk guys who might like how awesome your guitarist played the lead in Comfortably Numb, there are 30 girls in the same crowd that will get out of their chairs and dance to Mustang Sally and Taking Care of Business.
  9. ^ I'd love to see your set list Mr Duff. Feel free to PM me (I'm Aussie, so no competition :) )
  10. troy mcclure

    troy mcclure Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Central Florida
    2 things matter to me
    1) will it go over
    2) does your band cover it well

    eventually you will not like most songs your band plays unless the audience is having a good time
  11. This is how I view it as well. And our band has had similar experiences (being more liked by an audience than another band that was technically superior).

    When picking new songs, we generally will use the radio, or the popularity of a song when it was on the radio, or if it still shows up on the radio, as one of our main criteria. Secondly, it has to be something we can reasonably recreate with how we are instrumented and what our vocal abilities are. Third, it has to fit somewhat with what we do. Sometimes we will make a real departure from our style, but that's usually the result of a specific song request for a gig (for example, we have a gig coming up, a party, where we were specifically asked to learn "What Does The Fox Say", which unfortunately I have to sing. What a terrible song!).

    In the end, if it isn't something that received, or still receives, generous radio time, it probably won't show up on our setlist. Sometimes I think it's too bad because there's a lot of cool music out there that nobody's ever heard, but it's just kinda how it is I guess.
  12. Wow, random.....

    Yesterday I heard Arctic Monkeys on a mainstream rock station out of Boston, WAAF 107.3. Never heard of them before and wouldn't have thought much except I heard about them here first.

    Really good song, kinda made me think of an edgier Cage The Elephant. I'd love to be in a band that would cover that one.
  13. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Did you catch which song it was?
  14. Just did a quick search to check, and it was a song called Do I Wanna Know.

    Great tune, I'm really getting turned onto these guys. Some really good stuff there.
  15. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Its an ongoing thing. My band has been together for almost 3 years and I am constantly nagging at them to add new songs and weed out the ones that arent working. My previous cover band played the same setlist for 2.5 years straight! We have March off and I really want to revamp the setlist a bit to add more songs that will keep people up and dancing, but we shall see. It can be an uphill battle as everyone has their own opinion.
  16. B Major

    B Major

    Nov 20, 2013
    Boston, Ma.
    Re: getting to the 30 and under crowd... No matter what style of music you play, I find that a cover version of Bel Biv Devoe's Poison will always get a crowd of that age moving...... Seriously...
  17. As for the view on song selection for the band I'm in? If it puts feets on the dance floor? Play it. Whether it's obscure, or not. Besides, don't be so cookie-cutter when it comes to song selection. Don't ever be THAT band.
    We've had that mentality for over 20 years. And, I absolutely cannot remember the last time we, as a band had to call and make a booking. What!? Yes. They call us. So, I would partly assume that our approach has been pretty damn successful.
  18. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Cool, thanks. As far as my wanting to play a song by that particular group, that helps. At the same time, I'm still curious what TB thinks about the broader question - is radio play an important criterion for song selection, and do you find you can make "obscure" tunes work, at least worked into sets of better-known material?
  19. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    IMO this is excellent criteria for cover band song selection.

  20. wmheilma


    Jan 5, 2010
    Does anyone else look at the number of YouTube hits a song has? It can help your band members to try something new.