This right here is one of the biggest debates in music!
Should you play covers in your sets ?
Here's a quick list of why you should :
1. Venues PAY much more for you to play songs people know. (From bars, restaurants, private gigs, corporate gigs, city, fair and festival gigs)
2. You will draw bigger crowds. People want to sing along ( out loud or in their head) and as soon as someone hears a you play a song they love they will pay attention. I have opened for national acts for 1000's of people and nothing draws in new fans than playing something everyone knows, can sing along to, dance to ... it is one of the best weapons in my arsenal.
3. You will sell more merch since you can use covers to draw people in, sprinkle in some of your originals, and sell more Merch/CDs/Downloads.
4. You become far more "Bookable" You make it easy for the booker or venue manager to hire you. That is an extremely important objective. Make life easy for the person hiring you.
5. It makes you a better songwriter. You learn all of these hit songs and in the process it can make you a much better songwriter because you absorb the structures, progressions, formatting of lyrics and melodies. The more you study the greats, the more great you can become.
6. Increase the number of paying venues by 97%. Most all original venues either pay nothing, next to nothing or are pay-to-play (Los Angeles) . Cover gigs pay far more than original gigs.
You should be playing cover songs that you love. You have your favorite artists, right ? I mean, that's why most of us started playing music in the first place because we love listening to other peoples music. Cover those artists . Make the songs your own. Have fun honoring your musical heroes!
I never play songs just because they are popular. I have fun discovering new music ( or older songs) that I love and working up my own versions . Plus, people get so excited when you play a song they already know and love. That's a great way to run your music career .... Make people happy. The rest will follow.
Thanks for letting me be your guide, Tim
6 famous music artist or bands that started as cover acts:
1. The Rolling stones
5. Jason Aldean
6. THE BEATLES (yup... can't argue with that)