When you go to a local concert, what kind of songs do you expect to hear? Say a couple of teenagers are on the stage, standing next to their beat up instruments. They tell the crowd that it’s their first show and they seem nervous and eager to play. What kind of songs will they play?

Picking a set-list for your very first gig is a huge task. It defines your intentions as a musician and a creative mind. One of the biggest issues a new band faces is picking what songs they’ll play live. You must decide on the set-list for the band’s sake, as well as the audience’s sake.

Picking the first set-list helps to define who you are as an artist. It tells the audience your genre, your energy level, and it showcases your talent. Picking the right songs to play is a task that will take some time.

One of the biggest decisions is whether or not you’ll be playing original songs, or covers. While you may want to show off your songwriting abilities, throwing in covers is a great way to keep the audience engaged. Adding an interesting twist to existing songs can show originality. It gives the audience familiarity, but also adds something they possibly haven’t heard before, making your act stand out.

If you choose to include original songs, then it’s hugely important to find that perfect mix of originals and covers. In my experience, having an original after every two or three covers is a healthy mix. You never want to overstay your welcome and play too many original songs early in your career.

Finally, be sure you are taking your audience into account. You want to be aware of the environment and what the appropriate level of energy is. Also, keep in mind the audience’s age group. For example, if the event has a younger audience, try to incorporate some more modern songs or older songs that have came back into popculture. I’ve personally found that covering older songs in a more modern style is a good way to bridge any possible age gaps within the audience.

So, to all the  newcomers out there, I say take the time and really think your set-list through. It’s an essential part of figuring out what kind of artist you want to be and will set you up for success in the future.