Creating the Perfect Setlist

You can have thousands of online followers but, so what? Some might leave comments but again, so what? I have decent followings on SoundCloud, YouTube, and here but there’s not a lot of satisfaction - unlike at a gig.

As a musician, there's nothing quite like the thrill of performing live on stage. It’s dangerous, you could fall flat on your face. Your rehearsed hard, the drummer has a crappy van, where could it go wrong?

To truly wow your audience and secure those coveted gigs, you need a killer setlist that keeps them hooked from start to finish. It’s easy…

You start with a great track, you play a great track next, and then finish with a great track

If only it were that simple!

In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of crafting the perfect setlist that will have venues begging for an encore. So grab your instrument, tune up those strings (if it’s a guitar), and let's get started!

What We'll Cover:

  1. Understanding Your Audience
  2. Balancing Energy Levels
  3. Creating Flow and Dynamics
  4. Showcasing Your Strengths
  5. Mixing Covers and Originals
  6. Building Momentum and Closure

Understanding Your Audience:

OMG I was in a rock band that got a gig at the British Legion in a small Welsh town. We were told to play between Bingo sessions. After our first song the management pulled us off…

Here’s your money Lads, we won’t be needing you for a second set!

I don’t blame them it was the wrong band at the wrong time and wrong place.

Before you even think about putting together a setlist, take the time to understand your audience. Consider the demographics, musical preferences, and expectations of the crowd you'll be performing for. Tailoring your setlist to their tastes will ensure maximum engagement and satisfaction.

Balancing Energy Levels:

A great setlist should take listeners on a journey, ebbing and flowing between high-energy anthems and intimate ballads. Start strong to grab their attention, then gradually build momentum throughout the set. Mix things up with tempo changes and dynamic shifts to keep them on their toes.

Creating Flow and Dynamics:

Think of your setlist as a story – it should have a beginning, middle, and end. Arrange your songs in a logical order that creates a natural flow and progression. Group similar songs together and use transitions to smoothly segue from one track to the next.

Showcasing Your Strengths:

Highlighting your strengths as a band is essential to crafting a memorable setlist. Whether it's your killer guitar solos, powerhouse vocals, or infectious grooves, make sure to feature what sets you apart from the rest. Play to your strengths and let your unique sound shine through.

Mixing Covers and Originals:

Finding the right balance between covers and originals can be tricky, but it's essential for keeping your audience engaged. Choose covers that complement your style and sound, but don't be afraid to put your own spin on them. And don't forget to showcase your original material – after all, that's what makes you truly unique as a musician.

Building Momentum and Closure:

As you near the end of your set, it's important to maintain momentum and leave your audience wanting more. Save some of your biggest hits or crowd favorites for the finale, and don't forget to build anticipation with a killer encore. Leave them on a high note, and they'll be clamoring for another show before you know it.


Crafting the perfect setlist is an art form that takes time, practice, and careful consideration. By understanding your audience, balancing energy levels, creating flow and dynamics, showcasing your strengths, mixing covers and originals, and building momentum and closure, you can create a setlist that leaves a lasting impression on both venues and audiences alike. So go ahead, experiment, and don't be afraid to take risks – after all, that's what live music is all about!