Are Original Music Bands Just Lazy?

cyclopean

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This thread is based on a false dichotomy. The idea that pure originality and copying are two different approaches to music (or art) is just incorrect. How does anyone learn to play or write? Where does music come from? Nobody comes up with completely original, brand "new" music out of nothing. There's no real boundary between covering and creating. Is the Chicago Symphony just a big covers band?
“totally original” “brand new” music is really off putting to most people. If you want to stick your head into noise/experimental/modern classical/breakcore/free jazz you’ll hear very unfamiliar things, but it’s also really had to wrap your head around it sometimes and most people find it off putting.
 

cyclopean

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I dont get comparing cover bands to originals bands.

Thats like comparing a heavyweight champion to a guy who punched you in a bar.

The material played by cover bands is heavyweight champion material.
(not to say that every hit song people still want to hear was great but it was heavyweight catchy and got heavy airplay thus works in bars in the way bar owners want music to work)
How many originals bands are that kind of top level contender in the great music realm?

Not many, and why would most originals bands be top bands?
Writing and performing great original music isnt like making a pot of chili.
Chili is that cover band.

For the 60 years of popular music a cover band can pick from, there were even more lousy originals bands whose songs nobody plays because they just werent making lastingly good music.
Then all the one hit wonder bands that got a single great or pretty good song out of their decades of working at their original music.
As someone who doesn’t really care about most classic rock, I’d say that lots of other songs are contenders.
 

cyclopean

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Admittedly, I didn't read all of this thread, but there has been a lot of talk lately on the forum about cover bands, and bands that play original music. I think writing music may be akin to picking mushrooms in a toadstool patch, you might get some good ones, but some of them are going to kill you to listen to.

I don't play at all now, but when I did, I had a number of friends that gave me CDs they had made of their "original" music. NONE of which I could EVER listen to all the way through a whole song. Some were individual recordings some were from working bands. As a person who has never written, attempted to write or even thought about writing an "original" song I surely can't criticize "cover" bands. On the other hand, I'm batting a thousand on NOT liking original music that has come my way.
I’m friends with people who make some of my favorite music. I guess I’ve just had very different experiences.
 

StrangerNY

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As someone who has successfully straddled the line between the cover and original scene (I do both with regularity) I have some unpopular opinions in the matter.

First, you’re correct. To a point. There are a lot of local original acts that are in my opinion, lazy. They are also the ones with the most disdain for the cover scene. They’re also clueless, which is a nice word for ignorant. These are usually the first “musicians” to tell you (when asked where their music falls) “we don’t sound like anyone”. First of all, bullpucky. There’s nothing new under the sun. Only interesting and unique ways to approach what’s already been done. Every band we will ever hear going forward is a product of its influences. Play me two of your songs, and I’ll name three of them.

These are also the guys that typically know less than nothing about music. They’ll call out “elitists” for asking about charts, trying to use numbers, or pointing out that the minor scale they’re using to solo over the major chord progression really doesn’t work.

These are also the people and bands who will rant on stage and/or social media that the scene sucks and doesn’t support local original artists because nobody comes to their shows or cares about their opening set. When in reality, it’s them. Their “art” is crap and not really worth anyone’s attention. They suffer under the illusion that they’re special because they created something. “Look guys, I took a great dump this morning. Worship it!”

They will make fun of every popular band that has ever existed, and the people who cover them, all without realizing that if they’d learn a few of those songs, their own music and their musicianship would be greatly improved.

Truly talented musicians and songwriters in any original scene are few and far between. You’ve got to search through a LOT of rocks to find the gems. They’re out there. But they’re typically (though not always) a little older and more experienced.

Good ways to spot them:

1. They have no problem describing their music and naming their influences.

2. They talk about working toward something in a realistic manner. They have an actual plan. They aren’t under the impression that they’re owed something because they’re “artists”.

3. They don’t waste time talking about how nobody understands their vision, or that it goes over the heads of the less intelligent.

4. When you show up to the audition, their stuff will work and they’ll be in tune.

5. The conversation will all be positive.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here, if you want to make real money, everything is tribute bands. I won’t do it, and I still get a lot of work. Plenty really. But it doesn’t pay half of what those guys are making. I don’t get it, personally. I never will. But if I were a guy who made music strictly for the $$$, that’s what I’d be doing. Not saying that’s what you’re after at all. Just saying if that stuff is available, it’s definitely steady work and a fat check.

