Choosing a set-list

Have you ever wondered why when some singers perform they seem to have the audience in raptures, while other singers barely manage to connect with their audience at all?

Getting an audience “eating out of the palm of your hand” isn’t just down to your stagewear, presence, personality and the quality of your voice – it’s not even down to the “X Factor” that so many people talk about. In fact many plainly dressed vocalists, with less than average talent and little or no stage presence or personality at all can amazingly move an audience far better than many of their so called “super-professional” counterparts…and it’s all done by choosing the right songs to suit the audience.
What NOT to do
I’m a keyboard player and I have been providing “live” backing for cabaret singers for 30 years now and the majority of cabaret singers always make the same mistake. They turn up at the venue, sing a pre-chosen set-list, and keep their fingers crossed that the audience will like their show. I often hear singers get together and talk about the venues they have worked, and compare notes with each other about the venue, the band and the audience. I laugh, especially when I hear two cabaret singers discuss the same venue and one says he/she “went down a storm” while the other says he/she “died” at that same venue. It’s clear to me that in every case, the singer who faired best at that venue was singing songs to suit the audience whereas the other singer just stuck to his/her pre-chosen set-list.

What you SHOULD do
So, how do you decide what songs to sing when you arrive at a venue, especially if you’ve never sung there before? Well, choosing a set-list is not an exact science but there are some excellent tips and tricks you can use…

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