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Song selection for a Cover Band

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Joe Boom, Aug 18, 2019.

  1. Joe Boom

    Joe Boom

    Jun 25, 2004
    I have question where I'm looking for an audience perspective.
    If you were to go see a cover band, would you be looking for songs you are familiar with or would deep cuts from bands you know be more appealing?
    By deep cuts I don’t mean songs that were lesser hits or fan favorites, but rather songs you don’t realize you’ve ever heard even though you’ve had the album for 30 years.
    These two options are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. It’s one or the other. I know this may seem odd, but I’m trying to get a temperature check for a discussion with a new band that is forming.
    jamro217 likes this.
  2. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Going for songs people haven't heard in years is unlikely to get you gigs as a cover band. People want to hear songs they know.

    But the best way is to check popular bands playing at the venues where you want to play. See what works for them.
    mrcbass, jamro217, Pilgrim and 7 others like this.
  3. It would depend on what kind of cover band, what kind of club, target audience, age group, all that stuff. If I was going for the baby boomer market, I'd probably stick to cover songs that people know from the radio. If I was going for more gen-x and younger, I'd go with some well-known songs mixed in with obscure variety.
  4. friskinator

    friskinator Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    The worst decision musicians make when choosing a cover band setlist is the dreaded "we're gonna do songs that WE want to play." It's hard enough to get gigs these days when you're playing music the masses actually want to hear. If you start throwing in deep/obscure tracks (even from well known artists), it's going to make it even harder.

    If we're talking bar/pub gigs where the owner wants people up and dancing, you need to be playing popular, up-tempo, danceable songs.
    lomo, twocargar, jamro217 and 16 others like this.
  5. mikeoso

    mikeoso Acoustic Curmudgeon

    Feb 14, 2014
    eastern Iowa
    As an aged curmudgeon, I get really impatient with musicians who think they somehow have a right to get paid to do what they like. If you insist on playing only what you like, and dont care what anyone else likes, stay in your garage. It's very possible that the best music is being made in closed jams, but cases where anyone makes money off those are rare. The Pizza Tapes comes to mind, as does One Quiet Night. Art for art's sake is wonderful, but not necessarily profitable.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
    lomo, jamro217, rollie 55 and 4 others like this.
  6. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I’m in two bands. One has better talent, is tighter and has a more esoteric set list. The other lacks standout talent, is okay with imperfection and plays the tried-and-true classic rock and pop hits. Which band is more successful? The less-talented one that plays the familiar.
    TerenceE, lomo, twocargar and 12 others like this.
  7. As a musician I like when a band plays stuff you don’t hear all the time but as far as getting paid, as others have said, in most of those situations you should play what will get people up and dancing.
    jamro217, Nevada Pete and Joe Boom like this.
  8. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    What musicians like often isn't the same as what the general public likes. I think part of that is that we tend to get tired of playing/hearing the same songs over & over & over & over, which is necessary to learn them, while most people don't have to pay as close attention. Personally, I like to hear something different when I go see a live band, but usually it's not anything that the rest of the audience digs. Gotta play what people like if you want to get paid & invited back!
  9. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006

    if i may add for the OP:

    - baby boomer women seem to like and embrace many newer music songs a lot more than baby boomer men do and they are generally the ones that initiate dancing.....keep that in mind (babyboomer men just seem to want to listen to guitar solos :) )

    - i can think of a lot of bands in my area that dont do any songs from the 00s - thats 19 years (practically two decades).....what we used to call "Classic Rock" is now "Oldies" (Jurassic Rock?)....Classic Rock is now 80s and 90s
  10. lbbc

    lbbc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Seaford , DE
    What audiences know generally guides our decision making when learning songs. We get more gigs at places where we want to play. We WILL learn any song that gets more than 3 requests per night (even if we don't like it). That also gets more tips because they know why we learned it!

    I could stay in my basement and play Grand Funk, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath if I only wanted to play what I liked!
  11. Max Lawrence

    Max Lawrence

    Apr 27, 2019
    This needs one of those vote thinggys people put up at the top.
    lomo, MynameisMe, jamro217 and 3 others like this.
  12. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    The youngest Boomers out there are 55. You might be thinking of Gen X - or maybe Boomer is just your term for old people. When you say Boomers, I’m trying to imagine my 75 year old mother dancing to a Soundgarden song.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
    jamro217, Tad, Joe Boom and 1 other person like this.
  13. 4001

