Self-Indulgent Song Choices vs What Audience Wants to Hear and Dance to

Morrisman

Platinum Member
"what I want to know is who is this audience? What kind of person gets enjoyment out of hearing a band playing a song over 30 years old that's been done to death by thousands of other bands? Who are these people? "

I believe people have a sweet spot for the music from their youth. So if you're playing to 50 year olds, its music from the seventies and eighties.

I also play in a 50's band, we only play songs from 1955 - 1965, and our audience is 70 year old ballroom dancers who dance Rock n Roll style in 50's costumes. The songs all sound the same, but the crowd love them, they dance all night, and they thank us at the end of the night. We've already got 12 bookings for next year, at $600 - $800 per gig for a four piece band, minimal gear, tiny PA, not too late nights, etc. A perfect example of playing what the people want to hear.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Band politics notwithstanding, I think one should just try and be open to change things based upon general reactions.

Now, there's a fine line between "crowd pleasers" and worn out and also there's a lot of stuff that people would like even if it challenged them a bit. There's also more than two baskets in this discussion.

Having enough material too change things around depending a little bit on the crowd isn't wrong either.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I believe people have a sweet spot for the music from their youth. So if you're playing to 50 year olds, its music from the seventies and eighties.
I'm always a little surprised and pleased that the under-30 crowd digs Mustang Sally and other hits from a few decades before they were born. In part it's because some songs are just timeless and have a good beat, and I'm sure that if people see enough bar bands, they get used to hearing and dancing to certain songs. :) Either way, if a gig is important enough to do, it's important to do material that people like.

I happen to like Mustang Sally, and have played it in almost every cover band I've worked with. Which brings up another point: many cover bands choose some of their material because everyone already knows those songs. I've done gigs with players I've never met, with no rehearsal or set list. Someone calls the next song, and we start. While that's not an excuse for playing certain classic oldies, it may explain why many bands gravitate to them.

But if the crowd doesn't dig a song, I guarantee that bands would stop playing it, no matter how much of a no-brainer or throwaway it may be for them. The audience - or sometimes lack of audience - always decides whether a band will move forward, stay where they are, or disappear.

Bermuda
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Yeah - there are some songs everyone knows somehow. If we play an ABBA song like Dancing Queen, every woman in the room sings along, even the teenagers. Same with 'I will survive'. Maybe because these songs are in movies?Or do they teach them in schools?
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
If there are 20 people dancing to my band playing Mustang Sally, and one jaded existential philosopher for whom a hackneyed bar band cliche is just utterly pointless, I'll take my lead from the 20 dancing, and Mustang Sally stays in the set list
So anyone who doesn't appreciate having their local live music scene tamed and having the same old stuff rammed down their throat week after week after week is a "jaded existential philosopher"? Now where did I put my beret and pipe?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
So anyone who doesn't appreciate having their local live music scene tamed and having the same old stuff rammed down their throat week after week after week is a "jaded existential philosopher"?
If you don't like what a band plays, don't go to see them again. If they're playing at your favorite place and you don't feel you should have to leave, say something to the management. As I said, the audience has the final word.

Bermuda
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
An analogy would be a chef who laments "Does everybody want surf and turf ALL the time? I can prepare much more interesting dishes. I'm just so tired of making surf and turf."

Who TF wants that kind of chef in their restaurant?

The band is not there to please themselves, although IMO the most successful musicians enjoy what they are doing. So if you're one of these people who detest playing cover songs, for paradiddle pete's sake, don't be in one of those bands.

People in general have a hard time giving of themselves. As a drummer, I find that mindset to be toxic. I have to give and give, that's the job as I see it. I'm not taking at all. What people miss is that when you give, it makes others happy. Which comes back to you. So be miserable and have your precious musical integrity intact, or lighten up Francis and share with the world your special abilities. What if you one day woke up and you lost all ability to play your instrument? You'd give a lot to just be able to play Mustang Sally with a live band again. You don't miss your water until the well runs dry. A little gratitude would be nice. Learn to appreciate what you have....

WHILE YOU HAVE IT.

This applies everywhere, not just music.