I'm with you there, Dog. As someone who plays a lot of covers for a lot of bands while writing and recording (and occasionally performing) my own stuff (and spent a good amount of time in tribute bands as well), I think I've seen all three sides of the coin, as it were.

(Hold on, because I'm about to jump back and forth between your points. I'm not that good at linear thinking. :) )

I've always believed that playing covers unlocks a lot of secrets that apply directly to songwriting - noticing how a lot of recording acts will switch up the regular verse/chorus/verse song construction or use modulations or even something as small as repeating a chorus or holding back a chorus - you learn a lot of that by learning and playing the stuff that the big boys put out, and it helps when you start trying to write your own stuff.

And the bands who are honest about who they're copping stuff from seem to have the best handle on how to write a solid song. I've seen a lot of original bands who plant the 'throwing away the rule book' flag, and to me that's just an excuse to not have to learn aspects of the craft, whether it's learning your instrument or basic theory or knowing when to self-edit or aiming for more 'universal' themes in their music that people can relate to. Going down that road guarantees that you're going to appeal to a niche audience in the best case scenario, and that your band won't last a year in the worst case.

There is always, always more work to do and improvements to be made. Every band dreams of 'making it', but most of them aren't cut out for the amount of discipline involved in actually doing it. I got close once, signed to a major label deal. But that band worked on their material for three years before we got a label's attention. And when we finally got signed, we were in prep for another six months honing the material, playing a ton, writing new stuff, and then having our producers pull it apart in an effort to make it better. And then the recording process took another three months, where the material was refined even more once the A&R guys pitched in with what they wanted out of it. The demands on the band were insane, and we became a better band (and better individual musicians) because of it.

And then the record didn't even come out! But if it had come out, it would have taken another two years of work to make the band viable enough to get the chance to do it again. We never got the chance to do that, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Nowadays I do the sideman thing with a lot of cover bands. I like the challenge - getting a 50 song list from a band and knocking down a bunch of stuff I don't know yet is pretty rewarding to me. And I'm lucky that the cover bands who call me are all pretty good musicians and most of the gigs are a lot of fun.

And I've been in a few different tribute bands as well. And while the money is definitely good, I find it hard to get excited about playing one band's material exclusively, and I've found that the people who start tribute bands are usually hard-core fans of the bands they're 'tribute-ing.'

But there's even a limit to that scene. Around Long Island, I can count at least four Stones tributes, four Billy Joel tributes and three or four Aerosmith tributes. While they all work pretty steadily, they don't all make great money. The really good ones do, but they do a lot of travel gigs while the rest of them play local venues for a lot less money.

But even with those guys, how do they get to be the big dogs in the tribute circuit? They work at it. Whether it's originals, catch-all covers or tributes, the guys who put in the work are the ones who rise.

- D
 

cyclopean

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Not at all. Read my post. I didn't say that all or even most musicians who make original music are unskilled. Most of them are very skilled, started playing covers, appreciate the musicianship required to play covers, don't talk smack about cover bands, and still cover other people's music on occasion. I was talking about people who "refuse" to play covers and will only play their own original "music" then get preachy about it, when the truth is that their "songwriting" isn't much removed from the noise a 3 year old behind a drum kit makes. They don't have the skill to really play their instruments, so they crap all over cover bands as a defense mechanism. I've met them. So have you.
It seems like you just personally know musicians with poor songwriting chops.

Cover bands seem weird. I’m also a photographer and I can’t imagine going around just trying to duplicate Diane Arbus photos.
 

cyclopean

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I'm with you there, Dog. As someone who plays a lot of covers for a lot of bands while writing and recording (and occasionally performing) my own stuff (and spent a good amount of time in tribute bands as well), I think I've seen all three sides of the coin, as it were.

(Hold on, because I'm about to jump back and forth between your points. I'm not that good at linear thinking. :) )

I've always believed that playing covers unlocks a lot of secrets that apply directly to songwriting - noticing how a lot of recording acts will switch up the regular verse/chorus/verse song construction or use modulations or even something as small as repeating a chorus or holding back a chorus - you learn a lot of that by learning and playing the stuff that the big boys put out, and it helps when you start trying to write your own stuff.

And the bands who are honest about who they're copping stuff from seem to have the best handle on how to write a solid song. I've seen a lot of original bands who plant the 'throwing away the rule book' flag, and to me that's just an excuse to not have to learn aspects of the craft, whether it's learning your instrument or basic theory or knowing when to self-edit or aiming for more 'universal' themes in their music that people can relate to. Going down that road guarantees that you're going to appeal to a niche audience in the best case scenario, and that your band won't last a year in the worst case.

