Birdsong is a sexually selected trait that serves in territory defence and mate choice. Individual song traits can be affected by the body condition of the male and thus may reflect his quality. Such relations between male quality and general singing performance raise the question whether differences in male quality also affect response strategies used in dyadic interactions. To address this question, we studied the relation between pairing success of male common nightingales, Luscinia megarhynchos, and their responses to rivals posing different levels of threat. Using interactive playback, we exposed males prior to mating to either aggressively or moderately singing rivals (by song overlapping and song alternating, respectively). Males that remained unpaired throughout the season (bachelors) interrupted their singing significantly more often after being overlapped than after alternating playback, whereas subsequently mated males kept the number of singing interruptions more constant across playback treatment. This suggests that subsequently paired males are less discriminative than are bachelors when challenged by rivals varying in aggressiveness. Regardless of playback treatment, males that later became paired responded significantly more strongly than did bachelor males. Thus, an increase in singing after a vocal interaction prior to mating predicted future mating success.