To many of the front people think that the band is there to make them be cool, where in reality, the band is there so the people can have a fun time. There's a huge gap in attitude there.

A chef doesn't make a great meal for the applause. A chef makes a great meal so the person eating the meal enjoys it. It's NOT for the chef to enjoy. It's the chef's job to make a great meal, not eat or critique the great meal. Give freely of your talent, happily....that's what you are supposed to do with it. Trust me on this.

If you don't like playing Mustang Sally, do everyone a favor and step aside so you don't poison the rest of the band. There are plenty of deserving musicians with a much better attitude.

Shut up and play, give the audience what it needs, and to hell with your precious opinions about what people SHOULD like. Deal with what they actually DO like.

Hey there's certain songs I'm not fond of playing....only because I feel they are floor clearers. Grateful Dead's "Touch of Gray" is one of those. TOO many verses, they overstay the welcome IMO. But if people seriously got off on it....I would too. But more times than not it's a floor clearer. I can't tire of MS because people really shake it down to that tune.
 
Last edited:

Blisco

Senior Member
I'm only in it for the money. I play what they tell me to play ;)
Me too! I sold my soul a long time ago to write originals and "make it".

But I'll add, I'm in it to have fun and that means people dancing and enjoying themselves. As an entertainer, that is my main goal. Everything else will follow.

My musical motto is "I play for free, I get paid to show up"

Music is first and always about expression and joy. The effort to put on the show is where the dollars come into play.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I bet the Stones dont get tired of playing the same old songs for 40 years, and for a very good reason, they are THERE songs. If I wrote a standard and huge venues of people paid millions to come and listen to it then why not?

As a local gig audience member I like to hear the odd standard, but I prefer a band to put there own twist on it and freshen it up, make it there own. They could play the Birdy Song if they made it interesting and enjoyable. We are supposed to be musicians, artists, use a bit of artistic licence now and again.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
One thing this thread lacks....We are all musicians here. You know how doctors make the worst patients? Musicians make the worst audience members.

Your typical non musician audience member doesn't think AT ALL about the things we musicians think about concerning music. All they want to do is have simple fun. Nothing too complex. Musicians have to divorce themselves from the thought process in a way and forget about themselves, and make music that would appeal to Joe Beercan and his lovely wife Pop Top.

It's easy. Provided people can release their precious egos on this subject.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I am in a Blues Brothers cover band. Great fun. Great audience appreciation. I am an entertainer.

I am also in an originals band. Also great fun because I am creating drum parts that have never been played by anyone before. The originals band plays for a very small select group of friends and followers. This originals band usually plays for free and not very often.

There is a wide gap between the type of audience that listens to these two bands.


.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
One thing this thread lacks....We are all musicians here. You know how doctors make the worst patients? Musicians make the worst audience members.

Your typical non musician audience member doesn't think AT ALL about the things we musicians think about concerning music. All they want to do is have simple fun. Nothing too complex. Musicians have to divorce themselves from the thought process in a way and forget about themselves, and make music that would appeal to Joe Beercan and his lovely wife Pop Top.

It's easy. Provided people can release their precious egos on this subject.
I believe I said this very thing with less words ;)

I recall a story J.R. Robinson told when he was tracking some Michael jackson track with Quincy Jones, and he did some little flurry that didn't really disturb the groove but Quincy noticed. Q laughingly told him he could "put that on your own album" I've been around people like Quincy Jones for a while now, and have been trained correctly. Stash your ego, play what they want, get money. Look at it this way, if you're getting paid for drumming, that's infinitely better than digging a ditch for the same amount. I'm no Bill Bruford so I won't get upset if I can't play anything in 17/16 and stay in a decent hotel.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Yes, but unless you are a pro its not a job. Most of us never make any money, we play cos we love it. My band gets paid but it probably averages out that we break even. Not everyone wants to listen to every band play the same 20 standards at every gig. There are lots of genres and lots of songs to suit the occasion.

Just cos a band tries something a little different does not mean they are being obscure or ignoring an audience
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
Back in the day,I went to my HS Xmas semi formal.

The semi formal.committee were a bunch of heads who hired the band because they sounded like Jethro Tull.

