Starting a cover band
I recently started jamming with a couple of really talented players (guitar, keyboard, drummer, female vocalist). We initally wanted to start writing songs and do originals. However, we realized that between all of us, we have the skills and the equipment to play the bars in the area as a cover band. Based on my prior experience as a fill-in for another cover band I have a decent idea of some of the aspects of doing this but I would really love to hear advice from TB on anything that might help us be successful. I want to hear about anything from marketing the band to networking with club owners to crafting a setlist. Thanks in advance!
Just for kicks, here's a list the guitarist and I put together of some songs we wanted to do to get started.
Edge of seventeen
Runnin on empty
Workin for the weekend
We built this city
Don't stop beleivin
Rock n roll
Highway to hell
Don't bring me down
House of the rising sun
The tequila song
I fought the law
Like a Rollin stone
I just want to celebrate
Sweet home chicago
All right now
Heart if gold
Down by the river
All I have to offer at the moment is that the more dance music you have (that includes slow-dance), the more successful your band will be. Variety is good, as well.
Vocals are probably what's most important to a band’s sound. Imo, hearing one singer all night is a drag, no matter how good he/she is, but that’s my opinion. Harmonies are a huge help.
Best of luck.
One frequently offered suggestion is to check out the competition and see what they are playing. I like your list, but it's all over the place in terms of genre; from Foxy Lady to Tequila. If it sells in your area though, that's more important that what some anonymous guy on the internet thinks.
What I have learned from my coverband experience;
1. Play what people like. Hopefully you like it too. Don't throw out a song that's a crowd pleaser simply because you don't like it.
2. Take on songs you can do well. Don't pack your list with stuff you aren't able to do or aren't instrumented for. Be honest with the ability of the group and what you are able to produce (like, we don't do any Steely Dan....ha ha....)
3. Make sure all of the other members share common goals, work ethic, expectation, and commitment. TALK EXTENSIVELY about this. It kills many bands that could be pretty good. Discuss what pay is acceptable, how often to play out, rehearsal schedule, what clubs you will/won't do, what offers you will/won't take. Discuss who will do the bookings, who will manage the shows/deal with club owners, etc....
4. Know your audience and what types of venues you want to play. This will help determine what to play. For example, we play cowboy dive bars full of drinkers and line dancers. Our setlist reflects that. Most nightclubs/bars want good dancing music. Select wisely.
5. Do not try to be another band. Be your own band. But.....checking out a few of the acts in the local area will give you a good idea what everyone else is doing and what sells. None of us can tell you what you'll hit paydirt with.....do your own research and take notes.
Just a couple things I thought worth mentioning.
Good luck! Hope it goes well for you.
Play music that women like to dance to.
You need a good lead singer.
Your audience only hears 3 things:
Be good at those.
I'd suggest scouting out the venues around you and seeing what kinds of crowds they draw, and planning to approach the ones where there's an audience. My first reaction when I saw that list is that it's a list for a 40+ crowd. Figure out which bars and clubs serve that demographic.
Get a good PA.
Make friends with other bands. We've had times a band we're friends with can't make a gig and they call us up to cover it for them.
Make agreements about money before you start earning any. Stick to the agreement.
Be persistent about booking gigs. I've had a guy reply to an email of mine, and then ignore me for months. I kept sending him reminders, and finally he comes back with a date we can play. Don't get discouraged.
Dance dance dance. There are some venues where people just want the band in the background while they shoot pool and drink, but as a rule of thumb venues are happiest when you get people dancing, sweaty, and therefore thirsty and buying more drinks. Be careful not to let your setlist break the momentum once people start to venture onto the dance floor.
Remember you don't just want to GET a gig - you want to get invited BACK.
Get your name up, on a banner, t-shirts, a custom drum head, wherever you can. Build some brand recognition.
Hopefully you have someone in your group who is good at sales. Yes you need excellent vocals, a good set list, good musicians, yada yada but without someone who can really sell it, it will be a struggle to get gigs and without gigs it will be a struggle to keep the band alive.
And really, being good at sales is mainly about being nice and being persistent. Anyone can do it if you can do those two things.
I agree with 99% of everything said so far, but what Marko and Lustersilk emphasized about harmonies is super important. I'd forgotten exactly how much until I joined this P&W band up here that does 4-part harmonies that kill to the point that people walk up to us after a service and compliment us. Instrumentally, we ain't perfect, and we still haven't found a lead player, but the harmonies are always locked up tight. That's what gets us over, and it's probably the single factor that's started getting us invited to play at other churches.
If you have only one or two competent vocalists, consider a harmony box. I use one by TC Helicon. Last cover band I was in, I was doing the choruses in Rolling In The Deep and the woo-hoo-hoos in Stacey's Mom *alone*, using just the Helicon.
Lead guitar shred ability - least important
Lead guitar player hate this fact but he cover band scene is all about keeping the hot women on the dance floor. Dancable grooves to familiar songs is one of the keys. Mostl plays songs for the ladies not songs that lead guitarists want to shred on all night. Less is more in this department. Your set list needs more surefire dance songs. Good Luck
Sing background vocals. Even if you don't have a great voice. You just need to be able to match/hold a pitch. 3 part vocals will sell you better than the best ruff/lick playing. People care/know vocals, not instrumental technique.
As trite and wuss as some of today's hits may sound, ignore them at your peril. Folks want the new stuff too.
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