Cover band using backing tracks?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by guy n. cognito, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    so I've decided to add another band to my stable. I auditioned last night with a group doing largely 80s covers. It's a 4 piece: drums, guitar, vox and bass. The vox are strong, the drummer is fantastic and the guitar is above average. Their are targeting small corporate and event gigs.

    Where it gets interesting is that they heavily utilize backing tracks for keys, percussion and even some backing vocals. Drummer plays to a click to keep us in time to the track. The tracks are reasonably well done and the musicians blend pretty well. They've still got some cleanup to do, though, especially on levels. And some of the tracks are a bit over done.

    At this point they've offered me the slot. I've never done backing tracks like this before, and I'm questioning how marketable and acceptable this will be. Have any of you ever used them, and how was it received?
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    If you get the tracks cleaned up your audience won't mind at all. You play the right 80s songs and you can get away with a lot.

    Sounds like a fun gig. I say go for it.
  4. Yeah, I've done this before, and know other bands that do on a regular basis. I'm quite certain this will be totally fine for the targeted audience.

    One tip would be to consider having the whole band use in-ear monitors for the click (and the band I did even put cues on the monitored track). Another is if you are unfamiliar with this setup (as I was when I did it), make sure you give yourself a good amount of rehearsal and practice time to get familiar with it. It can be a bit odd at first.
  5. It'll work. A lot of the bands in my area do it. I personally hate it. I think it makes some people lazy. They tend to rely on the track to cover them. But, whatever floats your boat.
    theduke1 and Fletz like this.
  6. Not a big deal, especially with smaller bands trying to fill in the sound that is lacking with the current instrumentation. Just make sure you all practice with the tracks and switching in between songs... that is the part that most people have issues with, actually figuring out how to seamlessly transition from song to song. Also, having the metronome separate from the audio tracks can be helpful if the software freezes or someone steps on the cable, you hopefully won't even miss a beat :)
    blindrabbit, fretter and nixdad like this.
  7. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    The guys I know that use backing tracks tend to be on the higher end of the cover band scale, corporate and wedding gig life. If that doesn't sound appealing to you then you haven't spent enough weekends sleeping over enough bars if you catch my drift.
    hintz, twocargar, hover and 6 others like this.
  8. slamsinger


    Feb 8, 2009
    Coventry RI
    I play in a 5 piece funk - Motown- band and we use them for the keyboard parts and some percussion parts... We have bassist (me) Sax player guitarist drummer and lead vocalist (myself - Sax player also sing lead.. And I can tell you if done correct it's a huge upgrade and finding a keyboard player is tough and usually in my experience they are divas in my area... Nobody unless your a musician cares about the backing track... Your there to get the crowd going and dancing up a storm they could care less as long as they are dancing and having a blast And it opens up a HUGE array of possibilities for songs.. And there no paying a 6th member because clubs don't wanna pay much to begin with.. Just my 2 cents .. Here's a clip from us with the track Rollin
  9. Hahaha


    Sep 26, 2003
    Olympia, WA USA
    I've been in bands that used backing tracks since 1986 and I agree with what slamsinger said. Audiences don't care, and it will upgrade your sound and make it possible to cover a wider range of modern pop. It'll keep you on your toes. You can't get lost or start singing a few bars early or late. If you're using live midi you can program the lights and effects too. That can add substantially to your show. I think it adds to the fun of playing in pop bands.
    Sixgunn, blindrabbit and Bassdirty like this.
  10. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    My trio does it. We use tracks on about 8 songs. Sounds fantastic. All the clubs love it and we get paid 4-5 piece money as a trio. Don't hesitate
  11. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    Yeah it works. The band I"m in is old school so no way, but I"ve seen it done around here and it works well. Great way to elminate a bass player and a drummer from the ones I've seen do it. I don't see it as an advantage in terms of marketing, but it's not a disadvantage in any way that I've seen.

    Having said that, our main draw is that we have a live horn section. If that was all done on a backing track we would lose our sales pitch. And I'm not sure a horn section with everything on a track would work.

    But overall it seems to work. Heck you pay 150 dollars to see a show and a lot of it might be a background track. No one really cares.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  12. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player

    Mar 14, 2011
    As a 3 piece, we use tracks on several songs also. Those that come to mind are Funky Town (Pseudo Echo version), Play that Funky Music, Games People Play, Jump and a few others. I have to say, I much prefer playing the other songs without tracks. There is just more overall freedom in songs without the click imho.
  13. alembicguy

    alembicguy I operate the worlds largest heavey equipment Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Guy they go over well with a couple bands I work with. People seem to appreciate the extra effort.
  14. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Around here at least, backing tracks have been a staple for many cover bands for a while. It's nothing new or novel, or much of a concern anymore. The only concern is whether you have a drummer that can play to a click track, and that you guys can follow the form of the song.

    Nowadays, bands are a lot like professional wrestling. Everybody in the audience knows it's fake, but they don't care as long as the show is entertaining.
    Sixgunn, blindrabbit, Thisguy and 6 others like this.
  15. slamsinger


    Feb 8, 2009
    Coventry RI
    We do the midi run from sonar and the lights are all synced to the midi as well... Drummer reads charts because his memory is short lol ! But he's a monster drummer who never ever loses the track and he usually puts all the tunes in all the sets in a row in his book and we run the sets as a continuous set so no stops in between tunes except for about 2-4 seconds for the tune to load... Works out great especially with seasoned guys who know how to follow it
    logicman69 and Sixgunn like this.
  16. Several bands around here do it. Some of them are so gimmicky and costume centric, that it seems like "band Karaoke" and pretty much makes me ill. That said some of those acts rake in some serious cash, definitely more than my band. It certainly wasn't my thing, I'd rather have everything played live. I play in a 3 piece, to fill out the sound and to cover 80's music both me and the guitar player play midi pedals linked to a keyboard. No backing tracks.
  17. john_g

    john_g Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    My cover band has done it for years. We only did it for must-have keys or effects. The drummer plays to a click and we play off of him. It really adds something to the overall presentation for sure but thats IMO.
  18. Fletz


    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    Holy $h|t, this is the most depressing thread I've ever read here on TalkBass. Why is this OK? I saw a band we shared a bill with do this and it was shocking. You should sell yourself as an act and not a band if you do this. It is one step above Karaoke in my opinion. Bash me if you want, but it's not a band at this point. Ugh.
  19. tekhedd

    tekhedd Tone chaser Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Colorado, USA
    Owner/operator of BYTE HEAVEN
    In my warped opinion, as long as *you* (or your band) made the backing tracks, anything goes. Well, and it sounds good. If you've got your act together and know how to get the levels right and make it sound natural, it works fine.

    We live in a time where if you want to just play other people's music and occasionally trigger a bullhorn sample, you're a DJ, and if you mix in a track you actually made, you're an artist. Do you feel good about the musicianship of the band otherwise? I wouldn't let backing tracks stop you.

    We were working on an act where the lighting would be sequenced, but all the music would be performed live. Is it cheating to pre-sequence the lights? How is this different from sequencing a backing track? Discuss.
  20. Fletz


    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    You are not a "lighting artist." Lighting generally is part of the look of the show. You are not billing yourselves as "The amazing lighting technicians." Patrons come to the event to see music PLAYED if you are billed as "live music." If you want to be musical karaoke, promote yourself as such.

    The sad reality is, no one gives a **** but us. The ignorant public is happily ignorant and doesn't know the difference. That's why DJs take the jobs of live bands all the time.
    dtsamples and Savage_Dreams like this.