Why the same songs, when so many to choose from?

AzHeat

Platinum Member
There’s been an ongoing theme with cover bands with everyone playing the same song lists regardless of venue or band, mostly played average or best, and I’m not singling out the drummer. You could go into a park, bar or festival and hear the same 20 song playlist day after day and month after month. This doesn’t seem to be limited to my area as much as I thought. In contrast, the music scene seems quite different, when I visit either coast with far greater variety and quality.

Now, you’d think that’s all Phoenix wanted, but it’s not the case. There are a few and I do mean few bands who are gigging the high end venues every weekend and drawing a big crowd, but everywhere else is about as predictable as possible.

I keep reading about how you are only expected to play Sweet Home Alabama or Mustang Sally at every gig, but why is that, if at least a few bands are getting cool gigs doing way more?

I’m posting this due to all this conversation about the money beat, but the better bands I’m referring to are playing songs from Dave Mathews to Zeppelin to James Brown, Pretty much every genre in the top 40 categories across the last 4 decades and some far from the money beat. The crowds respond well regardless.

So, why aren’t more bands aspiring to play all of the above, instead of the same 20 songs, when there’s obviously a call for them when other bands are making money getting great gigs? Is it because they figure it’s better to be a stage whore than do something better? What is it and why would someone hire one band over the other, when there’s really no variety?
 

Masheanhed

Senior Member
I always waved the flag to do stuff out of the norm and usually got shot down with the phrase "you have to play what people want". OK...I can see that point, but I got it slapped in my face when any time we did something not in the "worn out/classic rock" song list we heard dead silence. Fire up Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps, Can't You See, Rock and Roll All Nite, or Bad Moon Rising and people cheered and clapped.

I love to hear bands deviate off the norm and not do the same ten songs that every other band (and classic rock radio) have driven in the ground.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I always waved the flag to do stuff out of the norm and usually got shot down with the phrase "you have to play what people want".
And if you're playing a gig to a typical crowd and you expect to make money, that's the drill. If people dig hearing the same songs again and again - and they do - you have to blame them, not the bands.

Fire up Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps, Can't You See, Rock and Roll All Nite, or Bad Moon Rising and people cheered and clapped.
I love to hear bands deviate off the norm and not do the same ten songs that every other band (and classic rock radio) have driven in the ground.
To be fair, there are WAY more than 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 songs that satisfy an audience. Anyone who believes the list begins with Mustang Sally and ends with Brown Eyed Girl is just not even trying to create a realistic playlist. A band playing 5 nights a week, 4 sets a night, 10 songs a set, should have enough hit songs to not repeat any all week. That's right, 200 songs that everyone loves.

Given the number of prolific artists and one-hit-wonder songs in the pop/rock era (1955-present...) I'm amazed that musicians complain about the lack of variety.

Bermuda
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
To be fair, there are WAY more than 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 songs that satisfy an audience. Anyone who believes the list begins with Mustang Sally and ends with Brown Eyed Girl is just not even trying to create a realistic playlist. A band playing 5 nights a week, 4 sets a night, 10 songs a set, should have enough hit songs to not repeat any all week. That's right, 200 songs that everyone loves.

Given the number of prolific artists and one-hit-wonder songs in the pop/rock era (1955-present...) I'm amazed that musicians complain about the lack of variety.

Bermuda
That’s is my point. I could easily come up with a list of 100 songs or more that people love to hear, but to everyone around me, the song list is always the same 20. Just met up with guys who said they play different stuff than everyone else. Got the set list and yup, same 20!
 
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DVD

Junior Member
Interesting thread - We tend to play what the guitar player already knows, which bugs me no end. It would be neat to see a list of the worst of the over played songs so I could argue against them in my band.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Some bands are hired more due to their networking and connections, even though they have similar setlists. I'd agree there are a 'very common 20' in the setlists of many bands. Mustang is surely in that 20. I'm still fine playing Mustang 1000 times, but its Margaritaville that grates me.

Quite a few notables on this guys list
http://nashvillemusicianssurvivalmanual.com/Blog/?p=1351
 

Masheanhed

Senior Member
To be fair, there are WAY more than 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 songs that satisfy an audience. Anyone who believes the list begins with Mustang Sally and ends with Brown Eyed Girl is just not even trying to create a realistic playlist. A band playing 5 nights a week, 4 sets a night, 10 songs a set, should have enough hit songs to not repeat any all week. That's right, 200 songs that everyone loves.