About 30 minutes into their set ,nobody was on the dance floor.

We had to go up and remind them that we were there to dance with our sweeties and maybe throwing in a few slow songs in every set might be a good idea.

Rule #1:
Know your audience!
 

NVIC

Senior Member
Our band plays "I can't go for that" and people love it. Because it's one of those songs people forgot about but loved back then. Songs like that are the real gems for a cover band IMO.

Dutch
I agree. Hall & Oates have certainly got their due. Back in the day they were laughed off as fluffy junk but there best has stood the test of time.
 

NVIC

Senior Member
There must be a lot more examples but that's who came to mind first. When Alice Cooper played locally before they were big, they were horrible. Who want's to hear a jam band with no structure or decent vocals.
I think Alice did a fairly commendable job at vocals. I love his sappy ballads too.

Only Women Bleed
You and Me
I Never Cry

Good stuff!
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Yes, but unless you are a pro its not a job. Most of us never make any money, we play cos we love it. My band gets paid but it probably averages out that we break even. Not everyone wants to listen to every band play the same 20 standards at every gig. There are lots of genres and lots of songs to suit the occasion.

Just cos a band tries something a little different does not mean they are being obscure or ignoring an audience
Wait a minute - does this even make sense? You really think the audience cares that you're not pro and you're only doing it for fun? If you're doing it for fun at a bar is the bar owner OK with not having anyone buy drinks?

I argue that whenever you go out to entertain people, you are working. They don't care that you're not getting paid or just doing it for fun. Unless this is some backyard BBQ with family and friends, you work it and entertain your audience. Ever wonder how bands go from "not making money" to "making money"? It's all on how you were perceived at the last gig. If you were playing stuff nobody wanted to hear at your last gig and turned off the audience that was there, word travels. Faster moreso now in the days of the internets.

So I see this as a two-pronged attack: 1) Play what they want and 2) appear to enjoy it. Glenn Frey once said in an interview how much he hated singing "Take it Easy", but he keeps doing it and enjoying it. Randy Meisner, the first Eagle's bass player, complained about having to sing "Take it to the limit" every night and refused to sing it after a time. There's reason Randy is no longer in the biggest band of the century.

Sorry to sound so stringent on it, but if you want to get to the next level, you gotta mentally go there first. It doesn't happen if you don't do it.

I think the more popular are as a band and the bigger following you generate, the more likely audience members and venue owners will be accommodating if you want to do something a 'little outside' the usual entertainment, but I think even that's a stretch. I was in trio once where we played the hits, but we tended to make the music our own and extend and stretch out a bit within it, and even that was treading on some toes.

Of course, if your plan is to play just what you want to play and there are no compromises, that's cool. Just understand you are in a "feast or famine" situation at that point. And if you're ok with that, you're good! Maybe I was too busy learning how to play anything I can so I can go out to play?
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I think Alice did a fairly commendable job at vocals. I love his sappy ballads too. Good stuff!
He developed into a strong singer and I learned to like some of his(their) work but, you should have heard them playing in the first couple years.



I like playing covers, I get a huge kick out of people dancing to my band's playing. If it ever gets old, I'll review my approach, until then I'll knock out those "pointless" songs, and wear the widest shit-eatingest grin while I do it.
There again if people only ever "Get to hear what they want to hear" how are they ever going to get into something new, or at least new to them?


Also, I presume most of us play cos we love music. If you have to spend all your time playing what you dont like and dont enjoy simply cos "Its what the audience want to hear" then why bother? I have worked at jobs I didnt enjoy, but the money made it worthwhile.
I completely understand and subscribe to both of these views.

This isn't an "either/or" thing. It's a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Play what you want, play what they want or play some of each.
In the olden days we would sneak in a couple of original songs in every set and it worked out well.

Enjoying what you are doing is the important part.


Ever wonder how bands go from "not making money" to "making money"? It's all on how you were perceived at the last gig.
If you are talking about original bands making real money, they didn't do it playing all covers.

If you are talking about cover bands making decent cover band money instead of $100 a night then yeah, play the hits.
 
Top