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Do cover bands play simlar songs because they are easy or because they are go over?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by troy mcclure, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. I am in a cover band, and had a weekend off so I checked out a friends band, They were not very good, need some rehearsal but didn't have me running for the door.
    They seemed to play a lot of songs my band refuse to play ( I would play them but I think the guitarist and vocalist hate them death).
    Examples: Kryptonite, My own worst enemy (lit), When I come around, Good ( better than ezra), Talk Dirty to Me, She Hates Me.
    You get the idea. It made me wonder if they picked the songs based on ease of playing them or if they just thought they were good songs. I personally have no problem with these songs, if the harmonies are done correctly and people don't miss the nuances, but many bands just play them badly.
  2. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I think that it's always tricky to build a cover band set list. On the one hand, your job is to entertain the audience, and that means playing songs that your typical bar crowd knows and likes. On the other hand, you don't want to sound exactly the same as every other cover band out there, both so that you can market yourself and for your own sanity. You can always play "THE" set list with Mustang Sally and Sweet Home Alabama and all, but most of us like to change it up a bit.

    Of course, songs being easy to learn quickly doesn't hurt when you want to have three hours' worth of music and get gigging as quickly as possible.

    My current band plays Good, and frankly I think we nail it pretty well. I've heard bands make absolute sludge out of it. We were going to have My Own Worst Enemy but dropped it, I think because too many other bands were playing it. We don't do any of the others on your list but I've played Kryptonite with other groups. Not among the ones you mentioned, we play Jenny (867-5309) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot and some others of that vintage. But we throw in some others I don't hear a lot of groups playing - Synchronicity II (Police), Godzilla (Blue Oyster Cult), etc.
  3. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    Here, it's common for cover bands to play Sweet Child Of Mine. I went to a British-themed pub once who had a band...and they were playing a folk version of that damn song.

    I think they probably chose those songs because of their ease of recognition. They probably took on the mentality of choosing songs that would be readily recognised and therefore can maintain a crowd.

    I also think it's good when cover bands branch out and do covers that aren't being done to the death, but I guess there's a line between branching out and making yourself too obscure.
  4. funkmangriff


    Dec 29, 2007
    This is exactly right. The best cover bands i see take those stereotypical cover band songs and make them their own by adding little bits, maybe extra trumpet riffs or stops or stabs, but don't take it too far away from the original. Audiences like to see their favorite songs freshened up.

    I LOVE playing songs that are easy to learn! I feel cocky sometimes on stage when im playing a really simple song and everyones loving it! Its a win/win situation for me and the audience.

    I have seen bands who play easy songs and you can see it in their faces that they hate playing it because its 'easy' and everybody plays it. And i hate that. Theres nothing more lazy or egotistical. And they always look like jerks. Its the easy songs that you get to relax on stage and have a good time, boogey a lil and smile for the audience!

    Sorry about the rant at the end! :hyper:
  5. HROd, fun you mention Synchronicity II, my drummer really wanted us to play that and we said ok, we go out the next week to a benefit and one of the biggest bands in the area plays it. I say we better find another Police tune.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Thank God all these cover bands play the same stuff so I don't have a lot of song learning to do when I get called for sub work ;)
  7. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Inactive

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    IMO, picking songs based on how easy/hard they are to learn is a complete rookie move. Some of the songs we play are easy, but they are songs that people want to hear.
  8. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Inactive

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    I could use a sub occasionally Jimmy. There's $150 in it for ya.;)

    Please brush up on your AIC. :D
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hotel and plane fare included?

  10. The majority of pop rock radio tunes are 3-4 chords. We do probably 80% of these easy tunes and 20% of things like Sultans of Swing, Dancing in the Moonlight, Superstition, etc. Not the 3-4 chord typical structure. People like these easy tunes.
  11. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Inactive

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    I can send a kid in a 71' coupe Deville down there to get you, you can crash on my couch and my wife is an excellent cook. :)
  12. OP- You live in central Florida, you know the market. Most cover bands play some of the songs you listed because they always work here. My band plays 3 of the songs you listed, and if we don't somebody(or several people) will request them. Most of the club owners around here don't realize that it is just as important(probably more important actually) to bring in new patrons than to keep the regulars happy. If the regulars want certain songs, you need to play them if you want to be back. We're always trying to add newer different things, but certain songs have to be played no matter what.
  13. jarrydee


    Oct 22, 2011
    +1..we play a few of the standard bar tunes but try to add some that other bands dont play. we do hang on sloopy and brown eyed girl but, we also play "I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in" and a few others that are rarely herd. You have to balance it out, we do 4 sets and depending on the crowed we mix it all up.
  14. Keithwah


    Jan 7, 2011
    Milwaukee WI
    Here is why this happens to all of us in cover bands. The audience are f*cking lemmings.

    Since the advent of cable tv, game boys, satellite radio, iPads, smart phones...free wifi...people had only three TV channels and PBS. Entertainment options at home were very limited. We used to go out to see live bands everywhere. If your bar didn't have a live band...we went to the next one that did. While we like to hear familiar music, we became bored with the same bands playing the same sounds.

