Afton’s Perfect List
Whether you are grocery shopping, Instagramming, making an artist bio, heading over to Ikea to check out that new window merchandising of lamps, or you’re Mrs. Claus hassling your hubby Santa before the holidays, you’re going to make a list. Maybe even check it twice. As an artist, I know making a list is probably not your highest priority. The creative process can sometimes be a messy thing, and more often than not, the real magic happens when you just go with it. But as a musician, there’s an even more important list to consider: The Set List. It might not make a difference to you, but to your fans, the set list is everything. Here at Afton, we’ve decided to provide you with a list of our own Do’s for creating the perfect set List.
Consider the venue, or CTV – Venue is everything.
It sets the mood and tone of the audience. Is it a sit-down venue? How’s are the lights? Are people in the audience going to be drinking a beer and chatting with their friends toward the back, or are they going to be front in center, head banging along to their favorite jam?
The 1 to 5 Ratio.
Did you just come out with a new album, a new EP, or a new single? Have you given your fans enough time to memorize the lyrics? Allow enough space in your set-list to introduce what’s new for you, what you’re working on with your band. If you only play the oldies, as golden as they are, you aren’t allowing any room for expansion or growth. The 1 to 5 Ratio says, for every 5 familiar songs you play on the stage, play 1 new song.
Keep them on their toes, keep them involved.
The Set List is all about surprise. There are certainly fans out there who like to know what’s happening beforehand, and there are definitely set lists sites that provide information for what your first and last song might be. The best way to keep your fans excited, is to include them. Maybe that means creating a survey on your Band Camp site. On your Twitter feed, ask your fans what they’d like to hear first, and what they’d like to hear as an encore. At the show, you can surprise them with the results. This could even include calling up your biggest fan to help sing a song with you on stage. Never underestimate the element of surprise.
Who’s New? – Are they mostly fans, are they your fans?
As a rule of thumb, play the best. If you have a lot of people out in the audience who haven’t ever heard your music, your goal should be to draw them in, and your first song is as important as your last. Be impressive, like the first line of a book, grab their attention. Remember, what you end on, is what they’ll be left with, so leave them wanting more. Leave them with enough energy that excites them for the next show. Remember, your fans came to see you, and they paid good money, so don’t be a rebel, give them what they want.
What you say matters – I can’t stress this enough.
Plan out what you are going to say, and when you are going to say it. You have an opportunity to be more than just your music. Stand for something. You have the mic. Be a voice. Introducing who you are is important. Say your name enough that people remember it, especially for people who haven’t ever heard you before. Say it so it sticks. It should be said right after the first song, and right before the last. Don’t babble, be strategic about what you say. This isn’t Reading Rainbow. Hook them with a brief anecdote, and then dive into a killer song.
People want to have a good time at a show, not fall asleep. Try to separate the slow songs from one another, and don’t play fillers. It’s better to have a thirty-minute set of your best songs than an hour-long set, with some mediocre songs in between. Keep it festive, keep it fun. If you’re about to play a quiet song, talk to the audience about it, make sure they’re awake. Invest in them, so that they will invest in your music. The voice can be used, and not just for singing.
Have a plan for what comes next.
The most successful artists know that what comes right after your set is just as important as your set itself. Make eye contact with your fans. Make sure to thank and let everyone know how much their support means. Be authentic. Head straight off the stage and ask ten new people how they thought the set was. Get Feedback. Find 20 new fans to follow you on Twitter.
Incentives – it’s not the point, but it helps.
As a general rule, people don’t like change. They aren’t going to try a new product unless you give them a reason to. We understand that you are more than just a dollar sign, and you’re certainly more than a product; you are an Artist! With that said, you still need to get people on board with your music. There’s a reason why people like to Buy 1 and Get 1 Free. Sometimes it takes a little incentive to get people invested, and that’s okay. Here’s an idea,
the first twenty people to buy a cd get it half off, or buy a CD and get into the next show for Free. Make sure you let your fans know about these incentives while you still have the mic. Find someone at your show who didn’t come to see you, and give them a demo.
Remember, these are just a few of our DO’s; I’m sure you’ve learned a few of your own along the way. Remember the 1 to 5 ratio, no snoozing, keep it interesting, have a plan. Here at Afton, the success of your music is important to us, and we believe that if we can help you by providing some guidance toward the perfect set list, you’ll find this pilgrimage we call the music industry, a little easier to navigate. Remember, this is a journey, so make sure to enjoy the ride.