Cover band rant...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Jeff2287, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. Jeff2287


    May 4, 2002
    No doubt, this rant could very well insult every cover-band member in this forum. Just keep in mind that this is a personal theory being typed in the wee hours of the morning.

    It seems to me that cover bands are made up of people who lack ambition. Bands that mainly play originals may have a harder time getting gigs at first than a cover band, but a cover band has little chance of hitting it big in the business or going past a certain point of popularity and power.

    Cover bands don't usually get record deals from my experience. Sure, it's an easy way to get money and it may make it easier to get gigs but it doesn't seem to go much further than that. After all, who wants to buy a CD of a band playing someone else's music pretty much exclusively?

    This rant comes from a guitarist I played with, or rather, his parents. Basically, this guy's parents are both very well trained and very good musicians and he respects them very much. However, at the end of the day, they are in a cover band and only in a cover band together. That's it. For all of their skill, they only play covers. They get gigs and money, but they have no chance going anywhere other than where they are. They are in a fixed position as far as popularity and all that good stuff goes.

    The fact that they are only in a cover band causes me to respect them less than I would otherwise. Rather than use their skills to write originals and make new music, they only play covers. Not so ambitious.

    If you must, flame me. I'm just tired and have a mind teeming with slightly uncomfortable thoughts and I feel the need to vent a few right now.
  2. I actually want to join a cover band. I've learned from beign on the other side of the fence(being the audience) I wanna heard something fimiliar when going to a gig...I think half covers/half originals are great because not only do you get your own material out there,but you also get first time listeners material they know.

    Anyways...maybe the guy's parent's don't wanna make it big...ever think of that? they could have fun doing what they do now...and thats playing covers
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    First up, I play in an originals band, not a covers band. I did play in a covers band, 14 or so years ago.

    Secondly, your theory about ALL cover band members is coming from your experience with one person and his parents? Talk about painting with broad strokes - you can't possibly generalise about every persons reasons for playing in cover bands.

    Here are some reasons people play in cover bands:
    • As Osama said, maybe they don't want to make it big in music : they just enjoy playing music and playing covers gets them gigs
    • Money - Some people make their living playing in covers bands. What's wrong with that?
    • Not everyone can write good original songs. And judging by the amount of bad local bands out there in every city, not enough people realise that.
    • Some bands DO start off as covers bands to get gigs / money to finance their original stuff. They then gradually worked in their original stuff : Live and Fuel are two examples of this.
    Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of bad covers bands out there. But there are just as many bad bands out there playing their own stuff. Round the NYC area, bars aren't booking covers bands at the expense of booking originals bands. They book covers bands because that's what their customers want to hear on a weekend.

    I played in a covers band while I was in college, it wasn't a particularly good one but playing one/two gigs per weekend meant I didn't have to work 20 hours per week to get by like my friends. The one side effect of it was, as it wasn't a good covers band I started to think of it as work and wasn't as excited to pick up the bass in my originals band at the time. So I quit as soon as I graduated and got a job.
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    I play in a cover band that also plays some originals. But our originals are very mainstream, but good I think. Yes, we get paid but I wouldn't play covers just to gig. But I probably wouldn't get paid as much to play originals.

    I enjoy watching the crowd. They're my entertainment.
  5. I think cover bands play just for the fun of it, and a little cashola on the side.
  6. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    My toilet has a seat. My car has a seat. I wouldn't want to poop in my car though, now would I? Put that in your crappy ;) analogy pipe and smoke it.

    apples to oranges, IMO.
  7. just what is so all-fired great about ambition?
  8. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
    Hey, I dig the $100 tip to play 'Free Bird.' :D
  9. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    i'm bored so i want to rant about this too....

    my love is playing original music. over the past 4 years i've also played in cover bands. my band the nerve! sometimes now does cover gigs for the money, the fun, the exposure, and the practice. doing covers has definitely helped me mature as a musician.

    with that out of the way i shall start my cover band rant. don't know if it's like this all over but this has been my experience here in nyc. the cover band musicians i know far from lack ambition. they seem to have more ambition than most people i know, only problem to me is with the goals they strive for. to be at the top of the cover band list? to play the top clubs and have the best booking agency? and if they get there, what do they get? they get to play 5 hour gigs that they have to drive 2 hrs to and from, 4 nites a week, for about $125 a man per show. that's if they're very lucky. a lot of the musicians seem also to strive for local fame in the cover band world, and the thing that gets me about it is they (at least the ones that i've encountered) will do anything to get there. screw their friends and partners, lie.... whatever it takes. yes, i've obviously had some bad experiences.

    the other thing though, and i started a thread about this a while ago, is that i think the choice people make (playing covers or originals) has to do with people being musicians or artists. of course this isn't a blanket statement, but again my experience. and i'm not judging either. i believe artists NEED to write, create, put something out there, while musicians are content just playing. both have their ups and downs.

