#2
The band? I mean, whatever works for you, but there is no set role for this. Ideally you will cover songs that the instrument section has no problem playing, the vocalist can comfortably sing, and everyone likes it.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#3
In a cover band? The audience. Chuck your self-preference away, you're playing for the audience, let them pick the songs.

If you are having trouble figuring it out still, just look up the top selling songs of all time. There's your setlist.

In an original band? Don't worry about it. Write originals instead.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#4
But if you have to prioritize, consider:

It doesn't matter what song you play if nobody wants to hear it.

Nobody wants to hear it if:
- the singer can't sing it.
- nobody knows it
- nobody likes it

So, you can have the best crowd-pleasing song but if your singer can't sing it, nobody wants to hear you butcher their favourite song. Don't do it.
You can have the best singer, but if nobody likes the song, then nobody wants to hear a fantastic rendition of a crappy song.

Once you have a list of songs that meet *both* of those criteria, then thin it down to:
- does everyone in the band like it - or is at least willing to "take one for the team" - enough to learn it and play it?
- CAN everyone in the band play it? (also, related... can you arrange the instrumentation in your band to play it?)

And a band is a team. Nobody expects you to sell a little bit of your soul with every single decision, but everybody expects everybody else to bite the bullet from time to time and play nice in the sandbox.

I spent four years in my last band playing "Tush" by ZZ Top. But I took one for the team on that one. Same with a few others. But we all knew that was a compromise, so nobody pushed "Give me Three Steps" on me. It wasn't me being difficult. It was them giving back a little. That's how it goes.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
Last edited by axemanchris at Feb 10, 2017,
#5
axemanchris To take a slightly different spin on your post, I don't think personal preference has any role in a cover band. If you want to have any influence over the music you play, make your own music.

I think of it like working at McDonalds.
Customer wants a Big Mac, you give them a McChicken.
They say that they wanted a Big Mac and that you gave them the wrong burger.
You say you didn't give them the wrong burger because you like McChicken more and too many people eat Big Macs anyway.
So the customer leaves to get a Big Mac from someone else and you are left alone with your McChicken.

Same goes for cover bands, if you don't give the customer what they want, they'll go somewhere else.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#6
True, the customer is king. But as a musician - as a group of musicians - there *should* be a core of songs that you all actually *really* enjoy playing that the crowd will too. There are lots of songs out there.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#7
axemanchris Yeah I think it's a point of contention hey.

I get that musicians like certain songs, but for me the enjoyment in cover bands should be derived from the audience enjoying themselves and your personal preference shouldn't be a factor. I used to joke that the "cover band split up over creative differences" but was utterly shocked when I found out it actually occurs.

I think personal preference should be the realm of original music, and that cover band sets should be determined by what the audience wants to hear.

There are some good lessons to learn from cover sets though that many original bands can learn, including what makes a good set, how to read a crowd and the importance of moving quickly between songs.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#8
There are probably 5000 worthy "Top ten" cover tunes that people would love to hear if played well.
There are probably 500 of those that a top cover band could play really well.
There are probably 50 of those that everyone in the band can agree on.

Play those, and continue to freshen your set with a few new songs every month to keep things interesting and adjusted to your typical audience. Some will work better than others over time.

I also think every cover band should have a theme they represent that targets certain listeners. Figure out who you want to be and choose songs that reinforce your brand. A wedding reception/variety band will have a very different set than a juke joint blues band, or an 80s hair band, or a 70s punk rock band. All very different themes with different audiences.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Feb 12, 2017,
#9
100% on the above. I have played in cover bands for 40 years. You resign yourself to playing what the audience wants but it has to be tempered by choosing songs the band can also play well and sound good playing. Almost no one except another guitar player in the audience cares if your lead player can play like Steve Vai and your cover band won't be playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" no matter how much the audience likes it, but Axeman is right those popular well know staples like "Tush" will satisfy nearly every time. So even if you are bored to death playing these songs you need to learn them and pull them out when needed (which will be every night). The payoff is getting applause and attracting a decent sized audience that will come back and bring a few friends. That's how you get rehired at the club. This may come a shock to some but club owners are not music fans. If your band is popular enough to faithfully bring 50-100 followers to every club gig without driving out the regulars, you'll be back. Club owners only care about how many butts your band put on a bar stool and how long the stayed and spent their money.