    We wanted to hear unique to prevent boredom. This was fine because musicians wanted to write their own music anyway. So we started to shun bands playing cover music and seek out new and original thought and music. And it was good (sometimes..face it a bad song is a bad song). Then the late 70's hit and so did disco. Finally instead of asking the band to play brown eye girl and having the original band tell them to bugger off, they could ask a DJ to play the one song they think they can dance to or liked. And the DJ would play it. And then cable TV and video games came about. More people staying home for entertainment, when they would come out, the original bands didn't play any songs the cute mindless girls wanted to dance to (I mean it was like so totally...) and so the girls would go back to the dance club where they heard the same damn songs over and over and over.

    Soon enough, original thought and music died in the live market unless you wanted to play for free or in a buddies basement. The only live bands that got booked performed the live function of the DJ. They don't want to think provocative thought. They want to hear Dancing Queen. And if not...they'll snugglemuffin...sorry tweet their BFF's and it's onto the disco or the bar where the band plays all the same crap all the other bands play. In the meantime men have become so self absorbed in staying home and watching videos, porn, video games, or staying out of jail due to previous DUI's.

    I urge you younger players to fight this dilemma and malaise. It's fine to play music people know. But just as they remember brown eye girl (hey what does that song title really refer to anyway? Is it a girl with brown eyes or a girl's brown eye...dunno), the people also remember things like "Last Train to Clarksville" or instead of Play that Funky Music, why not Clarence Carter's "Strokin" , instead of Sweet Home, why not Werewolves of London...sorry same song nevermind. But you get the idea, their are millions of hit songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's that people really do recognize and would love to dance to. But too many guys and booking agents insist that you play the same sh*t-sandwich every other popular circuit band does or they can't get you gigs.

    That is another big problem. The buttwipe booking agents and buyers.

    I've always believed in listing on my promo that I do any and every song you they think I'm supposed to. And I never play them. Instead I play things like "Do You Feel Like We Do" by Frampton, "Fred Bear and Stranglehold" by Teddy, play the unexpected, but still highly dance-able songs. And don't let them fool you, they love to grind to Strangelhold, they don't want to admit their bad girl side, but enough booze and they become pole dancers during that undulating groove.

    In general, I think you get the idea. Look at the Billboard top 200 songs for any given year during music's golden era of the 50's-80's. Their was so much great music by people you have and haven't heard of, but if it was on the Billboard charts, they remember it. Give them some alternatives in the exact same genres and they will come.
  15. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    There's always that balance; on the one hand you don't want to be like every other band, but, you want to play tunes that people know and like. There's a reason why certain songs get played over and over: because people like them.

    I'd actually prefer playing some tunes that I like less but know the audience will enjoy, as long as the whole repertoire doesn't consist of songs I hate.
  16. dvh

    dvh Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Well, the title is "Brown Eyed Girl"
  17. Dantreige


    Oct 22, 2009
    Wow! Keithwah, I'm not sure I should agree with you or not. You made some great points but also stabbed your audience in the eye! Holy crap! Anyhooooo.....

    People like songs they know. It's not a crime. Nor is it a crime to play a song they know if they ask for it. People will remember you (and appreciate you more) for giving them what they wanted.

    My suggestion is to have Brown Eyed Girl, Jenny, Sweet Home Alabama, etc. available to play. You don't have to play them every night. Switch it up! Better yet, do something special with those songs. Why not arrange a mash up of a few of those songs?

    Examples of what we do:

    Sweet Home Alabama: Two guitar players to start the song, half way through, one guitar player switches to keys. People love it.

    Sweet Emotion: Guitar players #1 uses a voice hose at the end of the song. There is a breakdown and he will do some Frampton lines and other voice hose stuff from other songs. He will also personalize what he does for the venue or occasion. People are entranced by this. We then will go into Bon Jovi, It's my life. That song uses the VH too. Classic song into a "newer" song. (Chicks like Bon Jovi, if you did not know.)

    Mountain Music: Guitar player breaks out the fiddle for the ending. People freak!

    East Bound and Down (Smokey and the Bandit Theme): Learned this for a wedding recently. The groom has a huge collection of cars. A Trans Am is one. We told him we could not do that song because it had banjo in it. He freaked whe we played it at the wedding and had a banjo! We had to play it more then once. ;) The second time, he parked his trans am next to the stage and rev'ed the engine. (We were outdoors at his home.) That song went on the "permanent" list and we get a lot of compliments on it.

    I could go on, but the point is, do whatever you do well, and give them what they want. Don't be afraid to change keys or try something a bit different with the songs. Make it cool, and make it your own!

    Good luck!
  18. Agreed, to some extent. Some songs may require different instrumentation or whatever that your band doesn't have. However, just not playing a song because it's too hard speaks poorly of the quality of the band.

    There's a million different cover bands, and a million different reasons that they play the songs that they play. The good bands don't factor in how hard it is to play.
  19. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    ^ This.

    Of course, for the good bands, there are very few pop or rock tunes that are difficult to play. That said, a song won't become a pop/rock bar band standard unless it's easy enough for most bar bands to play--and a lot of bar cover bands aren't very good (yet).
  20. Ditto, in my market. I have a main project, and 3 sub gigs.

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