There is always, always more work to do and improvements to be made. Every band dreams of 'making it', but most of them aren't cut out for the amount of discipline involved in actually doing it. I got close once, signed to a major label deal. But that band worked on their material for three years before we got a label's attention. And when we finally got signed, we were in prep for another six months honing the material, playing a ton, writing new stuff, and then having our producers pull it apart in an effort to make it better. And then the recording process took another three months, where the material was refined even more once the A&R guys pitched in with what they wanted out of it. The demands on the band were insane, and we became a better band (and better individual musicians) because of it.

And then the record didn't even come out! But if it had come out, it would have taken another two years of work to make the band viable enough to get the chance to do it again. We never got the chance to do that, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Nowadays I do the sideman thing with a lot of cover bands. I like the challenge - getting a 50 song list from a band and knocking down a bunch of stuff I don't know yet is pretty rewarding to me. And I'm lucky that the cover bands who call me are all pretty good musicians and most of the gigs are a lot of fun.

And I've been in a few different tribute bands as well. And while the money is definitely good, I find it hard to get excited about playing one band's material exclusively, and I've found that the people who start tribute bands are usually hard-core fans of the bands they're 'tribute-ing.'

But there's even a limit to that scene. Around Long Island, I can count at least four Stones tributes, four Billy Joel tributes and three or four Aerosmith tributes. While they all work pretty steadily, they don't all make great money. The really good ones do, but they do a lot of travel gigs while the rest of them play local venues for a lot less money.

But even with those guys, how do they get to be the big dogs in the tribute circuit? They work at it. Whether it's originals, catch-all covers or tributes, the guys who put in the work are the ones who rise.

- D
It’s not like you can’t steal a turnaround or some other songwriting trick from a jam song without learning the entire song.

My band tends to have one cover that we play off and on until we retire it and learn something else. Said current cover is NEVER present in all of our set lists, and we won’t bother learning a cover if we can’t do our own interpretation of it or it’s not for the Halloween set. We’re both super into music and honestly, part of how we wound up a two piece is that half the discussion we have at practice/writing sessions is in Nashville and the other half is in record references, and other people we’ve played with have trouble following the second part and it turns into an endless stream of looking things up on YouTube to explain what we’re going for. I’m all about pulling a good idea out of context and using it somewhere else.

Also seriously who joins a goth band without being familiar with siouxsie and the banshees?
 

StrangerNY

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Viewed through a creative lens, cover bands are making money and not paying royalties on songs (creations) that they didn't write. They are using what other people created to make money.

Paying the licensing fee for cover tunes is usually the venue's responsibility.

- D
 

bottlenecker

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Cover bands seem weird. I’m also a photographer and I can’t imagine going around just trying to duplicate Diane Arbus photos.

Too bad. It would be great for some cover band promo photos.

14.jpg
 

JuneauMike

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After two threads of this nature in quick succession, the troll within is fighting the urge to create a thread entitled "Is Music Just Lazy or an Original Way to Make a Living?"
 

Jazzcaster21

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Also: what would cover bands play if it weren’t for the original material?
Answer: Standards. Oh, goody. Let’s play “Autumn Leaves” in Gb-minor just to make it interesting. Solos in relative major locrian mode only, fellas. “Just to make it interesting”.
Any jazz gig is a cover gig (unless you are playing original music) but it's going to be different everytime. If you play "Sweet Home Alabama" at a wedding for the umpteenth time, chances are it's going to be close to exactly how you played it the last time. Nothing wrong with that but at least in jazz, there is more room for originality in HOW you present the material. Of course the trade off is you are playing to less people playing jazz than rock covers.
 

Kandinskyesque

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Are Original Music Bands Just Lazy?​

I've no dog in the covers vs original fight.
I've done both and concluded both styles are perfectly valid in their context, some of the greatest original songs when first released were technically covers because the writer (not in the band/act) was the performer of the original albeit mostly not via a public performance.

A well arranged coved is always worth a listen for me especially when there's a complete genre change which takes either had work, inspiration from the muses or both.
A first draft original is usually a bore even with the major/commercially popular bands (success is relative). Original material usually reaches its zenith after a few years of playing and mostly well after the release. That takes a lot of work.

Personally I play music for myself first and foremost out of an inner necessity. Reworked covers (mainly more complexed than the original to mitigate for solo or small lineup shows) and originals that are the result of hours of turning up to write even just the lyrics alone.

What I like to do is then go out and share it with an audience and try to create that two way symbiosis of energy. It's always a gamble but so far I've managed to connect with 50%+ of the people.

