Why do cover bands make money?

telemnemonics

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This is a fallacy many artists believe. In the US, we live in a capitalist economy and labor only has value if the end result is valuable. No one cares how long you spent doing something if no one want the thing you did. Labor has no intrinsic value, only the outcome does.
But if your example is the situation, why did the bar hire the band?
 

Informal

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The same reason established bands, with several hits.... get boo'd off the stage, when they decide to play 95% of their new stuff, that had zero commercial success, as opposed to the crowd favorites, that filled the seats...

Seen it several times.
 

beyer160

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But if your example is the situation, why did the bar hire the band?
The question was whether cover bands deserve to be paid. Plenty of bands are booked without a guarantee, and simply get a cut of the door (maybe the bar, if you're really in demand) or maybe just a tip jar at the edge of the stage and half price wings. As a cover band playing a bar, playing music isn't your job at all and the guy who hired you absolutely doesn't care how well you play. Your job is to bring in a crowd of thirsty drunks and keep them there. If you succeed at that, you make money. If you don't, you didn't do your job and you don't get paid- just like every other job. The club owner doesn't care how many hours you spent practicing, how much your gas cost, or anything- he hired you to attract thirsty drunks and if you don't do that he doesn't make money, so neither do you. If you don't practice at all and butcher every song you play but bring in a huge crowd who drink the place dry, you get paid a lot. I've seen plenty of bands like that. I don't know how they do it, but I've learned not to argue with success.

As a patron, if I go to a bar to hang out with my buddies and some band starts barfing out "Mustang Sally," I go elsewhere. I don't care how much work they did to get there, I'm not dropping a dollar in their tip jar as a participation trophy. Their presence is less valuable to me than listening to the traffic outside would have been, so there's no reason I should pay them for driving me out.


Also, anyone who owns a bar and books bands has proven that they are a terrible businessman to begin with, so who knows what motivated them to make bad decisions?
 

Mindthebull

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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?

Because that’s what audiences want to pay to hear. Although they won’t pay enough for the real thing. Just ask the JaJa Dingdong guy.

 

telemnemonics

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The question was whether cover bands deserve to be paid. Plenty of bands are booked without a guarantee, and simply get a cut of the door (maybe the bar, if you're really in demand) or maybe just a tip jar at the edge of the stage and half price wings. As a cover band playing a bar, playing music isn't your job at all and the guy who hired you absolutely doesn't care how well you play. Your job is to bring in a crowd of thirsty drunks and keep them there. If you succeed at that, you make money. If you don't, you didn't do your job and you don't get paid- just like every other job. The club owner doesn't care how many hours you spent practicing, how much your gas cost, or anything- he hired you to attract thirsty drunks and if you don't do that he doesn't make money, so neither do you. If you don't practice at all and butcher every song you play but bring in a huge crowd who drink the place dry, you get paid a lot. I've seen plenty of bands like that. I don't know how they do it, but I've learned not to argue with success.

As a patron, if I go to a bar to hang out with my buddies and some band starts barfing out "Mustang Sally," I go elsewhere. I don't care how much work they did to get there, I'm not dropping a dollar in their tip jar as a participation trophy. Their presence is less valuable to me than listening to the traffic outside would have been, so there's no reason I should pay them for driving me out.


Also, anyone who owns a bar and books bands has proven that they are a terrible businessman to begin with, so who knows what motivated them to make bad decisions?
If all bars had critter cams on a central network and drinkers chose which bar to go to by checking all the critter cams, then yeah it would be the band who was responsible for drawing bar patrons.
But if the bar has no patrons unless the band provides them, its the bar owner who is not doing their job.
How do patrons that are not at the bar know to go there?
Because the bar advertizes or has a clientele?
For that matter, if the bar owner hires really crap bands thats the bar owners fault too, same is hiring crap bartenders and crap dishwashers that drive off patrons with crap drinks in dirty glasses.

This is just an old custom that may or may not be legal, like waiters also have a responsibility to make the joint an attractive place to hang out drinking, and make way less money if nobody wants to drink there, but not zero money on nights nobody comes to drink.
 

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People tend to love live music. If that live music is familiar that's better. Local bands playing originals have to be good enough/flashy enough to get people excited about their unfamiliar music. But those bands, are the bands that have the best chance to move on to bigger better things and make gobs of money playing originals, that other guys end up playing in cover bands.
 

beyer160

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If all bars had critter cams on a central network and drinkers chose which bar to go to by checking all the critter cams, then yeah it would be the band who was responsible for drawing bar patrons.
But if the bar has no patrons unless the band provides them, its the bar owner who is not doing their job.
How do patrons that are not at the bar know to go there?
Because the bar advertizes or has a clientele?
For that matter, if the bar owner hires really crap bands thats the bar owners fault too, same is hiring crap bartenders and crap dishwashers that drive off patrons with crap drinks in dirty glasses.

