Crafting The Perfect Set List

There are no absolutes when creating the perfect setlist.

It must be adaptable, keeping in mind factors like the audience, the venue, and time limit.

A perfect set list should have an ebb and flow.

Songs should follow each other in some sort of meaningful progression that enhances the audiences’ enjoyment of the show.

There are a few major factors to think about when trying to create a perfect set list.

The Venue

Think about the venue you will be playing in. Is it a coffee shop or stadium? Grungy rock bar or wedding hall?

The type of venue should determine your volume levels as well as your song choice. In small, intimate venues, lean more towards acoustic-based songs with a laid back vibe, while cavernous clubs need a mix of loud songs with a beat.

Your Audience

Although you generally want to play on bills with other bands that fit your genre, sometimes this is out of your control. Check out which other bands the promoter has booked before leaving for the show.

The music of the other bands will give you an idea of the audience you will be playing to.

So, who makes up the audience?

If you’re playing a show with a set of hard rock bands, you’d want to stick with your hardest songs, while if it’s a folk night, you might consider stripping it down and matching the style of the show.


Do you want to create a night of music that starts off with a bang and then ebbs and flows? Or do you start off the night acoustically and work up to a huge spectacle ending?

Maybe you want huge impacts for your intro and ending, with a breather in the middle of the set in the form of a slower, quieter song or two.

It’s really up to you at this point.

Similar, to a album tracklist, your set list needs to create maximum impact, without any lulls or chance for the audience to become disinterested.


Perhaps you want to maximize your audience participation. In that case, the perfect set list might be one where the audience calls the shots.

Enable fans to use your website to vote for setlist songs, or just have people call out a song they want to hear sometime during the show.

This is a great way to get the audience involved and make the show a memorable one.


Perhaps the best set list for a specific night involves an encore between you and one of the artists you’re on tour with.

This is usually a great way to end the show with a bang as well as create meaningful relationships with other musicians while on the road.

This is by no means a be-all end-all list. There are plenty of other things to consider which might affect the perfect set list.

How do you create your perfect set list?…