Are Original Music Bands Just Lazy?

Telenator

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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.
I think that things have changed to the point now where the approach is completely different. I think certain artists can begin to enjoy success without going through the whole music/band/collaboration/gigging/touring thing.
Being an individual who writes, records, and puts their music out there to producers, performers etc, now seems to be as viable a method as anything else. And the best part is, one person has complete control over the whole deal. If you need a band, you hire one to play your material "as recorded."
But wait, would that make me a "cover band" player because the process would then be pretty much identical to playing in a good, solid cover band? LOL. The only difference would be, a good leader won't tolerate deviation from the music as recorded, and he wouldn't have to fight over "creative differences."
All quite interesting and amusing. The perfect blend between cover band and original band, and everyone wins!
 
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lil scotty

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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?
There are so many different ways to “do music.” Sure, there are probably singer/songwriters who are lazy but there are probably an equal number who skip the steps to be good musicians, in order to focus on their songwriting priorities. I do not equate the latter with laziness but just a different focus. I spend way less time trying to “master“ the guitar because songwriting has been my focus. I am working on a new picking pattern. A song will likely spring up from that. This is the best of both worlds!
 

Toast

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I think that things have changed to the point now where the approach is completely different. I think certain artists can begin to enjoy success without going through the whole music/band/collaboration/gigging/touring thing.
Being an individual who writes, records, and puts their music out there to producers, performers etc, now seems to be as viable a method as anything else. And the best part is, one person has complete control over the whole deal. If you need a band, you hire one to play your material "as recorded."
But wait, would that make me a "cover band" player because the process would then be pretty much identical to playing in a good, solid cover band? LOL. The only difference would be, a good leader won't tolerate deviation from the music as recorded, and he wouldn't have to fight over "creative differences."
All quite interesting and amusing. The perfect blend between cover band and original band, and everyone wins!
I couldn't have said it better. If you have a bit of technical know-how and patience, a band isn't really a necessity. You just need to figure out how to play your instrument and software.
 

4pickupguy

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Funny side note:

When wire got tired of playing their early material, they hired a wire cover band to open for them, playing the early material.

When someone shouted out one of those song titles during the wire set, they shouted back “the other band already played that”.
Devo famously did a tour where they were there own opening band Dove The Band Of Love. Dove was their chance to both poke fun at what they felt Devo had become by playing surf versions of their own tunes and a chance to maintain a creative outlet. As Devo they felt they were delivering what the audience had paid for.
We do covers our way and some are very fun to play for that reason. We do She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and put a fusion spin on it. I Am The Walrus and add three part harmonies and a bit of swing groove. But we like to do our originals as well. The originals take FAR FAR more effort and personal time practicing because we tend to write stuff at the edge of our ability. Especially the instrumental stuff. Our hardest tunes to play are called Groove Farm, But First Cut The Yellow Wire, Telepath and Hey Bob,… You Know Those Guys..? They are hard to play for us because they are at the feeble limits of our musicianship. It doesn’t get any funner or more rewarding than to entertain people with our own stuff. Being seen to be having fun is the easiest way to draw an audience in. They can be found on our SoundCloud site. We have to struggle to keep these songs tight. Hell, between jobs and family commitments, health, just holding a band together at our age long enough to play out is tough. For covers we do some Genesis, Yes, Cars, Earth Wind & Fire, SWV, Bowie, Hall & Oates a few others that escape me. Of all the cover tunes the one we tend to play the straightest is Fame by Bowie.
We have a ton of original material in the works (demos, recordings) and the covers are detracting from the writing lately. The battle continues. Point is if a band are doing originals because a they too lazy to do covers, then I bet they really sound that way.
 

1955

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Our original bands worked our tails off, same with one that did a lot of covers. This was all before the interwebs, though.

Everybody was so different then.

I really don’t remember a time in my entire life when I wasn’t busting my butt for something.

I don’t know how it is now for bands, but I’m sure there are some extremely hard working bands out there these days, but maybe what they choose to work on has changed, because the times have changed so much.
 

Jazzcaster21

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Kind of off topic but anyway.

This past Saturday my wife and I went and saw two cover bands: one was a Dave Matthews Tribute Band (her choice) and the next was Nectar: A Picture of Phish (my choice). While I despise most of what Phish as put out since "Billy Breathes" I had never seen a Phish cover band and I was hoping to hear some old, good material (which I did) mixed in of course, with some of the crap from the last 10-15 years.

What I noticed the difference was between the tribute band (DMB) and the cover band (Nectar) was that the DMB sounded as identical as they could to the real thing and the singer sounded pretty spot on like Dave Matthews. Of course you better if you are paying tribute to a very specific band such as that one.