    i used to act but had to get out of that world because i didn't like the majority of people i encountered. it was another field where there were "actors", and "artists". in acting, the ones who weren't artists usually had the bigger egos and were more driven and often more successful. I guess the same could be said for musicians.... the most talented artists aren't at the top of the charts - that's fer sure.

    i like hanging with artists as opposed to musicians.

    i'll shut up now.
  10. Joey3313


    Nov 28, 2003
    I would like to join a cover band once I learn some stuff (mainly just more than I know now). I think it would be a great way to learn how to play by ear, and also understand how a band works (what goes where and how it all fits together). Once I have that stuff down, then perhaps originals, but covers are always a good way to learn.
  11. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Whether someone prefers playing in/going out to see cover bands or orginal bands is a matter of opinion and personal preference, I disagree with the broad generalizations stated why people choose covers over orginals.

    For me right now, it's the cash. I'm going back to college next fall and anyway to make a few more dollars is a good thing. Espcially since it's hard to work full time while going to school. I look forward to the day when I can pick and choose exactly what I want to do in music. Until then, I look at it like a job. (and you don't always enjoy your job. :meh: ;) ) I think it's pretentious when somebody goes off on how they are superior because they play orginal music. A lot of time, they are not really much of a musician.

    Joe, I always understood the difference between a musician and an artist, but what's the difference between an actor and an artist? Does an actor take mainstreamey schlock roles that require little talent and an artist takes more serious parts? I always like getting your perspective of things.
  12. a lot of bands start out as cover bands. they dont just get together and the first day play original stuff. metallica was a cover band. thats what all of garage days re-visited is.....covers.
  13. Essexbass


    Nov 8, 2003
    Reading, U.K.
    I started my bass playing life in bands which did a vast majority of original material. The upside of which was that they were sticking to their principles, but the downside was that gigs were few and far between.

    I only got involved in playing with covers bands through a friend of mine, who was playing occasionally with a covers band in my area. Once I started, I probably learned more about gigging with covers bands than I ever did playing with bands which only did original material.

    I've enjoyed the vast majority of the gigs I've done in the last 12 or 13 years... yeah, sure there's the occasional gig which is a drag, but they don't turn up that often.

    I don't see any dishonour playing covers....
  14. interesting parallel- my (older) brother is a film & TV actor and he's done both the "mainstreamey schlock roles" and the "more serious parts"- the former for the money.

    similarly, I play in both covers and original bands.
    (I wish i earned anywhere near as much as my brother does, though ;) :meh: )

    the original band side has become less enjoyable of late- no money, having to endure dull other bands on the bill, plus dealing with the stressed-out ego of the singer in one band, drummer in the other band.

    I like the professionalism of the covers band members- I'd like to find/form an original band playing music I truly liked/believed in, with a good atmosphere and professional attitude, but I'm probably better off just recording music on my own.
  15. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    what i wrote wasn't entirely accurate with what i was thinking. that's been known to happen too often lately for my liking, even more-so when i open my mouth :eek: .

    what i meant to say was that i've noticed that the actors that i know (have known) seem to come from 2 very different camps/mindsets. some of them are really creative people, have what seem to me to be the characteristics of creative people (that would be a whole nuther thread), and are committed to acting because of the art of it and their desire to create. their creativity usually spills out into other areas as these people often also write, play music, paint or whatever.

    then there's the others. the guys and gals who take an acting class, get some sort of ego rush, and decide they want to act for a living or simply do it all the time. i think i'm getting judgemental here - oh well. they seem to be driven more by ego than anything else, don't seem to display any of the above not mentioned characteristics i think artists share, and seem a lot less connected to what they're doing than the artful types.

    i think there's a correllation with music, again - at least in my experience. i know musicians who wouldn't think of, couldn't write or create anything of their own - and they're terribly different people than me. those people surely have some advantages, but i find myself happier and more content working with my own kind. :D

    note: i quit my last cover band a few months back because i found myself unable to deal with the pettiness of the particular people i was working with. drunken attitudes, egos, fights, lies, lots of negativity. i needed the money however and trusted the universe to open a new door to the one i had closed. i (by sheer coincidence) landed a gig right after i quit with an original artist that's paying me as much (and often more)than the cover gig, and is with people i really like and respect.
  16. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Oh, okay. I understand now, Joe.
  17. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Hey Jeff,

    I'm guessing you're a younger guy. It's not a knock, but the fact is that you're in a different place in your life than some others.

    I encourage you to pursue music to the fullest, go for that record deal, MTV or whatever type of success you would like to acheive with your music. I wish you the best, and hope you acheive it. It's highly unlikely, it's just so hard. But, I wish you the best.

    My last cover band asked $2000 for weddings. The man who managed the band booked bands with the following types of rates: corporate gigs were priced at $1000 or above, as high as a $3500 gig at a major SF hotel/club, $2000 for wineries, $1200 for smaller clubs, etc.

