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Need Opinions- Go More Genre Specific (Cover Band)?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BayStateBass, Jun 3, 2014.


  1. So here's a question, hoping to get some input. Here's kinda where I'm at; my band has been moderately successful, at least locally. We've played all over Massachusetts and into New Hampshire. Most places have been repeat venues. We are a cover band, some of you are kinda familiar with what we do based on some of my posts here. Like a lot of bands, we have our ups and downs, but mostly ups. We're that typical weekend bar band that pulls down your average $400 paycheck for a night. Give or take a little either way. We recently got a new singer, which is driving us in a different direction. Not a bad thing. But, up until now, we've been that band that does your typical classic rock (with some 80's, 90's, etc.), mostly those crowd pleasers (you know the ones). Although our fans do seem to like us, we're looking at changing up some of what we do. Hoping to become more popular and set ourselves apart from others in our area a little bit more, 'cause there's a few guys going what we do.

    Because of our age, our musical tastes, abilities, etc...we generally do our best work covering 80's and 90's hair metal. You know, Motley Crue, Poison, Faster Pussycat, etc. We always wanted to do more of it, but lacked a vocalist with that kind of range. Now, we have one. In fact, it's what he's best at. Ironically, years ago he used to hang around with (and sing shows with) Gary Cherone from Extreme (they lived in the same town, he knew them when they were "The Dream"). I'm kinda excited about going in this direction, I think there's a market for it. Hair metal type "stripper songs", everyone knows them. Girls love them. Especially in the places we play.

    Our drummer disagrees. He feels that now that we have a good singer with range, we need to diversify our setlists even more, and go with what he considers "classier" music. Go with Journey, Funkytown, other pop-rock hits of the 80's, more like what a wedding band would do. Go with more of those "couples songs", and he wants to do more ballads and "pretty music". As it stands now, we do such an eclectic mix and I think it actually does hurt us, some. What's the first question we get asked? "What kind of music do you guys do?" Right now, it's hard to answer, going from "Sharp Dressed Man" to "She Hates Me" to "Gold On The Ceiling" to "Money For Nothing" to "Crazy Train" to "Last Kiss", etc....

    I know, lengthy. Basically, as a cover band, do you find audiences are more likely to enjoy what you do if it's more genre-centric, or more diverse? I've primarily played in genre-specific bands before, this is my first (successful) time playing in a band that does such an eclectic mix of tunes across so many decades, so many styles.

    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  2. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    My first question is what direction does the singer want to go? I would lean with the singer's answer as he is the guy that can make or break you. He has got to be in to it.
     
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Two questions:

    1. As last poster said, what does the singer want to do? A really good singer is rare, and he had to come into the band with expectations.

    2. What is it you want to do? If you want to go more of the wedding circuit, listen to your drummer. Otherwise, you said what you are doing is working. If not, I think those are too played, and I would try your own niche in the direction you are looking.

    Figure out what places you want to play more of, and hit them up. Check out the other bands, and see their play lists.
     
    Winfred likes this.
  4. Well, we talked last night. He is a big believer in doing what you do well. He has expressed some reservation about some of our existing stuff, knowing it doesn't fit into his wheelhouse very well vocally. When we ran through Panama and Talk Dirty To Me, he pulled them off easily and was very comfortable, they were keepers on the first run through and we could take them out tomorrow. He also likes to do the Bon Jovi stuff. Basically, if he can do something that works for him, he's into it. It could be Journey, it could be Queen, but he's told us he can do Poison and Motley Crue all night and he's good with that. But he's really not saying exactly what he wants to do, just happy that we're looking at stuff that his range is more suited for.
     

  5. Yeah, I'm sure he did....but he isn't all that forthcoming with them. He was primarily an original band singer, but got tired of never getting paid and never getting booked. He's come over to the dark side, and been pretty open to doing anything that he can sing well, as long as it fits into his ability range. He seems to be most excited when we do those 80's/90's tunes, but he's real hard to read. And usually just says "hey, whatever you guys need me to do, I'll do it".

    As far as play lists, when compared to others in the area that kinda do what we do, there isn't much variation. Some. We do some tunes that are more difficult, mostly for our guitarist, and some that none of the local bands here want to touch for some reason (maybe the songs suck, or maybe they're a little hard to pull off). But overall, musically, we're not much different. Maybe slightly better than some of them are, but not very different.
     
