cover band vs. original band

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Jul 22, 2001.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    I've played in original bands most of my life. Most of the people I've played with have hated cover bands, resented the attention and crowds they get, and looked at the cover band musicians as complete baffoons who had no creativity and nothing better to do with their lives than play other people's music, and think they were rock stars.

    I always envied the fact that they were earning money doing what they loved, learning from other people's music, and having a sh*tload of fun.

    Now I play in both a cover band, and The Nerve. When we do a Nerve show, I'm on top of the world, I talk to everybody, have a great time, meet women. When I play a cover gig, I feel like one of the people described above. I become introverted and pretty much hide in a corner. My self esteem seems to go out the window. I don't drink, so I can't use alcohol to take the edge off.

    I realize lately also that the 2 bands draw 2 entirely different crowds. Original music tends to draw creative, intelligient, artsy, educated people. The cover band seems to draw a bunch of drunken less than average inteligience people who drool over my lead singer thinking he's Bon Jovi when we do Dead or Alive (on of my most hated songs of all time).

    I wonder what thoughts anyone else has on cover bands, original bands, the crowds they draw, AND if anyone shares a similar experience to mine???
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    So, if you're not an entrepeneur, and work at a job in a company created by someone else's idea and capital, you're a parasite?

    Not in my book. By your standards, symphony orchestras are "cover bands."
  3. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    and jazz bands too.
  4. yeah, I play in a covers band and an originals band, and agree about the different audiences for the two.

    "When we do a Nerve show, I'm on top of the world, I talk to everybody, have a great time, meet women. When I play a cover gig, I feel like one of the people described above. I become introverted and pretty much hide in a corner. My self esteem seems to go out the window. I don't drink, so I can't use alcohol to take the edge off."

    I used to feel this way- ie. enjoy the original band gigs more, and feel more comfortable playing stuff I've helped write, but I've come to enjoy the covers gigs a lot more- in London on the original band circuit you often have to deal with arrogant venue management, difficult sound engineers, and playing on a bill with two or more other bands, who are often arrogant/difficult to deal with too. all too often it seems like a lot of work for just 30min of playing onstage, which often doesn't get us anywhere.

    with the covers band I've begun to enjoy the goofing around aspect, of doing all the rock clichés and corny stuff on stage (eg. wearing an Iron Maiden T shirt with Eddie playing bass at the last gig :D ), as opposed to the "enigmatic cool" thing of being in an original band- after all, the audience for a covers band wants to be entertained, and the visual side plays a big part.

    also, as far as bass playing goes I show off a lot more with the covers band- with the originals band I'd be worried that this would be overplaying.
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Pehaps I should clarify.

    I'm trying to shake the brainwashing I have from the people I've played with for years and years. I think playing covers is a great thing. I'd so much rather get paid to play music, than work any day job that meant nothing more than a paycheck. I'm just a little caught between the 2 worlds.

    I'm also just sharing my feelings and perceptions, in hope that I may get some insight from peoples reaction to them.

    The way I see it, any musician who's playing in any band is playing covers anyhow if they didn't write the actual song they're playing.
  6. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    It varies, based on where you are, and what your local music market is like. Here in Georgia (with the exception of the Atlanta area, possibly), it's like pulling teeth to build a following based on original music. I've heard some KILLER bands that do all original stuff...great stuff, too...and see them generate yawns and play to empty clubs time after time. It's a heart-breaker to put your heart and soul into your own music and have it received like that. After a while, you give in. Playing cover music (and getting paid well to do it) for drunken buffoons is better than not playing music at all, in my book.

    It's also very tough in my area to find a group of people with any kind of original vision musically, who can get along, be reliable and do it "for the love of it". This is important when you're playing for a cut of the door in one of the most unoriginal cities around. For some reason, local players here tend to use better people skills when you can pay them a couple hundred per gig.

    In the end, you work with what you have, and you make the best of it.
  7. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Don't feel bad about doing the cover band thing, dude. In my area, it's almost impossible to get a gig if you are strictly an original band. The only way to get any radio support (live remotes, sponsored gigs, etc.), is to be a cover band. Believe it or not, the two biggest drawing bands in my area are both strictly cover bands (one of them gets about 10k a gig and they have to beat the girls off of 'em with sticks). It is my opinion, that if you are strictly a cover band, there is no reason for not getting gigs and getting over, unless you are just lazy (see my post entitled, "Band wanted ad -- comments? Suggestions?"). On the other hand, I wouldn't mind if I had to struggle a bit, if we were playing all originals. Is that weird?
  8. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    One good thing about playing covers: it usually sharpens your skills and versatility. Sometimes all-original gigs tend to leave you only "doing what you do". Having to cover several different styles well can only be good for you. It helped me tremendously.
  9. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Joe - Being caught between two worlds is something I can empathize with.

    What it really boils down to, IMO, is why you're playing what you're playing.

    When I was in a punk band that toured in the later `70's, we started out playing to make a statement about the truth in music and the materialistic plasticity and sham of disco, (at least, that's how we saw the lifestyle). We played all originals and a couple of covers that we mutated so dramatically, you couldn't recognize the original. I thought anyone playing covers was somehow, a lesser musician.

    Then, we put out an album, had a song that charted (sort of), got airplay in some markets when FM wasn't so mainstream, and, we soon found we were playing for the money. We became, essentially, hypocrites. The money became the reason for, not a result of, what we were doing.

    Now that I'm an older, my best paying gigs are in clubs where I play almost all covers. If it didn't pay for most of the bills, I'd do it anyway because I feel I'm playing covers for a "right" reason - there's this time that I get to share several hours a week out of all the hours in a lifetime, where I get pleasure from and give pleasure to roomfulls of people. We connect, we share what the music means, as if we're all a little more alive than the rest of the world for that moment.

    That's all I need.
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I played in both a 'cover'/show band(New Country) + an originals band(Acid/Avant Funk?)from '96-'98.
    After 3 years, I netted approx $300 with the 'originals' band; the show band pays me that same amount per hour-long show(I only wished we gigged more often!) ;)
    The show band opens for the major acts in nice venues(+ outside amphitheatres) with big crowds...the originals band played mostly dumps to the few that stuck around long enough to 'get it'.
    That said, BOTH gigs were fun...for different reasons(obviously).
    It is cool writing a tune & hearing it come together in rehearsals; then hearing where it goes in a live environment...then actually hearing it played on local radio. It's equally uncool seeing other bands play the typical 'cover' fare & get the good gigs...

    Anyway, I was definitely in burn-out mode...then I had a family tragedy & abruptly quit the originals band.
    Frankly, I do miss it; the individuals involved were really decent & open-minded(once we 86'd the Jim Morrison-wannabe singer/lyricist)...anything went & the only rule was "There are no rules".
    My problem now is there's no one remotely interested in doin' something different around here; if they're out there, I'd like to meet 'em! ;)
    So, I'm content with the cover/show band; the gigs are spread far enough it remains fun.

    I guess my point is-
    Have fun while it lasts...doing both gigs shouldn't be a problem; as already mentioned, diversity is a good thing. ;)