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

mikel

Platinum Member
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?
Errr....yes, it makes perfect sense. Just cos it is not in line with what you think or what happens in your neck of the woods douse not make it wrong. We play the stuff we love to play and think it will also be fairly commercial, and it works. We get as many gigs as any other local band but refuse to go down the blindingly obvious route that 90% of the others do. Thats why we get so many gigs, cos we dont do the obvious we do dancey funky stuff that is interesting to play, and listen or dance to.

If it was a "Job" I would play anything to make money. I dont, I have a job that I don't particularly like but It pays great money and it allows me to indulge in music, that I do love. Thats probably the position most of us are in,
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Getting back to the OP's question, the goal is simply to find songs that the crowd will enjoy, and that the band likes to play. That shouldn't be so difficult, playing a staple such as Mustang Sally certainly isn't mandatory. But this doesn't mean you can stray from other proven crowd pleasers. It's well and good to play songs from hitmakers like the Stones, Beatles, Green Day, Blondie, the Motown stable, etc., but avoid 'deep cuts' that people won't know.

There's no reason that everyone can't get what they want. But if there's ever a question, you must defer to the audience. They're the reason you rehearse, and haul gear, and play in the first place.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I will go one step deeper and suggest that the reason we play is to satisfy our own interests, mainly our egos.

The crowd is merely a vehicle.
Perhaps I should have said 'They're the reason you rehearse, and haul gear, and accept gigs in the first place.'

I'm the first to admit that the reason I play drums is because I enjoy it. But when I'm hired to play for people, which is 99% of the time, I understand that the audience is the reason for being hired in the first place. So agreed, they're the vehicle. And as I said earlier, it really doesn't matter what songs I'm playing, because my joy comes simply from the playing.

I should add that I don't write songs, so playing covers doesn't conflict with any artistic agenda. I think we all know guitar and bass and keyboard players who write original songs and are possibly trying to get a solo career off the ground, and it eats them up to play someone else's originals. But their frustration is easily resolved: don't join a cover band!

Bermuda
 

Blisco

Senior Member
One of my better theories is to play the second biggest hit of any given group.

That way you are less likely to play what every other band plays and you still play songs people know. It can set your band apart from the pack and still keep it fun and fresh for you.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Errr....yes, it makes perfect sense. Just cos it is not in line with what you think or what happens in your neck of the woods douse not make it wrong. We play the stuff we love to play and think it will also be fairly commercial, and it works. We get as many gigs as any other local band but refuse to go down the blindingly obvious route that 90% of the others do. Thats why we get so many gigs, cos we dont do the obvious we do dancey funky stuff that is interesting to play, and listen or dance to.

If it was a "Job" I would play anything to make money. I dont, I have a job that I don't particularly like but It pays great money and it allows me to indulge in music, that I do love. Thats probably the position most of us are in,
There's nothing wrong with liking where you're at.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A smart band picks self indulgent song choices that the audience loves to dance to. Just change the versus to the word plus.

Why is everything a versus? It can be in addition to too.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
How do you guys in cover bands choose your songs, and who chooses them, and how the hell do you get rid of them when they're not working? It should be easy, but you'd be surprised on how some people create their own version of reality when it comes to holding on to songs that they like but don't work.
I've been in 3 cover bands (as lead guitarist), all were hard rock/metal, and I was always adamant about not being a jukebox style cover band. I basically looked at it as I would if we played our own music; this is what we play, people who like it will pack the joint, people who don't will go elsewhere.

This always proved successful and everyone was happy.

Our songs were usually chosen buy all members. I've never been in a band with a "leader".
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
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 agree. But it's also why I tend to not go see cover bands. I get too critical.

Look at it this way, if you're getting paid for drumming, that's infinitely better than digging a ditch for the same amount. .
Except ditch digging generally pays more.

And if it's playing Mustang Sally for the 1,000,000th time, I just might choose the ditch. :p
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
One of my better theories is to play the second biggest hit of any given group.