Bermuda
I don't think I ever played in a band that had more than 40 songs on their playlist. I think people get comfortable, or lazy.

If I only played the songs I liked, then I would have never had been able to play in any band!
 

calan

Silver Member
I don't think I ever played in a band that had more than 40 songs on their playlist. I think people get comfortable, or lazy.

If I only played the songs I liked, then I would have never had been able to play in any band!
This is invariably why cover bands never work for me.

I'm actually fine with the idea of playing for the audience, but there's no reason why the typical weekend warriors can't add a new song to the library once a month at the least.

I don't often go out and see the cover bands in my area (I tend towards originals), but the ones I do see I can usually count on to have cycled in a few new tunes by the next time I see them. I have friends who's bands I haven't seen in a year or two because they've been playing the same sets for at least five.

Clearly it works for them because they're still booking gigs, and they're all still having fun, so that's a win. I suppose I'm not the typical audience or band member, because it just doesn't excite me.

side note:The upside is that it's very easy for me to get sub work with these guys, because I know how to play their sets from memory.
 
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Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It probably depends.

Popular songs is also sorta regional.

In my experience, in that type of band, the issue is partly not wanting to put in the time to rehearse new material and partly not having the general skills to pull off other stuff. There is of course a connection between those two.

There is literally thousands of songs one could get away with.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I don't think I ever played in a band that had more than 40 songs on their playlist. I think people get comfortable, or lazy.
It's both. Working up new songs takes at least a little effort, and honestly, unless playing to the exact same audience at each gig, crowds are satisfied with the same 40 songs for years to come. But bands need to stretch out a bit for a few reasons.

First, it's smart to have a large repertoire. Bands that can play requests are liked better, and receive tips. Second, more songs means more fun for the players. They don't get bored as quickly, and complain less about Mustang Sally and other 'dreaded' covers.

Bermuda
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It is beyond me why bands think they have to do those tunes that are so ground in the dirt. There are SO many great songs to pick from. Hey my band is no exception. Despite reports of doing the same songs for years from the regular audience members, it's an unspoken rule that we MUST do the songs other's have listed at every gig.

We have at least 300 songs to choose from. Yet we only play about 25% of them in rotation at 90% of my gigs. There's only 2 rooms left where we can play what we do best, blues. All the other gigs are cover band stuff. I enjoy the cover band thing because the girls dance and I love seeing that. I just wish we could drop about 10 of our beat to death songs and substitute them with different songs already.
 

Nate'sKit

Senior Member
I've never been a big fan of Juke Box style cover bands, although I can appreciate the good ones for a while. It's just the propensity, of late, for hitting everything note for note and tone for tone just kills it for me. That seems to be what the higher acclaimed groups around here are doing. Not that I can be considered an expert from seeing them much. Maybe that's why they have resorted to wearing goofy costumes (giant comical hats and sunglasses, stuffed animal costumes, and whatever anyone?)
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I've never been a big fan of Juke Box style cover bands, although I can appreciate the good ones for a while.
That's a common perspective for musicians. You have to understand (and accept) that the vast majority of people that musicians play for in bars, clubs, corporate events, weddings, etc., are not other musicians. Conversely, jazz and funk venues tend to cater to musicians as a core audience.

If you want to make money - and I think that most musicians would like to make money from their craft - you give the people what they want. In fact, even if you're doing original, eclectic music, it still has to appeal to people, or nobody will want to hear it. You have to give the eclectic crowd what they want, too.

Personally, I enjoy most juke box music. I've never let being a musician get in the way of my enjoying music. I see that a lot in other players, and I honestly don't get it. It's like they lost something along the way. Or they've become cynical about music, or maybe too self-absorbed with their own art. I still enjoy playing everything that comes my way. Give me Mustang Sally, Midnight Hour, Brown Eyed Girl, Chain Of Fools, Grapevine, Proud Mary, etc and I'm happy. I guess because I just enjoy playing.

Bermuda
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Variety in live music has reduced dramatically where I live in Sydney, with only a fraction of the big live venues that were there in the 70s and 80s. This is largely due to gaming machines, laws related to crowded living (lockout, noise, drink driving), difficulty parking and a shift from music to multimedia and gaming as the "coolest" entertainment for the young.