Nectar on the other hand, played Phish songs BUT the guitar player sang all the songs unlike Phish where each member has different songs that they sing. Eventhough the vocals were only done by the guitar player in Nectar I actually found him to be a better singer than any of the members of Phish, which was a nice surprise. Their jams too were Phish-y (obviously) with their own spin on them. While you could tell the guitar player had studied Trey Anastasio's guitar soloing style, I wouldn't call him a clone. He was doing all the heavy lifting however.

So to sum up: Tribute bands replicate the original sound of the band they are paying tribute to as much as possible while cover bands who play the music of one band don't always adhere to the original template.
 

Ronzo

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^^ Was going to say. Some covers are a lazy, obvious reach. Yes, you pulled into Nazareth.

But some markets want that, they're still in 1985, got a job instead of university. They know what they like.

Some covers might represent the end point of a 20-year search, like Ry Cooder's covers. You're a much cooler band doing that much work. But the market might say you're too original.
Every cover band I’ve been involved with has had one or more members saying, “We ought to play songs by known groups that aren’t played much. You know, deep tracks.”

Whenever it was tried, the crickets were as loud as the band. And less loud than the guy yelling, “ Play something GOOD, that we KNOW!”

The band members mumbling “Philistenes” could be heard saying, later,“Why is the tip jar empty?”, and “Why did they say they wouldn’t hire us again?”
 

cyclopean

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Sigh. “Brother, you’re focusin’ on the wrong part of the story.” 🙂
The point seemed to be “don’t bother writing original songs”.

Songs have to come from somewhere, and you don’t need to be some special designated person to make something new.
 

burntfrijoles

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How do original music bands attract followers? I understand if these are bands in college towns or in communities large enough to have venues for emerging or developing talents. Otherwise it seems like a self indulgent endeavor in some cases.
I can also understand bands that mix in their own material with covers. It’s kind of like Netflix. They have their own productions of original content but they also have “legacy” material as well.
 

Ronzo

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But that photo already exists and she nailed it. I’d rather shoot something new.
I understand. You, from your recent posts, are driven from the artistic side. Much as fine art photography differs from commercial photography.

I’m a photographer too. It probably won’t surprise you much to learn that I worked for over 25 years as a wedding/event photographer, concurrent with my primary career as a telecommunications engineer. Before economic circumstances forced me to do photography for money, I enjoyed it as a hobby. Once I started doing it for money, I was good at it and in demand - but the joy of doing it, even when I enjoyed the job, evaporated. And once you’ve made photographs for money, your reputation is on the line every time you touch a shutter release. It’s not conducive to artistic expression in the same way a fine art photographer approaches the medium.

Having done both music and photography for money, they’re similar in terms of artistic intent. Once commercialized, the joy of creation takes a lower precedence.
 

MilwMark

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This thread would make mores sense if it just said "some of use prefer cover bands; some of us prefer original bands; some of us can see and accept the virtues and vices of each."

Again, with all due respect,
How do original music bands attract followers? I understand if these are bands in college towns or in communities large enough to have venues for emerging or developing talents. Otherwise it seems like a self indulgent endeavor in some cases.
I can also understand bands that mix in their own material with covers. It’s kind of like Netflix. They have their own productions of original content but they also have “legacy” material as well.
This just says to me you don't know much about the original music scene. Which is fine. Why label it "self-indulgent"? Broadly speaking, original bands tend to play clubs/bars/venues geared towards original music. Where people go to . . . experience original music. And our music is out there so when touring bands come through and book shows they find us and ask us to join the bill, or ask the venue for bands they like that would be a good fit. And we sell CDs and vinyl at shows (yes, physical media still work better than downloads in this setting). Or radio shows/internet stations do interviews and have us play. Probably not unlike how original bands always did it.

Point being, in most places there is an original music scene and a cover scene, and they rarely overlap or even interact that much (except that lots of musicians do inhabit both worlds at various stages in their arc). But as I think this thread demonstrates, the cover scene stays more separate and self-sufficient, overall.

By they way, all of this has gotten us to a "level" where basically we can finance records, videos, some gear, small tours basically out of band proceeds instead of our pockets. And that's all . . .
 

cyclopean

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I understand. You, from your recent posts, are driven from the artistic side. Much as fine art photography differs from commercial photography.

I’m a photographer too. It probably won’t surprise you much to learn that I worked for over 25 years as a wedding/event photographer, concurrent with my primary career as a telecommunications engineer. Before economic circumstances forced me to do photography for money, I enjoyed it as a hobby. Once I started doing it for money, I was good at it and in demand - but the joy of doing it, even when I enjoyed the job, evaporated. And once you’ve made photographs for money, your reputation is on the line every time you touch a shutter release. It’s not conducive to artistic expression in the same way a fine art photographer approaches the medium.