This is just an old custom that may or may not be legal, like waiters also have a responsibility to make the joint an attractive place to hang out drinking, and make way less money if nobody wants to drink there, but not zero money on nights nobody comes to drink.
Everything you said makes perfect sense, and I agree with you about all of it.

That's not how bars work, though.
 

msalama

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Background music for my "enjoyment"? Nah. That's just noise disturbing my socializing with folks, unless we're there to specifically see a band perform. But who wants to see a cover band on stage for the express purpose of seeing them live, when there're still loads of good originals to choose from?

Ps. And yes, I'm sorry if I sound like a cynical old barstage here & do indeed feel for the cover bands out there because that's a tough line of business, but I really don't have much use for them myself. So sorry again folks and I'll see myself out now...
 
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Cyberi4n

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A bar manager wants to fill his bar in order to sell beer, make money, get repeat custom, and make his business viable. He may feel live music is a draw. He puts on a live band. He will usually advertise it via boards/flyers/socmed/website. On the night people walking past will hear it, and if they like what they hear they’ll go in. The bar will have established clientele, and also some ‘walk-ins’. People who like to go there because they like the vibe/beer/decor/bar staff/owner/music that’s played there etc etc.

That hired band’s job is to play music, play it well, create a party atmosphere, and entertain the crowd. If they do it well, people will stay, if they do it badly, people will leave and the band won’t get re-hired by that venue.

The band absolutely deserves to at the very least get their expenses paid. Some venues will do that, others will sweeten them up with free beer and food etc. Venues that don’t pay will struggle to get bands in, venues that DO pay or at the very least cover expenses will start a bit of a scene going on.

If a band chooses to play for free, that’s up to them. They should always attach value to their offering, but understand that not everybody offering gigs WILL pay.
 
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telemnemonics

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Background music for my "enjoyment"? Nah. That's just noise disturbing my socializing with folks, unless we're there to specifically see a band perform. But who wants to see a cover band on stage for the express purpose of seeing them live, when there're still loads of good originals to choose from?

Ps. And yes, I'm sorry if I sound like a cynical old barstage here & do indeed feel for the cover bands out there because that's a tough line of business, but I really don't have much use for them myself. So sorry again folks and I'll see myself out now...
In 1984 I moved from Maine to Boston because there was no music scene in Maine and Boston was a hotbed of music.
But virtually all the ads in the Boston Phoenix and on guitar shop bulletin boards were for "GB" AKA cover bands.

At that time I did not have a radio or TV and had stopped going to Hollywood movies because I just found 1980s pop culture made me want to puke.

So I hunted musicians on the streets and in guitar and pawn shops, plus alt music bars, hoping to "get in with the right bunch of fellows", but what I found was cover bands, attempted disco style pop originals, of course Jazz from the college perspective since it was a music school city, and fringe music which was at the time either experimental noise or just terrible attempts at Punk.

It was like Arena Hair Band Spandex Pop Rock had taken over pop culture as the main antidote to Disco.
Meaning anyone who wanted to puke when they heard Disco just chose Pop Rock and Boston was really kind of a wasteland for creative new music. (I presume some who were in Boston then with urgently disagree!)

I did find some good players in Free Jazz and worked on band projects but they were really too far gone into misfit land, and the best of them who was a terrific sax player I had a promising band project booked to play at The Middle East (alt music club) stopped showing up to rehearsals and later died of an OD.

Its funny and sad, many folks recall the 80s as an awesome time for music with AC/DC, G&R, Aerosmith, Bowie, KISS etc etc, but for me it was just The Dark Ages of pop music dominating pop cultures music consuming tastes.

Of course there was Pat Metheney (puke worthy too, sorry) and ECM Jazz (AKA Eichers Chosen Music, much being nauseating Yuppie meditation) which supported the older Jazz players who were left adrift in a Jazz scene that was lost at sea by the '70s.
I saw lots of now dead old Jazz greats in small Boston clubs which was nice, plus Bill Frisell many times which was a hope for a vital creative original music scene, but I just didnt see that kind of scene flourishing.
NYC had more creative original music (cue Knitting Factory/ John Zorn) and a better Punk scene, but Boston was pretty dismal for my own search amidst the mobs of GB cover band.

Also add in that it was the dawn of Shred Guitar, so all the guitar kids at Berklee and the New England Conservatory just wanted to shred in the awesome post EVH explosion.
Ed was of course great and there were indeed some great Pop Arena Rock bands, but that formula pop took over and dominated at least in the Boston scene.
Another greasy little alt music Boston bar called Green Street was happening, but aside from some good out of town acts (Sonic Youth played small Boston alt music bars), Pop ruled, and cover bands followed.
 

beyer160

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In 1984 I moved from Maine to Boston because there was no music scene in Maine and Boston was a hotbed of music.
But virtually all the ads in the Boston Phoenix and on guitar shop bulletin boards were for "GB" AKA cover bands.

