Friend of Leo's
- Feb 6, 2018
- Wilmington, DE
Great post. 100% agree. Can you please phone up my bandmates and tell them this?I've played in many cover bands starting in the early 80's, though it's been a couple of years since I gigged. I don't know what your local market is like, but generally speaking:
If you intend to play in public, the key to success is simple, but seldom understood by musicians. Ready? Here it is: Venue owners are not in the music business. They are in the beer and food-selling business. If the venue owner sells lots of beer, they will be happy, and you will be invited back. Period. Venue owners don't care if you play ska-punk or ambient jazz-fusion. They don't even really care if you tune your instruments. They care if you get people into the venue. And never forget that it is your job to get people into the venue. If the venue was already full of people, the venue owner wouldn't need you.
Marketing will be different for each type of cover band, but be ready to make a website, FB profile, email list, etc.
Don't worry about sounding "just like the record" as long as it sounds good. Live performances should not be "just like the record." The only band I've ever heard sound "just like the record" in concert was Rush and frankly, it was boring. I've almost always been the only guitarist in the band, and many of my bands have been just guitar, bass and drums, so "just like the record" was rarely on the table. Work with what you have. The important thing is to have band members that get along, sound good, and have fun onstage. Try songs, and be prepared to move on if you can't make it work with what you have.
With a few exceptions, music is for dancing. If people don't/won't/can't dance to it, get rid of it.
There are many types of cover bands that can work. If your audience is Boomers, then you probably have to play classic rock or country. If you want to book weddings and such, then learn "Cha Cha Slide" and "Wind Beneath my Wings." A tribute band, whether it covers a specific artist, a specific style, or a specific era, can work. In the 80s and 90s I played in bands that covered then-current radio hits, and both went over very well. I don't know how viable that would be today.
Whatever kind of band you choose, you don't necessarily need to play the "standards." But you do need to play music that feels familiar and that makes people want to dance. For instance, a good blues shuffle will make people want to dance whether or not they know the song. In contrast, everybody knows and loves "Kashmir", but unless you are a Led Zeppelin tribute band, you don't want to play it at a bar. If you are a Led Zeppelin tribute band, your audience would probably love some deep tracks that never get played on the radio.