If you are working musician, chances are you have spent your fair share of time performing at restaurants and bars, so you know that nothing prompts people to want to sing along, dance, and request music they want to hear more than good food and drinks. Requests are kind of that bittersweet necessity that keeps your set engaging and moving along, and by now you’re probably able to figure out exactly what your audience will be asking for. Here is a list of twelve requests you can almost always bet on getting at your next gig!
1. "Happy Birthday"
2. "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Fortunately, I’m pretty sure no one who asks for “Freebird” is really being serious. Which is why it’s so funny when you actually start to play it.
3. Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen
Maybe this is just because I live in New Jersey, but you’re almost never going to go a gig without being asked for some Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen, at least when you’re down the shore. There’s just something about “Livin’ on a Prayer” that makes an audience discover its inner rockstar, complete with air guitars and power slides.
4. A country song
Did you know that more radio stations play solely country music than any other genre? That’s why it’s not surprising that someone will almost always request a country song, which of course can be somewhat difficult if you don’t actually play country music. When in doubt, just remember that when they say “country” they usually mean “Wagon Wheel,” and if you don’t really know it, don’t worry because the audience will sing it for you!
5. Something incredibly obscure
As someone who enjoys finding obscure music to listen to, I quite respect when someone requests that you play something by an artist you've never heard of. Unfortunately, it means you probably can't actually play it for them, yet they will still be shocked when you say you don't know it.
6. "Piano Man" by Billy Joel
If you primarily accompany yourself on piano, then you’ve definitely been asked to play “Piano Man” by Billy Joel a hundred times, which is incredibly ironic because the song is actually about people requesting songs to the bar musician. Also, prepare to see the entire bar swinging their drinks and singing along Irish-pub style. Nothing brings a room full of people together quite like a round of “sing us a song you’re the piano man, sing us a song tonight!”
7. That song you played last set
The saddest request you can get is when someone who just walked into the room requests a song you performed twenty minutes before they arrived. If the crowd has turned over enough, you might be able to repeat it, but if you can’t, it can be pretty sad to tell someone that they just missed it.
8. Something incredibly inappropriate
“Yes, I would love to play ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette too, but it’s 6:00 and there is a table of kindergarteners eating dinner with their grandma about seven feet away.”
9. A love song
Again, with six billion people in the world you’re also likely playing to someone who is on a first date, celebrating an engagement, or having an anniversary dinner, and those people are probably going to request you play a song to commemorate the occasion. That’s usually not a difficult request to fulfill, as long as you haven’t already played all the love songs you know and find yourself justifying how “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz is kind of a love song because it’s all you have left.
10. Something from the 90's
This is becoming a more common request as more and more 90’s babies turn 21 and want to hear the songs they grew up with. Of course, 90’s music spans everything from Nirvana to Britney Spears, so be prepared for a variety of requests from your fellow millenials.
11. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey
As snarky as I’d like to be about this request, the truth is, when I’m not performing, I too will be the first person to jump up and belt out “Don’t Stop Believing” when the band starts playing it. This is actually one of the few songs you’ll get a couple requests for in a night that you can actually play multiple times. In fact, people seem to like this song even more after you’ve played it once or twice. Or maybe it’s after they’ve had one or two more drinks. I don’t know, something like that.
12. An original song
Amen and hallelujah, someone has requested that you play an original song! This request is music to your ears (pun intended). Nothing is better than being asked to play a song you’ve written yourself when you are expecting anything but. You are so honored and happy that someone liked you so much they actually want to hear a song you wrote that this might be the most meaningful, special moment of your life. Now the only trouble is picking the song you think they will like the most!