    As band leader of that band, here would be my figures, (as calculated with a 20% cut to manager, and extra 10% cut my direction as leader):

    $300 gig = $64 for me.
    $500 gig = $100 for me.
    $1200 gig = $256 for me.
    $2000 gig = $400 for me.
    $3500 gig = $700 for me.

    There is a myth in the music world, that a professional musician is someone who is in an original band, playing songs that get radio play, and appearing on MTV.

    The truth of the matter is, that a successful musician can make a great living by teaching and/or playing covers. There is a huge demand for successful party bands. Clubs, restaurants, casinos, corporate parties, and wedding or similar events all hire cover bands. An individual with the right business sense and drive can tap into this market and be extremely successful.

    Not all of us want the same thing, and I must tell you, the work and time it takes to launch and maintain a successful cover band, is just as much, or probably even greater, than the ambition needed to drive an original project.

    Here is a small list of hugely successful cover bands in SF, CA. Look at their gig calendar and get an idea for how much they work. Realize that these bands are very successful in a huge city like San Francisco, (where we have markets not only in the city, but in the North, East and South bays, in Sacramento, Southern California, and Reno, Nevada).

    Last thing I'll mention, is that any cover band I've been in played a lot more than any original band I've ever been in, and trust me, I've been in plenty of both. And if the goal is to play, (which it is for me, cause that's when I'm having fun), than there's something to be said for that.

    I'll move this to Miscellaneous
  18. Hi,
    I'm in a band. We play stuff akin to Vai, etc.. Our guitarist is super good, and he's got some really good original ideas. However, due to our second guitarist being a tool we've had some major issues. Anyhoo, as a favour to a friend, we were booked to play a gig. We had a week before it started, and had to draft in a new second guitar/vocalist and drummer. We only had time to get 7 covers together, and no time for originals.

    Some of our covers were blatant covers. However, with others, we changed them. For example, we did Wild Thing. We chose that song because it's a good one for getting people dancing and the like, but, however, we "originalized it". Basically, we rewrote the song, keeping just the lyrics. We turned it into a 70's funk style thing with a whole boatload of waaaaaaaah on the guitar, a fun slap bassline, and proper funk-style drums. So technically, it was a cover, but we were putting our own input in on it. So much did we put our own spin on it, people didn't get what it was right up until our singer came in.

    Also, we did Sweet Home Alabama. However, again, we completely changed it. The main "famous" riff was played by me on bass (slapping it), with a "ska" sorta guitar riff, and just generally mellowing it out a bit. Then, for the power-chorus (as we called it), it went more metal. Basically, again, people didn't really know what to make of it until I came in on bass and they got what song it was.

    One of the songs we did was "Here I Am" by Steve Vai. I really like that song, but when we covered it we did a straight cover and it just felt flat. There was little response from the audience (it was a song they'd not heard before and wouldn't - being as they were mainly a 'pop-punk' sorta audience), and it wasn't a whole boatload of fun.

    Basically, with music which is one of the most personally expressive things you can do, it's impossible to make blanket statements. Well, actually, there is a main blanket statement we can make - we're all in it to have fun. Whether your definition of "fun" is rocking out original songs, doing a bit of original and a bit of covers, or rocking weddings as a Rolling Stones tribute band - whatever, we're all in it for fun. For me, personally, I don't see the fun in just doing straight covers, whereas if you take a song and make it your own it can be fulfilling and can expand your horizons musically by thinking about themes and songs in different ways. The main thing I'll say, however, is that no-one should be looked down on for their choice of music. For me, "punk" as it is these days sucks. Gone are the days when it was "real" punk, such as the Sex Pistols, and to me that's a shame, but even though the root-note troopers are out there just playing "G G G G G D D D D C C C C G G G G" as fast as they can, I don't mind. It's their choice, and at the end of the day, if I don't like it I don't listen. However, I don't think we should look down on them or anyone for how they choose to play their instrument.

  19. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Here are two points:

    1. There is nothing wrong with cover bands. They provide the public with enterainment and provide the musicians with work. (supply&demand!)

    2. Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, John Paul Jones just to name a few, played in cover bands for years! No one would ever say that they lacked ambition.
  20. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Stop it, you're scaring me.
    In one of my original's bands-
    "Wild Thing" was revamped as a Ska tune(eventually modulated to the relative minor).
    "Sweet Home Alabama" was done as Disco as one could get once we hit the chorus...imagine octave bass over the D-C-G-G changes). I'm glad people have a sense of humour.

    Personally, I like playing in "both" types for different reasons...
    I like playing in original's bands to hear stuff come to life; intense practices where anything was fair game. Many a rehearsal felt like I had just finished a workout. Sweat, big time. I'm missing those days...need to get my act back together!
    I do still play in a New Country parody/cover band(HUGE crowds + some nice cash for 'playing so little').

    I doubt I could play in a "Tribute" band. IMO, that's a little extreme.