How much time do you put into crafting your set list? Or do you just wing it and feed off the crowd energy? The structure, order and content of your set list have a huge impact on the audience's reaction, and can be the difference between people becoming fans or leaving underwhelmed. Below is a template that, if executed well, will guarantee you an encore. I've tested this template with a number of different acts and it really does work! I was amazed at how your setlist can have such a huge impact on your show.
The numbers in the right column refer to the energy level of each song, with 1 being the lowest, and 5 being the highest. This template is designed for a 45-minute set but can easily be expanded into longer sets by doubling up some of the sections (for example song number 6 can become two fun songs if you need to add more time.)
1-2 - Groovy/Catchy Songs (3, 4)
You want to start with a couple of songs that will immediately draw people's attention, and hopefully get them singing and dancing, but won't give away your best material straight away. These songs should represent your band's typical sound, so don't start with some new experiments you've been trying out. The energy should be pretty high, but save your highest energy songs for later.
3. Well-Known Original Or Cover (3)
Depending on how many loyal fans you have in the room, now is a great time to play a really well-known original or cover. You've already won over a lot of the audience with your two catchy openers, and now is your opportunity to get the rest of the crowd on your side by playing something you know they'll recognize and be able to sing along with.
4. Lower Energy Song (2)
Now it's time for a slight change in energy. You've just had three pretty high energy, catchy songs and the audience needs something a little bit different before you ramp it up again.
5. Musical Moment (3)
Now you're starting to increase the excitement again, and it's a great time to play a song that has an awesome musical moment, like a guitar solo. Make sure to really showcase the musician by having them come to the front of the stage, and maybe cue some applause for them. The audience needs to be AMAZED at this point.
6. Fun/Audience Interaction (4)
The energy and excitement is still building and the audience will be ready for some interaction. Play a high-energy, fun song at this point where you can get them clapping, dancing, singing, etc. Just make sure that the audience really feels like they are part of the show at this point, as this will form a great connection between them and you.
7. Intimate/Emotional Moment (1-2)
This is the moment in the show where the band leaves the stage, the singer picks up an acoustic and sits on a stool with just a spotlight on them. It's a great change of energy and aesthetic, and allows the audience to connect with you in a more emotional way.
8. Something With A Strong Message (3-4)
Now is a great moment to play a song with strong lyrical content. Whatever it is, just make sure that the audience understands it and that you convey the message in a powerful way.
9. Something That Builds To A Huge Ending (1 building to 5)
This is your last song, and you need to go out with a BANG! But even better than that is to build from something small into a massive ending, because that makes the ending seem even bigger than it actually is. It also leaves the audience wanting more, because the huge moment was only at the end, not the whole song, and so they still want some more of that energy. That's exactly what you want them to feel, because that's what will get you an encore!
Make sure you prepare an encore, you will get one! Make it something big and fun, 4-5 energy level, and preferably well-known to your fans.
So there you have it! I urge you to try this set list template. It'll probably be one of the quickest and most effective changes you've ever made to your show.