Why do cover bands make money?

Ronzo

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Lots of DIY spaces and art spaces exist for music and art, and while these places need to secure enough money to keep the lights on and the landlord away (or cover other expenses if they’re lucky enough to own the building, they take the art side as importantly or more importantly than the business side. Places like Gilman Street, ABC NO RIO, the Dorchester Art Project, and a bunch of places that aren’t at that level of prominence because they’re flying under the radar and tend not to last very long before the same people start something else up somewhere else. For me, as a show goer and a musician, it’s been like 50% this (or someone’s basement or another weird place that isn’t “officially/legally” a venue, and the other 50% has been bars and clubs.
Thanks for a great response. I see you’re in the Greater Boston area. I could see this happening in NYC, as well. But I don’t think it’s the norm if you don’t live in a cultural hub. It follows a model consistent with art patronage, where the patrons are committed to the advance of all forms of art - including music.

I understand your post much better now. IMO, you should feel grateful that you’ve found a nurturing environment for original music. It’s rare in most parts of the USA.

For those of us who live in and deal with venues in less enlightened areas, the situation is much different. No sarcasm here. You’re lucky.
 

Ronzo

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The fact that bar owners count on cover bands themselves to put butts in seats is backwards, but that is the prevailing model and most musicians don't understand it when they first encounter it because it's illogical.
I’ve thought more about your post. This point, in particular, made a lot of sense to me. My band in NY had to respond to this “load of coal” from a number of venue owners. Our reply was along the lines of:

“So, you’re asking us to provide a ready-made audience for you to sell drinks to. Do you have a group of regulars that come in whether they’ve heard of the band you’ve hired?”

“Yeah…”

“How many drinks do they buy, and how long do they stay?”

“Depends how much they like the band.”

“Tell you what. We’ll do this gig for $600. If you don’t sell at least twice as many drinks over the course of the night as you usually do, you pay us $300 and never hire us again. We want to see your average receipts before we agree. We work only under contract, and you have to agree on your part. One of our people will count the drinks ordered from her seat at the bar with this clicker. You can have one of your people verifying her count. Do we have a deal?”

(hemming and hawing) “Well… ok, I’ll give it a shot. Let me get my ledger.”

We won all but one or two of those deals. Maybe things are different now. Three men playing and sing live, plus a computer and three MIDI tone generators.
 
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Hank-Frost

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@Jakedog observes in another thread that cover bands make money, and certainly more money than bands doing originals.

I believe him, but I find it hard to believe. Anything a cover band can do, a good sound system with wifi can do better and cheaper. There is way more risk in hiring a cover band than in piping canned music everyone knows.

Why would a cover band make more money?
People who aren't really musical mostly like to hear songs they know. Those songs are more interesting when played by live musicians. I don't like cover bands, but I don't see how anybody involved with music doesn't already know the answer to your question.
 

gitlvr

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WE are musicians; what we like or don't like about a bar or cover band means very little to the kind of people that actually GO to a bar to HEAR a cover band.
The majority of them want to hear decent renditions of songs they love while they drink and slowly unwind from a long work week, or while they try to find a dance partner they might get "lucky"with. The music is more a backdrop to that. They don't give a rat's hind end how much blood, sweat, tears or angst any of us pour into "original" music, unless the venue is known for that, and that's a different crowd.
And as has been said over and over, the bar is trying to make money to feed themselves, their family and pay their employees. Which, you guessed it, feeds themselves and their family, and hopefully raises their standard of living.
 
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String Tree

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Who wants to see four sets of the same band? That’s overstaying your welcome and boring the audience.
See you this weekend, Friday and Saturday Night.
Seriously, we don't overstay our Welcome or, bore our Audience.
They asked Us. Remember that.

This is exactly the kind of Gig the New Breed needs.
Just get out there, Mix with a real Audience and, Hone their Chops.
It's a grind I admit but, the rewards are worth it.
 

String Tree

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WE are musicians; what we like or don't like about a bar or cover band means very little to the kind of people that actually GO to a bar to HEAR a cover band.
The majority of them want to hear decent renditions of songs they love while they drink and slowly unwind from a long work week, or while they try to find a dance partner they might get "lucky"with. The music is more a backdrop to that. They don't give a rat's hind end how much blood, sweat, tears or angst any of us pour into "original" music, unless the venue is known for that, and that's a different crowd.
And as has been said over and over, the bar is trying to make money to feed themselves, their family and pay their employees. Which, you guessed it, feeds themselves and their family, and hopefully raises their standard of living.
I am three Time Zones from you but, I would LOVE to hear your band.
You have the right attitude!
 

gitlvr

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I am three Time Zones from you but, I would LOVE to hear your band.
You have the right attitude!
Thanks.
I played the bar and club scene here for 25 or so years. The attitude I expressed was one of the hardest things to get other bandmates to understand.
I don't play live any more except in my church, but it was a good run, and I loved almost all of it.
 

