[00:00:00] to episode 151 of the Bandhive Podcast. It is time for their episode of the Bandhive Podcast. My name is James Cross and I help independent artists tour Smart. This week on the show, I'm gonna be talking about one of the most important things you can do to convert an audience to fans at your live shows, and that is building your set list.
Now, you might not realize how important this is, but think about it. How do you structure your set list when you play live? Some artists, maybe they just put songs on the list in the order. They appear on their release. That's one way to do it. Others, maybe they put them chronologically. Oldest and newest.
Newest to oldest, whatever it is. or maybe you're one of the smart artists and you put more thought into it because this is the right option. You've found the right option. Your set list is a sandwich, and I'll get to that in a little bit, what's the right way to structure your set list when you're putting that thought into it?
And the key is energy management. Now I'm borrowing a term from aviation here, as with so many other [00:01:00] things on the podcast, and essentially energy management in aviation is you have your power from the engine and you have altitude, and you have to manage that energy when you're descending to come down to the runway and land.
Think of that as a set list. You wanna have that nice, smooth, but safe landing. So that means you are controlling the ebb and the flow of your crowd. You're getting them hyped up. You bring the mood down a little bit. You make them feel something, and then you end that set back on a high note. if you just play through your release in order, you're probably not doing that unless the release follows that same structure, in which case, Okay, cool, you thought of that in advance, that's good, here's how you build your sandwich.
There's a few ingredients that you can build into your set list. The first is having high energy songs. That one's probably obvious. The second one is fan favorite songs. The third is softer songs that everyone knows and will sing along to. And then the fourth is covers, [00:02:00] And you're probably noticing something here, newer bands that don't necessarily have a dedicated following can only use two of those, the high energy songs and the covers because you're not gonna have fan favorites. You're not gonna have songs that everyone knows and will sing along to. So that means your tool belt is limited in certain ways, but, You can still crush a stellar set if you do it right.
Now, one of my favorite examples of this is back in 2019, I went to see Silver Sun pickups and there was a band called, I don't know how, but they found me opening and for me and as well as most of the other people in the audience, we hadn't heard of.
I don't know how. But they opened their set with a song called Nobody Likes the Opening Band, which this song will be linked in the show [email protected] slash 1 51. That's 1 51. I definitely recommend listening to that song because it's hilarious.
It had the crowd roaring and immediately the crowd was into the band because they had us hook. So that [00:03:00] sparked interest in the rest of the set. And this is where most people go wrong. I've seen so many bands who are opening a show for another artist, and their first song is Low Energy, or the band themselves look bored.
They have zero energy, zero stage presence, and it's just awful and it's not entertaining. And they lose the crowd and there's no way they can get that crowd back. Because studies show that you have seven seconds to make a good first impression when you meet someone.
Seven seconds. So if you're meeting someone for the first time, you have seven seconds to make that first impress. personally, I think it's the same when you're an opening band, you need to hook people the second you walk out on stage. So that means you're not gonna walk out and say, Hey, we're band name.
Here's a song. You're gonna walk out and say, Hello, Boston, we are bending. It's good to see you. Thanks for being here. And then you start the. Now, ideally, you start with the second most high energy song you have, and you leave that top energy song for your final song to [00:04:00] close the set, because this way people get into your set on a high note rather than on something more mellow.
then in the middle of your set, you can go to those more mellow songs if you have a cover in your set, which you don't need to, but if you do put that towards the end of the set, but don't end with. Instead, go from a high energy cover that people are sure to know straight into your highest energy song.
You know, take a little pause and thank the crowd. Tell them that you'll be at the merge table and love to meet them, all that kind of stuff. having this flow, you set them with this expectation of like, Hey, we just killed this cover and it was really good. So now we're gonna end the set on our own song, and it's gonna be really good as well, because it's your highest energy.
On the other hand, if you aren't playing a cover, put a more melancholy or low energy song second to last because this will give a sense of dynamics and you'll have this kind of low energy song and then a high energy song, and that makes it seem even more impactful because that high energy seems [00:05:00] really high compared to what came from before.
