How To Choose Songs For Your Live Band To Play

Billboard Hottest 100 Hits
Billboard Hottest 100 Hits

One of the biggest challenges of playing in a cover band is the simple act of song selection. This simple task can make or break any band. A well chosen song list can give your band the edge in a very competitive cover band market. So how do you choose a winning setlist for your live band to play?

I’ve learned the hard way over the years not to pick songs from the heart. That’s the biggest mistake that most bands make when choosing songs. They will pick songs that they love and assume that if they love the song, everyone else will too. That’s not necessarily the case because I can tell you that a lot of the songs I love and would like to play in a band have never been huge sellers. I like complicated, progressive rock music that most people that aren’t musicians just can’t grasp.  

So that brings me to my main point. You want to build your song list by choosing songs that are extremely well known by as many people as possible. If you choose a song that has sold several million copies as a single, then your chances are high that any audience you play for will be familiar with that song. And that’s the key, you want any audience you play for to be familiar with the songs you are playing. If you play a huge seller like The Beatles – I Want To Hold Your Hand, which sold 12 million copies, you are going to have a lot of people in your audience singing along.

Choosing songs based on number of sales and highest chart position will settle a lot of arguments in the band as well. I’m sure you’ve had band members bring in a song they want to learn and are completely committed to learning. It’s a song they love but it’s a song that’s an obscure album track off a medium selling album. If you decide in advance that the band is only going to play multi-million selling singles then you won’t have to waste your time learning a song that’s most likely going to flop at your shows.

There are some excellent resources on Live Musician Central for choosing your band setlist. Just check out our Live Band Setlists for complete lists of songs that are multi-million selling singles. All the songs on our live band setlists are proven hits and are widely known by millions of people. The songs have been chosen from the top selling singles of all time. So check them out and start building a winning setlist that will set your band apart from all the other cover bands out there!

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Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

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