At a recent rock concert, I noticed that the "headliner" is almost always preceded by several bands whose job it is to "warm up the crowd," and that during those "opener acts," the crowd does indeed transition from a sort of "cold" to "warm" state, i.e. will dance more, jump around more, etc.

During an act, the band seems to (in my experience) open with one or two energetic songs, follow up with a slower song, then play more energetic songs, in a series. This doesn't exactly follow the model of act to act transitions - wherein the "hottest act" is saved for last. Instead, it's more of a "wave." In short, there seems to be a contradiction in the planning of a concert between how the whole concert is planned, and how a single band's tracklist is planned.

This made me wonder: Does anybody have any evidence or analysis for the best way to set up a tracklist for a live performance? "Best" being "getting the most positive reaction from the crowd," or "getting the most energetic reaction for the greatest period of time" from the crowd, "live performance" being an event where presumably the goal of the performer would be an energetic reaction from the crowd, such as a rock, metal, EDM concert etc. Asking around people that play shows, the answers seem to be mostly "common sense" or intuitive - "let people rest, then give them anxiety with a quick beat, then drop the bass," that sort of thing.

I have found a pre-phd thesis on emotional responses to bass drops in EDM, which analysis the in-song emotional responses people feel. (pdf) This led me to a great deal of papers and articles arguing that yes indeed humans have an emotional reaction to music, which is not quite what I'm looking for.

Further searches around terms like "concert, planning, setlist" mostly yield results about concert safety or music education. One article looked into the different types of crowds, which might be helpful, but it seems to mostly focus on managing those crowds safely, rather than managing their enjoyment of a show.

This paper does analyse Grateful Dead setlists, but mostly to compare listening styles at concerts vs listening events, so still isn't quite a "model" or hypothesis on a good way to establish a setlist.

  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate you trying to phrase this question as specific as possible, having done an attempt at initial research, and (to me at least) it is quite clear what you are after. However, as you also indicate 'best' is quite subjective: most memorable? most engaging? most original? most energetic? most 'in sync' with the crowd? Furthermore, which one of these is most relevant will depend highly on the genre of music. But for starters, I suppose 'getting the most energetic response' will do. Just, by that definition punk and metal concerts are likely always 'better'. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Jul 20 '18 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, would it be better if I specified genres that "desire" an "energetic response" by the crowd? So, EDM, Punk, Rock, Metal? $\endgroup$ – Caleb Jay Jul 20 '18 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ I think it would. Removes some of the broadness and can help narrowing down 'best'. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Jul 20 '18 at 19:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.