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Your cover band setlist strategy.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Stinsok, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    How do you decide what to play and when to play it?
  2. nitewalker


    Mar 9, 2008
    very good question. my band has a list and we go through it. I think that we should only set the order of the fist few songs, measure the crowd and ourselves and then decide what to play next, but that is not what we do. I think you need to go with the flow.
  3. crucislancer

    crucislancer Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 2009
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    When I make a set list, the things I usually consider are:

    The typical dynamics of the venue - Is it the kind of place that you want to bring the house down with heavier material, or are you expecting to play to a dinner crowd?

    Openers and Closers - I pick songs that are well suited for opening the set and closing it out, and rotate them every other gig, or even every gig if needed.

    Pairing - I'll keep in mind certain songs that work well together, those that might be naturally easy to segue into.

    Breaks - With certain songs there might be a requirement to change instruments or tuning, so it's important to play those after a short break while the vocalist shmoozes the crowd.

    In the end, we might have a list worked out but there have been many gigs where we made changes on stage, taking a song out after gauging the crowd for a bit.

    Those are all my rules for set list building whether it's a cover band or an originals band. The only difference might be if you are doing something like whole albums at a time. A friend of mine is in a Pink Floyd tribute band, and they usually just play an entire album's worth of material in the order it's on the album. For instance, the last time I saw them they did Dark Side and then Animals, with some stuff from Wish You Were Here and the Wall in between and at the end.
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    ^^ That pretty well covers it.
  5. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    When I get to program, I keep the following in mind:

    Audiences dig a splash at the top, a splash at the end of a set, and a splash at the end.

    The golden mean is awesome: the biggest crest or most satisfying tune should come in at 66.6% mark. The exception to this rule is if you want to ride the wave all the way to the end. Otherwise, keep them wanting more.

    If you have more than one complex song in your set, maybe put a palate cleanser in afterwards that is immediately easy for the audience to have fun to.
  6. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY
    It really depends on the type of band, the type of venue/event, and the style of music.

    I play in lots of different types of bands - in a tribute show or an original show, we do what we do - there's no 'request' type things going on, and if the tribute or the style of original music isn't dance-oriented, then we don't cater to that.

    On the other hand, in a cover band geared to please the general masses, it's a whole different ballgame. We start with a pseudo/generic setlist, but call 'em out as makes sense for the crowd that's there at the time. ie: Starting, if it's more mellow, we play more mellow stuff and build up, but say we're starting right after a local hockey game ends - the crowd is pumped (hopefully, we won!), we start off strong and hard and dancable - get them going and keep 'em there.

    When to throw in a slower type tune is usually something we play by ear, but we always try to start and end sets strong - end lame and that's the thing they remember.
  7. To the guitarist:

    "What else do you know?
    - That... (plays that)
    - Ok, it's on our list"
  8. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    I was putting a lot of thought into venue, crowd, timing, tempo, etc.

    Two gigs ago I went in alphabetical order to see if anyone would notice. They didn't. The last one we started at Z and went backward.

    This method seemed to work better than all my careful planning.
    StargazerMP likes this.
  9. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Our band tries not to play two songs a row in the same key, certainly not 3 songs. Not sure how important that is, but that's how we roll.
  10. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    We suggest good, dance-able rockin' tunes to the Guit/Singer, and he turns them down in favor of Foo Fighters songs. Goes like this:

    "How about playing ZZ Top- La Grange?" "Umm, well, how about Big Me by the Foo Fighters instead."

  11. 1) My personal number one - if 95% of the audience don't recognise the song within the first bar, it's out. And no clever rambling ambient noodle intros that eventually resolve into the song. It might work in an arena, but not at Joe's Bar.

    2) Don't avoid the "done to death" songs. Freebird/Sweet Home Alabama/Brickhouse/Mustang Sally. They've been done to death for a reason...

    3) Start and finish each set with your absolute killer dance/shouty-bits tunes (you know, the chorus the whole audience wants to shout along with). Finish the night with at least 4-5 killers. Yes, I know; they ALL should be killers but let's face reality.

    4) Having said all this, don't be scared to throw in ONE well known but slightly out-there choice occasionally. A classic rock band I gig with sometimes does Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" towards the end of the night and it goes down a storm. My Blues band will do "Play That Funky Music White Boy" and it just kills.
  12. At one of our early gigs, we put together a set list we were pretty pleased with but never considered the possibility that we'd be called on to do an encore.
    We had a big finish to our set and then looked pretty lame trying work out what to play next.
  13. He is not in the cover band BUSINESS.

    Two different things, cover band and cover band business.
  14. by rankings, reuses and royalties (the 3 Rs of coverbandom)
  15. Play songs that people know so you connect with the audience. Especially songs girls know.....
  16. Blah114


    Feb 7, 2008
    a) get people to dance..
    b) get people to dance..
    c) get guys to watch people dancing..
    d) get guys to buy drinks for women , themselves.
    e) get people to dance..
    f) get guys to buy drinks period..
    g) all else follows..
  17. By people you mean women, right?
  18. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Inactive Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.

    + 100000000000!

    I'll also give props to other posters. Avoid overplayed songs. Limit your ballads to no more then one or two a night. Everything should be absolutely danceable or stomp your feet to the beat-able.

    No guitar heros, no guitar god songs. People who go out on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night are not likely to be looking for Pink Floyd, Cream, most Doors, Santana, non-danceable new music, or most of the Zepplin collection.

    Sets should be balanced, and I agree at a minimum open each set with a killer, close each set with a super killer, and close the night with a run of three or four extraordinary danceable tunes. One thing I might suggest is that you always end your night with the same song. That way people will know its the end and also they will be anticipating it if you do it well.

    Otherwise, have fun.

  19. mrpackerguy

    mrpackerguy Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Do the best you can - deviate judiciously when needed.
  20. Corevalay

    Corevalay Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    This is very well said.
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