    4001 SUSPENDED

    If you want to be on a stage and play for your friends, you had better play the beer selling songs. Forget all of that stuff about being in a huge band and playing what YOU want to play, you have a day job and the weekend warrior band guy thing is about all it's ever going to be.
    Deep cuts? HA! Those are room clearers. If the drunks in the room don't know the song you are playing, and believe me, they don't know much, then you loose your audience of narrow minded alcoholics with ZERO music appreciation and don't get an invite back to that rat hole bar.
    jamro217 and Joe Boom like this.
  14. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    The problem with the deep-cuts strategy is that a few people in the audience will recognize and appreciate the "deep cuts" from Band X, but not those from Band Y or Band Z; others will recognize and appreciate the "deep cuts" from Band Y, but not those from Band X or Z, etc. Consequently, it's likely that everybody goes home happy about having enjoyed hearing a few of the songs, but not the rest of them -- and that won't be enough to motivate them to come back next time. I think the only way the deep-cuts strategy works if you are essentially a tribute band covering Band X, and can safely assume that the people coming to see you will know and appreciate all the "deep cuts" from that particular band.
    TomB, Jim Nazium, lomo and 4 others like this.
  15. friskinator

    friskinator Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    I was recently contacted about potentially playing with a cover band. The BL sent me their set list, and there was nothing on there released in the last 20 years. It was all the cliche 80s/90s bar band tunes. All the ones everyone is sick to death of.

    I'm not saying you need to scour the current pop charts and only play those songs, but at least TRY to add a couple of relatively current popular tunes. Something released in the last 10 years, maybe?
  16. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    THIS... if I hear 'Sweet Emotion' one more time, I'm eating that Klondike bar and take the dare, without looking...

    Note: Don't get me wrong... great song, and I consider it a workout on bass, when it's done correctly.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
    TerenceE, jamro217, Joe Boom and 2 others like this.
  17. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    Im mid-50s :D........and also because you are thinking rock: by 00s songs, Im talking Ed Sheerhan songs, Blurred Lines, Bruno Mars songs, Feel It Still, All about that Bass, Cupid Shuffle,etc....all those go over very well in Boomer/retirement communities that I play at...they even have line dances for several of the ones i just mentioned and more to ones I havent

    as far as 80s/90s being the new classic rock, STP, Collective Soul, Pearl Jam, Staind, Creed, etc as well as Van Halen, Crue, Poison etc punctuated with a rare and occasional Skynyrd,CCR,or ZZ Top song goes over far better at biker and rock venues in the past few years than just doing the latter.....makes sense to me: its almost 2020 :)
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  18. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    As vomit-inducing as some of the "commonly known" songs are, those are the songs that the general population likes to hear because they are already familiar with those songs. It's all about familiarity. It's the way the human brain works. As George Carlin once said, "consider the average intelligence of the human population, and then realize that half of the world's population is dumber than that!" Combine that fact with guzzling of alcohol, and you have the perfect recipe for under-evolved neanderthals who yell "FREEBIRD" between songs.

    The classic scene from the Blues Brothers comes to mind when the band started off playing Gimme Some Lovin and the cowboy-hat-wearing crowd started booing and throwing beer bottles at the band. But as soon as they started playing the Rawhide theme song, the country bumpkins cheered their cowboy arses off!

    I was in a YES tribute band for about five years. We received *GREAT* crowd response, BUT, most of the crowd was comprised of YES music fans. Familiarity worked in our favor bigtime. But if you were to take us and put us in a typical bar filled with typical bar type people, we would have most likely received the same response that Jake and Elwood received when they started playing Gimme Some Lovin.

    So I agree with the other posters in this thread who recommend song material that would be familiar to the audience. :thumbsup:
    jamro217, 4001, Nevada Pete and 3 others like this.
  19. 4001

    4001 SUSPENDED

    Sorry but you need to sell beer and not worry about the music.
    Sure, you're a bass player. You have dreams... to be as good as your bass heros...but who cares?
    You'll never be able to do that on any kind of level because the audience is a bunch of dunderheads conditioned by decades of the industry only pushing what they want on you and them, and you have little choice but to accept the same songs, day after day until you think that is all there really is because the radio plays it. You can ask them if they have ever heard of great virtuoso players and get that same dumbfounded feeling when they say that they never heard of them... Then it all becomes very clear. You're never going to get to do what you'd want to do. Not even close. I don't like consolation prizes, so I stay out.
    Really... why bother trying to become the best you can when you'll get slapped in the face with tunes that don't require more than a few months of lessons and that's your entire bar band gigging future? How lame.
    Joe Boom likes this.
  20. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    ^^^THIS! :thumbsup:
    jamro217 and Joe Boom like this.

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