In every other area of my life with the exception of playing with my grandkids, I'm the laziest guy around.

As I write this I'm hoping somebody comes home soon to move me from in front of the fire because I'm getting corned beef legs.
 

telemnemonics

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As someone who doesn’t really care about most classic rock, I’d say that lots of other songs are contenders.
Well I didnt list any songs or suggest cover bands play classic Rock.
Just said that there is a vast catalog (mentioned the last 60 years as music you dont need to be in a nursing home to remember) to play from if bands that lack great songwriters want to play great music.
Even just the last 30 years works, I tend to like that era better than classic rock from my own youth.
Or R&B Soul Blues and Jazz.
 

tweeet

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I learnt guitar and a bit of keyboards at 15...playing along with records in the 70's. My first band was an original band and our goal and I think every original bands goal is to get signed and release records, CD's...downloads nowadays...isn't it ? Get signed - release song- song becomes hit- band play gigs and promote - band becomes popular - band becomes massive - etc etc.
We moved to London and got a deal and..I do believe we scoffed at cover bands when we saw one in a pub...a lot of that was ego...' hey...we're signed and do our own stuff'...kind of thing. Now 38 years on my views are way different of course as I've played in a covers duo for 27 years and stopped writing and releasing original material 15 years ago as I think 'what's the point' as I don't want a deal and I'm too old to be looking for one.
If you're an original band or soloist in my home town you have to play gigs at designated venues, usually in London to be appreciated by an audience who are prepared to listen, otherwise you play a gig in a local bar and play original material the pub will empty in 20 mins as no one is interested !
 

jvin248

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In my ongoing saga ... It seems that new "original" bands tend to scoff at cover bands for not writing their own material. I understand the pride and work that goes into writing some original material, but I just don't get the disdain expressed by these bands. ... Are bands just ...lazy?

Being a cover or even a Tribute band can be an easy entry to money making, but quickly the money and 'fame' tops out. Original music is hard, really hard, to get traction because listeners know the other stuff so well, but if it somehow gets a little inertia rolling the original music band can go to the heights of the industry. Some bands do a hybrid approach where they are mostly covers and sprinkle in a few of their own originals. Those two angles seem to prevail:

A. Easy low money now that will continue to be low money.
B. Work hard while playing the music business lottery that only a very few figure out or stumble into success.

A band writing original songs needs to think like this movie scene DJ portrayal in a song.


And then think like this actual artist's approach to the business.



.

.
 
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Hank-Frost

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A cover can be creative if you’re doing your own twist on it. Trying to sound exactly like the record is pointless because the record exists already.
I agree with that. But when I think of a band that only plays covers, it is one trying to copy like a xerox machine.
 

Toast

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In my ongoing saga of being 63 years old and trying to find a band to play with, another aspect of the scene seems to be making itself apparent.
I have been answering ads and listening to original music in an effort to at least get playing with a good group on a regular basis. In all honesty, playing in an original group is not my first choice at this stage of the game. Been there, done that, sold the T-shirts.

It seems that new "original" bands tend to scoff at cover bands for not writing their own material. I understand the pride and work that goes into writing some original material, but I just don't get the disdain expressed by these bands. Especially when I notice that current original music seems somewhat lacking where interesting ideas, riffs, and song structure are concerned. Of course, not all of it is this way, but enough of it is to the extent where I feel there's something else at play.

People who learn to play and put in the effort to develop a good musical vocabulary often seem to have more interesting song structure and a more complex, sophisticated sound, while those who can't be bothered with building their chops first, often present songs that are somewhat less interesting. Playing in a cover band can be an essential step in musical development before jumping into an all original band. Interestingly enough, I look at their original band songs as "cover material." I take the recordings and learn the songs "as recorded" so I can show up at the rehearsal/audition prepared. Kinda like what you do with a cover band. LOL.

Are bands just finding it easier to create original music and playing it instead of honing their chops before putting pen to paper? Are local original bands suffering from laziness?
I don't really have any experience playing in a band, but I have an opinion on them. I think visual artists who make money selling their art are extremely rare. Athletes who are able to play professionally are like one percenters. Musical bands that have members who collaborate well with each and maintain creative relationships over an extended duration are about as common as lottery winners. You can spend your entire life looking for the right combination of band members. My uncle tried for about half his life and finally gave up. It's one of the reasons I would only play in a band for the fun of it. If I were to get serious about music, I'd do it solo or with a creative partner. Just my two cents.
 




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