That way you are less likely to play what every other band plays and you still play songs people know. It can set your band apart from the pack and still keep it fun and fresh for you.
That's an excellent approach, I like it! Of course, with many extremely popular groups, even their slightly lesser hits will still be pretty big. Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Bowie, Cheap Trick, Led Zep, Tom Petty, Beach Boys, Elton John, INXS, One Direction, Police, Aerosmith, Clapton, Springsteen, Rod Stewart, The Who, Stone Temple Ponies, etc... you'd have to go more than a few songs down the list to find anything slightly uncommon, but familiar and worth playing.

It would be interesting to compile a list of such "B" hits (somebody feel free to start a new thread with that!)

Bermuda
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
That's an excellent approach, I like it! Of course, with many extremely popular groups, even their slightly lesser hits will still be pretty big. Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Bowie, Cheap Trick, Led Zep, Tom Petty, Beach Boys, Elton John, INXS, One Direction, Police, Aerosmith, Clapton, Springsteen, Rod Stewart, The Who, Stone Temple Ponies, etc... you'd have to go more than a few songs down the list to find anything slightly uncommon, but familiar and worth playing.

It would be interesting to compile a list of such "B" hits (somebody feel free to start a new thread with that!)

Bermuda
So like, instead of Journy's Don't Stop Believing, the band can play something like "Feelin' that Way"? Or , instead of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar, the band would play "Fire and Ice". Yes. I like that kind of thinking.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
So like, instead of Journy's Don't Stop Believing, the band can play something like "Feelin' that Way"? Or , instead of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar, the band would play "Fire and Ice". Yes. I like that kind of thinking.
I don't know those particular "b" songs, but if they ever got decent radio play, then they would qualify.

I guess that would be the criterion: a song that got sufficient exposure, yet wasn't a top-10 hit for the artist. Basically, songs that people know, that could have been bigger sellers.

It's easy to search artist's discographies and look at chart positions (Wikipedia - assuming you believe they're accurate - usually has this info.) Just find familiar singles not in the top-10, and see if they'd make sense to add to the list.

Bermuda
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
t find familiar singles not in the top-10, and see if they'd make sense to add to the list.
For example, per Wikipedia's Beach Boys Discography page, such secondary (and surprisingly not top-10) songs would be:

Surfin' Safari
Little Deuce Coupe
In My Room (perfect for a slow dance!)
Don't Worry Baby
Darlin' (GREAT song if you don't know)
Do It Again (another great song!)

That's way more Beach Boys than one band should do, and you manage to work around the customary "Fun Fun Fun" and "I Get Around" etc, not that they're bad songs to play. :)

Then again, you'd better have some good pipes to do any of those songs justice!

Bermuda
 

mikel

Platinum Member
On a lighter note. Back in the 70s I was in an originals band and we were booked at a CIU club in rural Northumberland for some unknown reason. Club audiences were a difficult and demanding throwback and not to be messed with. "Play something we know" was there maxim or you were off the stage and out the door with no money very quickly, possibly minus a limb or two.

We did no covers and played prog type rock so we were in trouble. I announced every song we played as "The new single by....." insert name of current popular pop act and......we got away with it. They were perfectly happy and must have presumed we had our fingers firmly on the pulse of popular music.

Just goes to show you can fool all of the people etc. Also, I think it proves that the public wants what the public gets.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Well as kind of a follow up to all of this , we tried a batch of our new cover songs last night at our bar gig.

The reaction to Bowie "let's dance" was incredible. Lots of people got to dance and they loved it.

The reaction to "dirty white boy" was predictably not good. Cleared the floor. This was for me expected.

The Reaction to " I can't go for that" was really good.

For me, surprisingly, the reaction to Stevie wonders "I wish" was great.

Even more interesting is that we are talking about a lot of college kids from Sonoma State University dancing two songs that were around before they were even born. Of course we also play some current material like uptown funk and Gangnam Style.
 
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