A few of tips for a cover band:

Play songs that are popular and well known to almost everyone.
Pick songs you can sing and play well.
Watch your volume. If people can't talk to each other. They will leave.
Watch your breaks. You can bet the manger and staff will be keeping track.

Lastly and most important:
Remember that partying (drinking, smoking and other indulgences) is for the audience. You bands job is to make good music and make the audience happy. Party on your own time.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 13, 2017,
#10
One thing I personally struggle with is the demographics of club/bar audiences. Obviously, certain bars will cater to certain audiences, but those songs like "Tush" and "Love me Two Times" (God help me... haha) are from my generation and older. I'm 46. The people who grew up with those songs are 50.

Do 50-year-olds still go to clubs? Sure, they do... but not in *near* the numbers they did 20-25 years ago. Most people my age stay home.

So who *is* in the clubs these days? My experience says it is largely the 20-somethings, and even more so, the 30-somethings. The younger people aren't going out to see live bands either. The 40-somethings cheer like crazy when you pull Mississippi Queen out of a hat, but the other 80% of the bar, though they might vaguely recognize the song, don't know Mountain from The Allman Brothers. It's all "their parents' music."

So, what DO the 20- and 30-somethings want to hear? Well, if you take someone who is 30 years old, he/she was 14 in 2000 and he/she was 18 in 2004. To that person, even Nirvana and Alice in Chains is "classic rock." Both of those singers were dead by the time that person was 16. Their biggest hits were when that person was in grade 2. Heck, a person who is 21 now was born in 1996. Cobain and Staley were dead before those people were even conceived.

So, as I work towards putting a new band (very currently, actually), I'm thinking that a set list that includes a few songs for the 40-somethings, but weighs much more heavily towards the music of the 30- and 20- somethings. Which is to say, the biggest rock hits of the grunge-era and forward.

My experience says that those bands who *are* out there cranking out the same God-forsaken-beat-to-a-miserable-death moldy oldies that were overplayed back when *I* was going to bars are dinosaurs from a past era, playing to ever-shrinking crowds of other dinosaurs from the same past era. My impression is that ship sailed a long time ago. Time to check the calendar, folks.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
Last edited by axemanchris at Feb 13, 2017,
#11
Different venues attract different audiences just like bands. Having been around a while we have come through the ranks and tailor our show to our target audience. In college we played frat houses, Kiwanas events, weddings, and lots of off campus cantinas and Hollywood clubs that catered to college-age twentysomethings. As we got older we played more upscale places to a more professional crowd of single young lawyers, Drs. and nurses. I took 15 years off gigging to raise my kids and got back into it when they went off to school. Now we mostly play street fairs, car shows, race track events and others where the demographics tend to be whole families or 50+. These shows also pay much better than bars. We still do a few road houses and juke joints and if there are classic cars and Harleys in the lot we know we have a good match for our stuff.

College kids and twentysomethings tend to like our stuff and show appreciation at street fairs or family events. We don't really target that market though. The one group that we don't reach well is the 40ish crowd. There are places they gather but I was essentially out of live music and never gained an appreciation for music from their era. No point in trying to be all things to all people.

Develop your brand and song list to suit a certain demographic who appreciates live music enough to come out to your shows and spend some $$ to keep the cash register ringing. If you fill the house and keep em smiling, you will be invited back and fans will come back again to see you.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#12
My experience is very much like Cajundaddy. I have been at this a long time at least long enough that the songs I learned with bands back in the 70's I was able to resurrect because about 10 years my band stopped trying to compete with DJ's and Karaoke and became a "classic rock" band. I also get to play songs that 40 years I couldn't play. My band identifies itself as a "classic rock" cover band and our local reputation is based on that. When people come to hear us that's what they expect us to play. We do get a mostly older audience but they spend money. We do the classic songs like the original arrangements as well as possible.

I understand that this is not what others may want to do but it's just a choice. I can enjoy playing any kind of music if it's done well because I love to play to an audience. In my current situation my band has a circuit where we play 4-5 different clubs once a month at each place and it's more than enough for me (often too much). The bonus is the money is decent and allows me to buy more guitars, keys, recording hardware and PA equipment that I don't really need (but want) and gives me an excuse to buy it.