So here's the idea of the sandwich. Your highest energy songs are the bread. It's full of carbs and sugar and whatever makes people feel good. And the middle of your set is the peanut butter and jelly that goes between the bread that holds it together, which shows your songs have substance. They're not just pure energy in your face and all that, Your songs really have something to them. Now, all of this, of course, assumes that you're playing an opening set and that the people there aren't your fans. If you're headlining, you're probably gonna have a longer set, but you still want to build that sandwich. The difference is maybe instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you're gonna toss some other toppings in there.
You're gonna have veggies and cheese, all that kind of stuff. So you have several waves of flavor through this set. The more dedicated your fan base is and the deeper your back catalog is your ability to manipulate the audience's emotions will. For example, if you're a somewhat established band, don't start with the brand new song that no one has heard before.
Even if it's a [00:06:00] high energy song. Instead of that, start with a crowd favorite, then play some older tracks. Then you can hit the newer stuff because chances are, if you look at some of your favorite band set lists, they'll have a structure somewhat like this, and that's not an accident. a few weeks ago, I saw Enter Shikari, and they've been doing this on their latest tour.
They start out with the intro track from their 2020 album, which that's their newest album, but it's been out for two years already. And before they even walk out on stage, they have an orchestral arrangement of one of their biggest hits called Live Outside.
And that is just playing before they walk out. And that gets the crowd amped up already. Then they jump into a few oldies after that intro, before they hit some more new songs. Then they go back to the classics, then they play their latest release, close the set on some classics, and then they encore, and this is key, they do a solo acoustic rendition of David Bowie's song Heroes.
And then they launch into their last new song. And then they close the set with a [00:07:00] full band version The live version because the orchestral version's on tape of live outside. So the whole set goes full circle. They start it with live outside the orchestral version and end it with live outside the live band version.
And it's fantastic because it has that flow. So if you wanna see one of these set lists, they're playing the same set every night or pretty much every. So that will also be linked in the show [email protected] slash 1 51 on Set list fm, where you can hear each of the songs by clicking through it. It's a really cool site.
If you haven't used Set list fm, I definitely recommend checking it out. I put all my shows in there because it's just so fun to see what songs I've seen live, what artists, all that kind of stuff. And I mean, there's bunches of shows that I've seen and aren't in there because the set list wasn't reported, but for others, It's in there, or I reported the set list myself.
Anyway, studying set lists from your favorite artists will likely show a similar structure for all the most successful artists. just keep in mind that as your band grows, You're gonna be able to do more and more with your set [00:08:00] lists to hook that audience. But even if you're just starting out, you need to put thought into your set lists to make sure you have the best combination to keep your audience engaged.
because after all, losing the interest of your audience is way easier than actually keeping their attention. So go and put together a solid set list where you have that perfect sandwich. You have the bread on the outsides and the peanut butter and jelly in the middle.
You want to have high energy, Then take it back a notch, and then high energy again to close out the set. This is, you know, assuming a 20 to 30 minute set. Or if you're doing a longer set, an hour or so, Then you can have that more complex sandwich. But either way, you want to always start with high energy and end with high energy.
That is how you build an amazing sandwich for your set list.
That does it for this episode of the Bandhive Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning and listening. I really appreciate it. And I don't know about you, but I'm hungry now that I've been talking about the set list sandwich.
So I'm gonna go eat something, but [00:09:00] just keep in mind when you're building that set list, Make that sandwich for your set list and then go make a sandwich for yourself cuz you're probably hungry you by now too. anyway, if you wanna learn more about having a profitable, successful tour for your band, head on over to Bandhive.rocks/tour to schedule a free consultation with me where we can talk about your goals, the struggles you're facing, and what you can do to hit the road and make it the best possible tour for your scenario.
that's Bandhive.rocks/tour, and this offers only gonna be up for a little while. So do that now before you miss out, Because once I have a certain number of calls booked, I'm gonna take that page down until probably next summer. So go do that now, Bandhive.rocks/tour. we'll be back with another brand new episode of the Band to have podcast next Tuesday at 6:00 AM Eastern.
Until then, I hope you have a great week. Stay safe, and of course, as always, keep rocking.