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Again, unless you want to head for the wedding circuit, those tunes mentioned by the drummer seem tame and played. I think some hair tunes would work.

    Question - does the drummer want to play those songs, or does he just think it is what the audience wants to hear? Play what you like - it makes a difference.

    Again, no one says you have to to a whole set makeover - do a few and see how they play to the crowd.
     
    Winfred likes this.
  7. It's a good question. The drummer has a ton of experience doing mostly GB work and a large number of weddings. The band that he worked with for about 10 years was primarily a pop/top 40 band doing functions, corporate events, and weddings. They also did clubs, but those clubs catered to higher end couples and dance music, places that favored top 40 and whatever was current at the time. This was primarily in the 80's and 90's. He loves those songs like Love Shack, Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, etc.... He primarily made a living off doing the type of stuff a GB band does. He's great at what he does, but as he got older, the opportunities for playing in a rock band became less and less as he aged. We hired him because he has an amazing skill set and he also sings lead, if needed. Plus, he's dead reliable, 100% professional, and does all his homework. You can lean on him during a gig and he will never let you down.

    I think it's what the drummer wants to play, really. And somehow he thinks it will make us a "higher class" band. But it's not the crowds we play to. For example, our last gig we cranked out Man In The Box, and did it well. We had a few girls in the audience that screamed for more Alice In Chains. One even went so far as to say "Don't be a p*$$y!!! Give us more Alice In Chains!!!!". But we don't have any more. Those are the crowds we play to. Your typical drunkards. People that want to flail around and stick the fists up in the air and maybe fall down on the dance floor. The drummer is coming from a background where the band would get $1500-2500 for a wedding and they might play "Butterfly Kisses".

    My band was formed, originally, by the guitarist. I am not an original member, I replaced his #1 guy who eventually bowed out due to problems with prescription painkillers. He was actually a much better player than me, I think. I've heard his recordings and seen him play and I know he's better than I am. The band took on a name change with the new members and kept plugging along. The drummer came after me, replacing the one who preceded him and was fired/let go because he was a drama king and lacked motivation. Singers have come and gone. But in the end, it's the guitarist's band, always was. The original idea, and the one that has been consistent, was that the band was a loud, "in your face" party rock band. We all knew it coming in, Pete was totally upfront with that. And it's always been a band that focused on showcasing his skills, which are quite formidable, but was waiting for a good singer (which has finally happened). We have a fairly good number of people who come out just to hear him play, honestly. The rest of us are almost "support staff". The band always struggled with finding a good singer. Some came, some went, but mostly they were saddled with mediocre vocalists who could do the job, barely. Now we have a singer who is really, really good.

    For myself, I'm more than happy to do the stuff the guitarist wants to do. It's in my wheelhouse and I could play it all night long and be happy with it
     
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    You have to get together and decide together. I always be,ieve that unless you are in a bandleader/hired gun situation, decisions should be made as a group.

    Not only do you have to decide what new songs you are going to do, but whether you are going to work new ones in slowly, ordrop out of gigging yntil you have a whole new set list, and change your target venues (and pay scale).
     
  9. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    How long does it take the band to learn songs? Are the players older guys who already know hundreds of songs?

    It never hurts to have a (much) bigger songbook than you need for any one gig, so I don't see the harm in knowing tunes that can cover GB gigs (although even there you can go light on the ballads and heavier on dance songs). But its a bad idea to break out wedding band tunes in a hair metal bar.
     
  10. The group is well experienced and we typically get a song down in one rehearsal, then take it out. Helps that we all do our work at home. For a real difficult song, or something really unfamiliar, it might get work in two rehearsals, then it goes out. Sometimes, for those "well known" songs it goes out cold, no rehearsals. Depends. But never more than two rehearsals on a song we decided to play. We'll try a song, play through it twice, and if it doesn't click or work, we dump it. At times we have added as many as 3 new songs in a week, depending on difficulty.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  11. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    So you could add 50-150 songs this year. If at least half of those were in genres other than 80's/90's hair metal, you could still increase your songbook for your core gigs while becoming able to book a wider range of gigs and expanding your potential audience.
     
    BayStateBass likes this.
  12. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
    I would not do this unless I had my heart set on being a wedding band.

    And I don't.

    Doing this would make me quit. Having this suggested to me would make me start looking for drummers.
     
