Two years ago, a band asked me what they could do to better their performance. I suggested getting some crazy pyrotechnics, $100,000 in lighting equipment and a killer sound system... But let's get real - who has those kind of resources? If you're anything like me and any other band just starting out, you've got your guitar or band and a list of killer originals.
Imagine going to a show yourself. When you walk away, what do you want to remember? What do you want to feel when leaving the show? Better yet, what did THEY want you to walk away remembering? What did the artist want you to feel during their set? Sadly, many don't think about this. You need to give your audience a reason to come back and see you, a reason to buy your EP or record, and a reason to tell the world about you.
So back to two years ago, when the band came to me asking to help them better their performance, I responded with similar questions like the ones listed above. I had them go through their set piece by piece, song by song, having them feel the energy, emotion, transitions, etc. If they weren't feeling it, why would they include it? Too often, bands come up with a list of songs they want to play but don't care about the order in which they play it. When you play a show, you want to take the audience through an experience. Give them something to remember.
But what about covers during the show? Here is my two-cents. Covers can make or break your audience. Here's what I mean; If you play cover after cover, you're just a cover band. If you play originals and covers, but all of your covers are exactly the same as the original... you better play it better than the original - otherwise, you're still a cover band. You need to give the audience a taste of familiarity, that's why covers are a positive thing. But my advice, do it in a way that makes it different, that makes you different. For example, say your genre is soul or funk, recreate a Bieber song in your style. Generally your audience will know of Justin Bieber, but they could love it if it's in the style they enjoy. Or maybe you're Alternative-Rock. Do a pop cover and turn it into your style. Giving your audience just a taste of familiarity will give them something to recognize, heck, maybe even sing along to. And if done well, it will give them something to remember. Here are a few groups that did this right:
As a recap. Give your audience a reason to tell the world about you. Talk with your group or someone you trust if you're a solo artist, and write through what it is you want your audience to feel, journey through, and remember about you when they walk away from your show. Sit down with your set list, write it out so it makes sense to your group and practice it through as if it's the real deal. Maybe you've got a song or two in your pocket that they may walk away with. If not, grab a cover song and make it your own. Good luck!