I like getting out of the house and just playing. This weekend I could choose to either go out and hang out at a club and watch someone else's band play or be out to club and play with my band. I choose to play.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 15, 2017,
#13
Another thing to keep in mind is supply and demand. Depending on location, demographics will be different. Also time of year. If you live in a city like Boston with a large Irish heritage, there are always Irish pubs looking for bands, especially around St Patrick's Day. But how many bands are there? If there are 100 bands and only 40 gigs a night, you might not get a ton of work. But if you play in like Topeka or something maybe there are three Irish pub and two Irish band. Even though the demand is lower, the supply is even lower and so you have more room to fit in. Three pubs, three bands. Everyone gets a gig.

Same with other niche styles. There might not be many country bars in your area if you don't like in Tennessee or Texas but there might be no bands playing that so if you are unique, if the demand is one and the supply is zero, then becoming the one supply is pretty good. But there might also be zero demand. Same thing with reggae or salsa or any sort of foreign folk music. No matter how niche it is, a favorable supply:demand ratio means that you'll always be in business.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#14
Of course, there may be no venues because there is no demand. ;-)

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#15
Quote by axemanchris
One thing I personally struggle with is the demographics of club/bar audiences. Obviously, certain bars will cater to certain audiences, but those songs like "Tush" and "Love me Two Times" (God help me... haha) are from my generation and older. I'm 46. The people who grew up with those songs are 50.

Do 50-year-olds still go to clubs? Sure, they do... but not in *near* the numbers they did 20-25 years ago. Most people my age stay home.

So who *is* in the clubs these days? My experience says it is largely the 20-somethings, and even more so, the 30-somethings. The younger people aren't going out to see live bands either. The 40-somethings cheer like crazy when you pull Mississippi Queen out of a hat, but the other 80% of the bar, though they might vaguely recognize the song, don't know Mountain from The Allman Brothers. It's all "their parents' music."

So, what DO the 20- and 30-somethings want to hear? Well, if you take someone who is 30 years old, he/she was 14 in 2000 and he/she was 18 in 2004. To that person, even Nirvana and Alice in Chains is "classic rock." Both of those singers were dead by the time that person was 16. Their biggest hits were when that person was in grade 2. Heck, a person who is 21 now was born in 1996. Cobain and Staley were dead before those people were even conceived.

So, as I work towards putting a new band (very currently, actually), I'm thinking that a set list that includes a few songs for the 40-somethings, but weighs much more heavily towards the music of the 30- and 20- somethings. Which is to say, the biggest rock hits of the grunge-era and forward.

My experience says that those bands who *are* out there cranking out the same God-forsaken-beat-to-a-miserable-death moldy oldies that were overplayed back when *I* was going to bars are dinosaurs from a past era, playing to ever-shrinking crowds of other dinosaurs from the same past era. My impression is that ship sailed a long time ago. Time to check the calendar, folks.

CT


My plan is to go back so far that nobody knows the songs.

All rockabilly, all western swing/classic country all the time.

Then nobody is happy, but I get to pretend to be Buddy Cochran

With instrumental surf breaks in between.


I just need to find a goddamn drummer

But for real, what do you think of the current generation? I feel like we're more fragmented musically because of the internet than the lame o 30 year old grungy plebs
#16
You can't just choose a type of music to play based solely on demand for a particular style unless you and your fellow players have some affinity for that type of music. You can't just decide to start a polka punk band just because there is no polka punk band in your area unless you actually like polka punk and there is some demand for it. It will be obvious to an audience of polka punk followers that you guys don't really enjoy it and you are just going through the motions. Seriously whatever type of music you choose to play you have to have a certain amount of empathy for that music. Do what makes you happy and do it as well as you can but temper your expectations considering the things people above have already said.