  13. FerruleCat

    FerruleCat

    Mar 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    Every scene is different, but my sister's bar band is having good success in the Tulsa market with a fairly diverse setlist. Their overall presentation is a friendly, rowdy-but-nice party vibe, and they have some supremely cool fans and good relations with good venues (bookings out to next March). The lead man is a huge fan of 80s hair bands like Poison and Crue, but their setlist is considerably more diverse than that, including everything from Neil Diamond to Prince to Violent Femmes. Their big thing is audience engagement, so maybe it's not a matter of thinking in terms of genres, but of choosing songs that they know will support that approach. (What do "Sweet Caroline" and "You Shook Me All Night Long" have in common?) The personality of the band probably matters as much as anything else, so maybe that's a good angle for discussion. Check it out: http://www.octaneblue.com/index.php/music
     
  14. This sounds similar to what we have been doing up until now, actually using the same type of formula. We've been moderately successful (in the local scene) and have gigs booked into the fall at this point. All of the places are return venues, except one. We use that same rowdy-but-nice vibe concept. I think part of what's going on is myself and the guitarist (and the band) grabbed some low-hanging fruit, music-wise, to have a longer list of songs, quicker. Now we're finding that there's a desire to change things up some and try to add some cooler tunes that might be a little more difficult, but will sit well with our audience. We've been trying to take note of what songs we do that people react to the most, in a positive way, and it usually comes back to our hair metal stuff, or even songs that were "metal forefathers".

    I'll have to see where all this goes....for myself, I'm perfectly happy doing hard rock and 80's hair music. It's what I grew up on and actually I still enjoy it. I don't wanna be doing Love Shack or anything by Steely Dan. I think a lot is going to happen in the next couple weeks, hopefully it'll all be good. We just added Panama (with our guitarist going Eruption as an intro), Talk Dirty To Me, Cherry Pie, and Smooth Up In Ya. Had to run through them with a drum backing track because the drummer is on vacation this week.
     
  15. skwee

    skwee

    Apr 2, 2010
    Minneapolis
    My gut reaction is that even Motley Crue covered Jailhouse Rock, and White Lion topped the original Radar Love by light years. If I was in your band, I'd keep the core of your music the same as you have been doing, but add a few songs in new directions (in other words: if you can do Panama, do it, but don't lose Funky Town). I feel that if you go only hair band, you'll restrict yourselves a little too much. Granted, you can still dance to Nothing but a Good time, and it's good to have a moody set in there when you want the room to cool down long enough for people to buy drinks and keep the club owner happy!
     
  16. aggrokragg

    aggrokragg

    Dec 18, 2013
    CT
    Agree with all above you should make it a group decision. It sounds like you guys have a lineup that could really gel properly and work out. I think if you're not planning on wedding and corporate gigs, then play to your audience at the bar (and what makes you guys happy).

    My suggestion is delve a littler deeper into the repertoires of the bands you're already covering based on audience reaction to your existing material. If your fans like Alice in Chains then add a more low-key AIC song like "Down in a Hole" or "Nutshell", which any fan of that band would recognize. Or maybe something like Queensryche that'll be more "ballad-y" for your drummer while you still get to do some technical rocking-out.

    I think if you guys are getting a good draw some careful song choice could make everyone involved happy and not limit you into that "big fish/small pond" scenario where you're worried about experimenting with your set lists for fear of alienating your audience.
     
  17. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    diversity pays. The singer needs to stretch his ablilities.
     
  18. Kragnorak

    Kragnorak

    Sep 20, 2008
    I always push diversity. If it was my band I'd want to pick songs that both the singer and drummer want to do, but I'd try to steer each of them away from doing songs that are likely to be perceived as lame. My current cover band started out just doing thrash metal and Iron Maiden covers, but we gradually started working songs in from different ends of the spectrum, like classic rock stuff going back to the early '70s or modern hard rock tunes. Now we gear the sets so that they ramp up with the heavier music at the end of the night and it keeps people in the bar until closing time and gets them going crazy. But if we were playing "Damage Inc" at the beginning of the first set it would scare some people away and we'd have nowhere to go as far as set momentum goes.
     
  19. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    Do songs that women like! Forget about the ''hardtails!"
     
  20. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    You'll make more money playing "wedding band" music, to be sure.
    Look, if you're a cover band playing hair-metal, you must like it. Why would you WANT to be a wedding band?
     

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