You need a big and thriving scene to support original, or even slightly uncommercial music. Musicians and bands in a lean and struggling scene have to focus on paying bills first.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I’m in a band called The Flipside Blues Band. We are very good musicians with over 140 years of collective experience. We do very few standard songs. Mostly we play the “Flipside” of standard hit songs. We can’t get a gig to save our lives. The audience hears us play In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, done flawlessly. Musicians in the audience all say WOW. The rest of the audience say what song was that?



.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
That's a common perspective for musicians. You have to understand (and accept) that the vast majority of people that musicians play for in bars, clubs, corporate events, weddings, etc., are not other musicians. Conversely, jazz and funk venues tend to cater to musicians as a core audience.

If you want to make money - and I think that most musicians would like to make money from their craft - you give the people what they want. In fact, even if you're doing original, eclectic music, it still has to appeal to people, or nobody will want to hear it. You have to give the eclectic crowd what they want, too.

Personally, I enjoy most juke box music. I've never let being a musician get in the way of my enjoying music. I see that a lot in other players, and I honestly don't get it. It's like they lost something along the way. Or they've become cynical about music, or maybe too self-absorbed with their own art. I still enjoy playing everything that comes my way. Give me Mustang Sally, Midnight Hour, Brown Eyed Girl, Chain Of Fools, Grapevine, Proud Mary, etc and I'm happy. I guess because I just enjoy playing.

Bermuda
Ditto.

I don't complain about the music being played. Music to me is one of those things you either do, or don't. It's the only way you can survive and have a good attitude about playing for school groups like show choirs (who paid pretty well), or church groups, or subbing in the occasional local playhouse musical. You guys are complaining about cover band gigs? Wait til you get a gig where you show up and they hand you charts that are so marked up you can't really see any roadmap, and they tell you you're in charge of starting and stopping the group. Or, even rarer, somebody tells you to put on a human-sized rodent costume and you're drumming to whatever is in your in-ear monitors and playing it up for the kids in the audience. You may or may not give up drumming altogether, right?

So, like Bermuda, I love to play. Given the choice of going out and playing or not, I'd rather go out and play. I don't care if Mustang Sally is on the list or the fact that I have to be ready to play The Beatles' Happy Birthday a few times during the night. It's all good. I'd rather be the guy on the throne making anything happen, rather than be the bitter guy in the venue having dinner with his girl without a gig that evening.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Hollywood Jim says: I’m in a band called The Flipside Blues Band. We are very good musicians with over 140 years of collective experience. We do very few standard songs. Mostly we play the “Flipside” of standard hit songs. We can’t get a gig to save our lives. The audience hears us play In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, done flawlessly. Musicians in the audience all say WOW. The rest of the audience say what song was that?
And, would you expect it to be any different? Most audiences are about the song, not (necessarily) how well it's played, and not how adventurous the band is in choosing something obscure to them. The audience doesn't come to a bar to be educated with unfamiliar music, and bar bands that think it's their job to expand an audience's musical horizons are misguided and destined to not work much.

There are a few - very few - musical situations where the execution and musicianship is perhaps more important than the song itself. That's fine, I also appreciate great technical playing. But it's not what I listen to for enjoyment.

Bermuda
 

Jml

Senior Member
I’m in a band called The Flipside Blues Band. We are very good musicians with over 140 years of collective experience. We do very few standard songs. Mostly we play the “Flipside” of standard hit songs. We can’t get a gig to save our lives. The audience hears us play In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, done flawlessly. Musicians in the audience all say WOW. The rest of the audience say what song was that?


.
Sad but probably true.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..Is it because they figure it’s better to be a stage whore than do something better?..

If we speak about a coverband who's main idea is to please the audience and having a filled agenda, then yes, thats the term to use in my opinion..

I played many years with such people and i wish many times that i made another decision regarding that..But i also liked to earn quite a lot and i also thought 'hej at least i am playing drums'..

Problem is that working with such people just kills all creativity..

There is completely nothing creative about playing in a coverband..Like, really nothing..There is nothing creative on learning how to play Jump and maybe adding a few 'own' notes to that..Alex van Halen was creative (and still is) when he played Jump, not all the people that just try to reproduce his part..

There is ofcourse some education in figuring out how other drummers played their parts, but to just plain cover them is useless..

That being said, regarding covering songs i make an exception for people who really turn a cover into a almost complete new song, like for example this one..Otherwise a coverband for me is as boring as boring can be..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z84rtbVbIEQ
 
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