At that time I did not have a radio or TV and had stopped going to Hollywood movies because I just found 1980s pop culture made me want to puke.

So I hunted musicians on the streets and in guitar and pawn shops, plus alt music bars, hoping to "get in with the right bunch of fellows", but what I found was cover bands, attempted disco style pop originals, of course Jazz from the college perspective since it was a music school city, and fringe music which was at the time either experimental noise or just terrible attempts at Punk.

It was like Arena Hair Band Spandex Pop Rock had taken over pop culture as the main antidote to Disco.
Meaning anyone who wanted to puke when they heard Disco just chose Pop Rock and Boston was really kind of a wasteland for creative new music. (I presume some who were in Boston then with urgently disagree!)

I did find some good players in Free Jazz and worked on band projects but they were really too far gone into misfit land, and the best of them who was a terrific sax player I had a promising band project booked to play at The Middle East (alt music club) stopped showing up to rehearsals and later died of an OD.

Its funny and sad, many folks recall the 80s as an awesome time for music with AC/DC, G&R, Aerosmith, Bowie, KISS etc etc, but for me it was just The Dark Ages of pop music dominating pop cultures music consuming tastes.

Of course there was Pat Metheney (puke worthy too, sorry) and ECM Jazz (AKA Eichers Chosen Music, much being nauseating Yuppie meditation) which supported the older Jazz players who were left adrift in a Jazz scene that was lost at sea by the '70s.
I saw lots of now dead old Jazz greats in small Boston clubs which was nice, plus Bill Frisell many times which was a hope for a vital creative original music scene, but I just didnt see that kind of scene flourishing.
NYC had more creative original music (cue Knitting Factory/ John Zorn) and a better Punk scene, but Boston was pretty dismal for my own search amidst the mobs of GB cover band.

Also add in that it was the dawn of Shred Guitar, so all the guitar kids at Berklee and the New England Conservatory just wanted to shred in the awesome post EVH explosion.
Ed was of course great and there were indeed some great Pop Arena Rock bands, but that formula pop took over and dominated at least in the Boston scene.
Another greasy little alt music Boston bar called Green Street was happening, but aside from some good out of town acts (Sonic Youth played small Boston alt music bars), Pop ruled, and cover bands followed.
How long were you in Boston? Just a couple years later the place virtually exploded with indie rock bands who went on to define the era. That probably wasn't your scene either, but at least it was more creative than hair metal and GB ("General Business" for those not in the know) and was a step in the right direction towards a broader musical palette for the city.
 

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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?
I was playing in a functions band around the 1970s when discos were emerging and, it being cheaper to hire one bloke with a box of 45s than a five piece band, work for us was drying up. Instead of joining the Musicians’ Union bandwagon and demanding ‘keep music live’, we started to ask audiences what they preferred and why. The answer was surprising. They preferred a decent live band with people on stage performing who they could get to know and relate to. Pushed they said the thing that really annoyed them was lazy bands. Typically, a band would come on, do a couple of numbers, have a couple of minutes for a chat and fag, and then repeat the process until break time, which often stretched to an hour. A disco provided pretty much non-stop music. A couple of weeks later we all received a new set list with nearly twice as many numbers. We’d hit the stage on time and play the first thirty minutes non-stop, Alan the keyboardist / band leader would sometimes flip through his pad and change the next number if he’d judged the crowd would react better. When that happened he’d yell the substitute at us during the last few bars of the number we were playing and we’d get an instant count in as soon as it finished. We’d typically be doing 8 to 12 or 8 to 1 gigs and, believe me, it was knackering. But, it worked. Yes, we lost some work to discos and we dropped or pegged our prices, but we fared so much better than most other semi-pro bands at the time.
 
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This is a fallacy many artists believe. In the US, we live in a capitalist economy and labor only has value if the end result is valuable. No one cares how long you spent doing something if no one wants the thing you did. Labor has no intrinsic value, only the outcome does.
Labor has intrinsic value. If you work, you deserve pay, especially if someone else is profiting off of your labor. This is literally why we have unions.
 

beyer160

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Labor has intrinsic value. If you work, you deserve pay, especially if someone else is profiting off of your labor. This is literally why we have unions.
If no one will pay you for it, what value does it have?

I spent a bunch of time putting together my Ultimate Spinach tribute band, now who's going to pay me for that?
 

oregomike

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I just paid $100 to see a Genesis cover band play The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. They played to a sold out audience of 1500 at a music hall in Toronto. There are also bigger cover bands like Brit Pink Floyd, Brass Transit (classic Chicago) SRV bands, etc.
My buddies went to that. Was bummed I missed it as I had a chance but too short notice. I heard they played Supper’s Ready.
 




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