Should I choose the band's set list?
This week, band manager Mike Paul-Smith tackles a question we're asked more than any other...
When we get booked to provide live music for wedding receptions or corporate events, we often get asked:
Can I choose the band’s set list?
This is a tricky question to answer, and doing so opens a whole can of worms. My answer to this question is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is “yes”; the more complicated answer is, “sure you can… but do you really want to?”
In theory there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t sit at home before your wedding or party, using our repertoire lists to plan out exactly what songs the band should play and in what order – and usually it will work out fine. However, there’s quite a few reasons why I think that doing this is a bad idea – but I do have a solution at the end of the article for you to consider.
Why shouldn’t you choose the band’s set list? Well, the beauty of booking a live band like Down for the Count is that we perform at events week-in and week-out, and have honed our craft over the past 12 years. We really do know what songs are the best at getting people dancing, and indeed which songs particularly suit the band.
Even more importantly, I think we’re skilled at creating set lists that flow throughout an evening. There are certain songs that work well at getting people on the dancefloor; other songs that are great at keeping them there; and yet more which are perfect for closing sets or finishing the night.
I always think that when you’re booking a live band for your event, a lot of what you’re paying for is our experience and expertise – and if you choose our set list, you’re not getting everything you paid for.
There’s three more reasons I don’t think you should pick the band’s entire set list: firstly, we are dynamic and flexible. We read the audience and react mid-song; if the song is going down really well, we’ll extend it on-the-fly with extra solos, vamps, and choruses, adding a great level of spontaneity to our performance which we just can’t have if you’ve chosen the set list for us.
We also plan more songs than we think we’ll need for the set, allowing us to be flexible – if Song A has gone down a storm, then maybe Song C would be better choice than Song B at keeping people on the dancefloor. If you’ve chosen the set list for us, we don’t feel we can be as spontaneous as we usually are which is always a shame.
Finally, many of our soul and Motown songs are performed in medleys, with seamless transitions between the songs – and you definitely don’t want to interrupt those, because having 10 minutes of live music with no gaps is a really great way of keeping people on the dancefloor.
Instead of picking the band’s set list, what I’d encourage you to do is take a look at the repertoire list about six weeks before your event. Highlight the 10 songs you would most like to hear – and also cross out any songs which we shouldn’t play, for reasons we don’t know about (maybe it was a special song with an ex, or a song that is otherwise sentimental for all the wrong reasons!).
We can then combine your choices with songs we know work the best at getting everyone dancing, which means we end up with a set list that includes some of your favourites but also gives us the right level of flexibility and spontaneity. That way we can maximise the band’s impact at your event, giving you the party of a lifetime.
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