I went back to playing classic rock because I still like many of those songs and it's the music I grew up on. While I don't like the repetition of doing the same songs night after night, I like the fact that all things considered I think we do it well and our audience enjoys it. It's also because I don't enjoy a lot of what younger people are listening to. No knock on them, this is their era not mine. I don't enjoy all the auto tuned, drum machine, digital loop, heavily sampled songs that are considered popular music today. I'm just an old player.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 16, 2017,
#17
Quote by Duaneclapdrix
But for real, what do you think of the current generation? I feel like we're more fragmented musically because of the internet than the lame o 30 year old grungy plebs


Music is better than ever today. You have all the old music, you have new music, you have new music in the style of old music, etc. Increase on affordable technology makes it so anyone with talent with talent can put out their ideas. Naysayers (most likely overly sentimental old guys and new kids that were "born in the wrong generation") will say that that means that there is more shit out there as a result, to which I say that they just don't know how and where to look for the good stuff and that the commercial music if their day was largely crap anyway. Like how can people even listen to the Velvet Underground or Canned Heat or whatever?

Not only that, but most of the 20-somethings I know that play music are into pretty much everything from punk to jazz to honky-tonk to reggae to death metal to house to hip-hop and everything else whereas the older musicians I know are pretty much, "I like every kind of music. Well, except for that rap garbage and that heavy metal screamo shit and that electronic techno crap and all that Mexican shit and also..." I don't find that with young musicians other than the teens that are still in their classic rock or grunge or 80s metal phase (aka their dad's music) that they haven't grown out of yet.

That's just my experience though and YMMV.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#18
Quote by axemanchris
Of course, there may be no venues because there is no demand. ;-)

CT


I don't know where you live, but I'm 2 hours from western Mass, 4 hours from Boston and Philly, an hour and 15 from Brooklyn, and 45 minutes from New Haven. There is a demand for literally anything and everything around here.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#19
I'm not picking on any place in particular here, but just saying that demographics being what they are, and styles being what they are, that there might not be a venue for your prog-metal-disco band to play in, or for your free-form-hillbilly-jazz combo.

If you happen to be in a place where there is an audience for everything, consider yourself lucky.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#20
I said Irish music, country, reggae, and salsa. Niche genres perhaps in terms of appeal outside of their respective regions, but not necessarily uncommon or unusual. Saying things like "prog-metal-disco" invalidates what you're saying since it isn't what I'm saying. Hyperbole might seem like a fun rhetorical device, but when used to the point of absurdity it is not so great, yeah? There's always a venue for reggae or country if you live near a decently sized city.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#21
You might consider what you mean by "cover" band. Bob Dylan used the term "uncover" in a recent interview to describe how lots of artists performed his songs. Those bands would perform Dylan's songs in their own style with their own sound. Dylan said they'd "uncover" new meanings and nuances in his music, and that he liked that. Dylan said that he liked the way Jimi Hendrix "uncovered" All Along the Watchtower so much that he changed the way he performed his own song. If your band basically sounds good, don't be afraid to perform other artists' songs but don't worry about doing a slavish copy. Check out Pat Benatar's version of the Alan Parson's song Don't Let it Show. The main organ part is played on guitar, but it still works. 

Or, if you want to become known as an original band, but can't write your own songs yet, seek out deep cuts from albums that had hits. Often times the only reason why a particular cut from a CD became a hit is that the suits pushed it. Some of the biggest hit songs were "covers" of songs that weren't hits for the original artists who wrote it, or who first recorded it. 

When people try to tell you that audiences' taste in songs is based on their age, chances are nowadays they're wrong. It's not like back in my era, when people only listened to the new songs on the Top 40 radio station. You'll find plenty of younger people nowadays who prefer to listen to the local classic rock station than the local CHR station. And nowadays, there are so many, many other media to hear music that audiences are usually both ignorant and apathetic about when a song was originally a hit. They don't know, and they don't care. All they care about is whether or not it sounds good. 

One of the best garage bands I ever encountered used this system. They'd take a song that they wanted to cover and would treat it like a new song one of the members wrote. They strip it down to its bare bones, just vocal and an acoustic guitar or keyboard accompaniment. Then each member would come up with their part. They'd jam on it, talk about what bits worked and what didn't, change what needed changed, and eventually they'd have their version. Audiences reacted well to the familiarity of the song, but they'd also react well to the fact that it sounded like that band, not like a cheap copy of an original.