String Tree

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Thanks.
I played the bar and club scene here for 25 or so years. The attitude I expressed was one of the hardest things to get other bandmates to understand.
I don't play live any more except in my church, but it was a good run, and I loved almost all of it.
I'm an old hack and my band mates are quite the same.
I count myself as Lucky to be surrounded by them.
 

cyclopean

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See you this weekend, Friday and Saturday Night.
Seriously, we don't overstay our Welcome or, bore our Audience.
They asked Us. Remember that.

This is exactly the kind of Gig the New Breed needs.
Just get out there, Mix with a real Audience and, Hone their Chops.
It's a grind I admit but, the rewards are worth it.
We make it a point to never go over a half hour. You don’t want to bore the audience.
 

cyclopean

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People who aren't really musical mostly like to hear songs they know. Those songs are more interesting when played by live musicians. I don't like cover bands, but I don't see how anybody involved with music doesn't already know the answer to your question.
The classic dj move is to get people on the floor with something danceable that the crowd knows, and then to keep changing it up between those songs and danceable songs that aren’t beaten to death.

There’s an eighties dj night I like going to and I wish they’d play new order songs that aren’t blue monday. I love blue monday. But that band has like a dozen songs that good.
 

cyclopean

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Thanks for a great response. I see you’re in the Greater Boston area. I could see this happening in NYC, as well. But I don’t think it’s the norm if you don’t live in a cultural hub. It follows a model consistent with art patronage, where the patrons are committed to the advance of all forms of art - including music.

I understand your post much better now. IMO, you should feel grateful that you’ve found a nurturing environment for original music. It’s rare in most parts of the USA.

For those of us who live in and deal with venues in less enlightened areas, the situation is much different. No sarcasm here. You’re lucky.
Spaces like that are all over the place and musicians can and do book tours entirely or largely in these spaces and not commercial venues.

A lot of people put a lot of work into keeping that network running, and I’m really thankful for all the hardcore bands of the eighties that went out and blazed those trails.
 

String Tree

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We make it a point to never go over a half hour. You don’t want to bore the audience.
I have yet to be in a Band that does that.
I know that may sound a bit Conceited but, we practice. We give the effort to make every song as good as we can.
Including 16 of our own songs.

If we play a show that showcases our Originals, we are lucky to make anything at all.
When we do a Cover Gig, we get throw in EVERYTHING we have written and make some Good Money.

Money is the Root of all Wealth.
If you can't make Money, you will have to quit.
Best of Luck to you and Your Band. I hope you guys can be the Band that rises above the rest!
-ST
 

cyclopean

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I have yet to be in a Band that does that.
I know that may sound a bit Conceited but, we practice. We give the effort to make every song as good as we can.
Including 16 of our own songs.

If we play a show that showcases our Originals, we are lucky to make anything at all.
When we do a Cover Gig, we get throw in EVERYTHING we have written and make some Good Money.

Money is the Root of all Wealth.
If you can't make Money, you will have to quit.
Best of Luck to you and Your Band. I hope you guys can be the Band that rises above the rest!
-ST
16 songs is only ok if they’re thirty second power violence songs. Go off like an atomic weapon and then leave the stage.
 

Happy Enchilada

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Just played the local blues jam last Sunday. It was ALL COVERS (thankfully no "Mustang Sally" this time out). But what made for some bright spots was the way some singers and musicians INTERPRETED the work of others. Besides, it was so damn noisy and chaotic that a sensitive soul rolling out an original tune would probably have been swallowed up in the swirling vortex ... However, I think the crowd would have cheered them anyway. And there's where it all starts, right?
 

telemnemonics

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Just played the local blues jam last Sunday. It was ALL COVERS (thankfully no "Mustang Sally" this time out). But what made for some bright spots was the way some singers and musicians INTERPRETED the work of others. Besides, it was so damn noisy and chaotic that a sensitive soul rolling out an original tune would probably have been swallowed up in the swirling vortex ... However, I think the crowd would have cheered them anyway. And there's where it all starts, right?
Yeah but Blues and Jazz are ONLY COVERS because Blues and Jazz are all from the long gone past, right?
(plus nobody can agree on who wrote any prehistoric music, its all in the public domain now)

Same as Classical, nobody writes new Classical music!
Also Modern Art, now its only postmodern...
 

teleplayr

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You're playing in a club and what do you think people are there for?

They want to drink, socialize, and dance.

Do you think that the crowd is going to want to dance to original music they don't know?

If you're doing originals ( I know it'll be hard), but look for someplace that has a "Concert" setting where people want to sit and listen to your music.
 

Kandinskyesque

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Maybe covers bands make money because they were the first bands to do so.
Long before moustachioed, permed, carpet chested DJs were spinning 2 pieces of vinyl, people were being entertained everywhere, every weekend with covers bands.
Only back then they were just bands, sometimes referred to as dance bands, show bands but mostly just bands.

That was until four upstart but brilliantly talented Scousers started playing their own compositions.
Then there would be two kinds of bands. Originals and covers.
The Great Band Schism.

Come to think of it...it's a bit like the Reformation of the Catholic/Christian Church...which makes John Lennon modern music's equivalent of Martin Luther.
Who, of course, wasn't bigger than Jesus.
 




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