Having done both music and photography for money, they’re similar in terms of artistic intent. Once commercialized, the joy of creation takes a lower precedence.
I do event and wedding photography too, and i work in film. I’m good with keeping my art and commercial sides separate.

I did play a wedding once, but that was as an old time string band, and, incidentally, the only gig that band ever played because the other two people moved away right after that.

I’m not throwing shade at people in cover bands. It’s more that it just seems really weird to me, because outside of this board, I never really see or hear about it, and I’ve seen live music all over the place and I know people in bands all over the place. I’m a phone call or two away from booking contact info in Lima or London or probably various places in Japan or Australia. I’m not super into electronic music but I know people who seem well connected there. I have podcaster friends that get to interview genuine rock stars. I’ve gotten to hang out with a lot of the people who’ve made my favorite music. Music is a huge part of who I am, so not really seeing this other side of it outside of here is just … strange, y’know?
 
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Ronzo

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@cyclopean, how many wedding/event jobs have you done in the last year? I presume you’re digital; what system, and what lighting?

I came from the medium format era. Bronica SQAs, Armatar and Lumedyne, White Lightning 1600s and Speedotron.
 

MilwMark

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This thread would make mores sense if it just said "some of use prefer cover bands; some of us prefer original bands; some of us can see and accept the virtues and vices of each."

Again, with all due respect,

This just says to me you don't know much about the original music scene. Which is fine. Why label it "self-indulgent"? Broadly speaking, original bands tend to play clubs/bars/venues geared towards original music. Where people go to . . . experience original music. And our music is out there so when touring bands come through and book shows they find us and ask us to join the bill, or ask the venue for bands they like that would be a good fit. And we sell CDs and vinyl at shows (yes, physical media still work better than downloads in this setting). Or radio shows/internet stations do interviews and have us play. Probably not unlike how original bands always did it.

Point being, in most places there is an original music scene and a cover scene, and they rarely overlap or even interact that much (except that lots of musicians do inhabit both worlds at various stages in their arc). But as I think this thread demonstrates, the cover scene stays more separate and self-sufficient, overall.

By they way, all of this has gotten us to a "level" where basically we can finance records, videos, some gear, small tours basically out of band proceeds instead of our pockets. And that's all . . .

Too my far-too-long post above, I should probably add: I think there is a structural reason original live music can seem more like a mystery to people coming from a covers-only background: venues focused on original bands may not need or be inclined to add PRO license fees to allow covers. Often they prohibit them. So bands focused on covers naturally have no visibility into those venues.
 

cyclopean

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I haven’t really bounced back, wedding wise, from 2020 yet and I’ve picked up a bunch of film/video work since then. The film and video stuff has been dropping in my lap in a way that weddings just haven’t in the past year or so. I’ve shot, like, two weddings since people started coming back out of their houses again. I just had a gig I was supposed to be doing for a few weeks fall through so I need to start chasing some freelance work in the next few days.

I’ve also been doing some film festival work, which I got into as an event photographer but I’ve picked up a lot of other responsibilities for over the past few years.

I’ve shot Hasselblad but most of my medium format work has been on a Holga or old Kodak box cameras.

My walkaround/gigging camera is a Canon 80D, and my walkaround lens is a Tamrom 17-50mm 2.8. I have other cameras but that’s a good workhorse. It’s also my main video camera, but I’ve used someone else’s Black Magic fairly frequently. I’ve largely been editing with gimp in recent years because i couldn’t get pirated photoshop to work on my last laptop. I think gimp is mostly as good but honestly it’s not totally the photoshop killer open source/free software people will tell you it is. A lot of that is honestly that the interface is clunkier and that’s not a big deal if you’re editing one photo but if you’re trying to churn through a wedding, a several hours event, or the last three multiple band punk shows you shot at the slower, clumsier editing adds up.

I like Canon speedlites but I’ve been picking up cheap tungsten continuous lighting when I see it because I love how it looks when I’m shooting set photos.

If you grow up shooting punk and hardcore shows, weddings and events are a pretty reasonable thing to get into, and there’s less chance of getting a flash wrecked by a stage diver or having a camera just straight up die on you from how overheated and humid a packed show can get. (Over packed warehouse show with either the hub city stompers or the band they turned into. My camera’s circuit board shorted out and so did the band’s keyboard. That Canon body still works but the controls are completely random now.)

My band is also partially a video project. We did a Halloween special last year (picture the misfits as musical guests on the muppet show), and I’m starting to brainstorm material and reach out to friends for contributions for this year’s episode. I would never have predicted that being in a goth band would lead me into writing sketch comedy, but here we are.
 




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