#1
IAt our bands last gig, we decided to play Oh Comely by neutral milk hotel because our friend who plays trombone was in town.

Anyway, it ended up not really keeping peoples attention and we ran long to the point that we didnt get a one song warning for us to finish.

What do you guys think the longest song that a band can get away with playing without losing peoples attention?
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#3
well dude i listen to and play progressive rock/metal.

so in my book if u have a decent enough song and you play it well enough that should do it, really shouldnt matter how long the song is.

stage presence? wrong song for the crowd? late in the night?

lotsa reasons why it wasn't as good as you thought.
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#5
Usually if you're a small band you can't hold the audience's attention for more than four or five minutes. Why? They usually don't expect four movements from a "rock" band, and probably because that's how long most popular songs are.

Bigger bands can get away with longer songs (Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Metallica, et al) because their audience is tuned to it, but when you're a small band with a meager audience they really don't expect much from you and may find an extended piece meandering or not gripping enough, or simply "tl;dl" (too long, didn't listen).
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#6
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...four or five minutes. ... because that's how long most popular songs are.


*Almost* hit the nail right on the head. Switch it around. Pop songs are less than four minutes in length because people have short attention spans.

An established band can get away with it because their fans are already interested and will listen to them for hours and think it's cool. 'Art' rock bands can get away with it, because their audience is 'tuned' a bit different and not only willing to, but expect something different than your average pop song.

Where were you playing? Bar crowds want to sing along, dance, and drink. You made two mistakes. One - you played a song they are unfamiliar with. (remember, bar crowds aren't teenagers, or guitarists, or art-rock fans) That tends to lose their interest. Second.... they might have been apt to accept that if you kept it short and then followed it up with some Franz Ferdinand or something right away. But no... you went on to mistake number two: You beat it to death. By that, I mean more than the standard extra minute or so 'allowance' that pop songs are generally given for a band's indulgence.

In that time, you could have played both Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters and have been heroes.

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
The Doors used to play The End live in bars, and it was 13 minutes long.

Admittedly, it's easy to retain people's attention when Jim Morrison is writhing around on the front of the stage singing about how much he'd really like to sleep with his mother, but the point remains.

If you've got a really amazing song, you can get away with it being longer than average. However, aim for 3-5 min songs. If they're longer than that, a chunk of your audience will inevitably get bored.

Most long songs can be trimmed down without people noticing or caring. For example, take out nearly all the intro to Sweet Child of Mine - start playing the riff two bars before the drums and bass come in. Get rid of one of the solos in a song if it has several. Take out entire verses.

People have a short attention span live in pubs - they've got other things to do, like drink and talk. You can put the full versions on recordings that you sell to people, but think of a live show as being similar to radio edits, only with louder music and a need for a dramatic finish.
#8
Of course, the Doors were playing for people who were already fans of theirs... so they were pretty easily forgiven for their indulgences.

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.
#9
I personally prefer shorter songs, think that everyone has a different taste in music and if you play a song and a person doesnt like it then they wont have to listen for another 7 mins. They will just wait for 2-3 mins for the next song and may like it. I know if i dont like a song i don't want to hear it for a long time, i want them to move on. so i say about 4 minutes is enough for each track.
#10
Of course, the Doors were playing for people who were already fans of theirs... so they were pretty easily forgiven for their indulgences.


At some stage, though, they had to play songs to people who didn't know them. They had written and played every song off their first album (including Light My Fire and The End, both over 7 mins long) live for quite a long time before they got signed, and were playing in bars.

But yeah, they might be a bit of an exception. The point made above ^^ that it's a load easier to put up with a song you don't like if it only lasts for 4 mins than 8 is an important one. If people hear a steady succession of songs you have a chance to grab them with every new riff. If you play a long one they might just tune out for the remainder of the evening.
#11
very true. that almost happened to my band. we were onstage after another band that was playing all originals, and noone knew the originals so they all zoned out. but then we got on and everyone rushed up to stage so it was all good.
#12
Of course, the '60's was a whole other time in music, bringing with it different attitudes and approaches toward listening to music. People were more open to experimentation in music (and pretty much everything else for that matter) than they are now. The whole psychadelic thing often required a building up of events so they could be ultimately all mixed together. These days, the average person wants everything pre-packaged into easily digestable bite-sized pieces they can eat while on the run. "White bread and vanilla, please. "

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.