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To all bands playing primarily ORIGINALS...help!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Steve Harris Is, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. Steve Harris Is

    Steve Harris Is

    Jul 4, 2005
    I am involved in a debate/discussion here with my fledgling band and it centers around us playing primarily covers vs. doing mainly originals.

    I started playing bass about 9 months ago, and while I feel I'm coming along and I can play about 25 songs, etc I am far from great (yet!). Anyway, the band wanted to start working on originals soon after we got together and we have put together in less than 5 months about 6-8 originals, 4 of which are recorded and all of which are pretty decent tunes, some beter than others. I really enjoy writing bass lines and recording this original stuff, however my concern is finding venues to focus on our music mainly as opposed to a heavy mix of covers.

    I live in Central CT and it's cover band nirvana here, which I DO NOT want to become on a full time basis, but I am a realist and I know so many major bands have gone the covers route initially to gain a fan base and then slowly introduced originals as a way to finally transition to those fully. My bandmates don't want to do this and I am just worried about finding places to play and building/sustaining an audience, as well as improving as a player, which I think playing covers assists in.

    How did you original bands start out? How many shos per month did you play as you began to focus on originals? Distance traveled? Advice? Thoughts?
  2. Josh Ryan

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

    Mar 24, 2001
    Drive to Western Ma and play up here.
  3. Steve Harris Is

    Steve Harris Is

    Jul 4, 2005
    My drummer always talks about Worcester but that's not WM really...where are you talking about? Any specific clubs?
  4. basspunk2005

    basspunk2005 Guest

    Jan 31, 2005
    When my band first started we used to learn a whole set by Green Day and play that and our first gig was 3 weeks after I started learning and we still at the time played really well. We didnt really do much in terms of gigging or anything for a while as it was just a side thing, but then we decided we wanted to get on and write songs and we just started by getting a riff, then saying this chord could work in the chorus moving to that. Thats it really now we have about 25-30 of our own songs and about 15-20 that get regular appearances at gigs. Just get a riff or a groove(we usually work on guitar then put everything to it) then get the others to add in, DONT make it so its all one persons work, work as a team, thats whats being in a band is al about. Teamwork:bassist:
  5. I'll tell you how we are going to do it.(I just formed a band a few weeks ago, but we are all experienced) We are going to start with covers and have 2 originals thrown in. The covers we are doing are not your common covers. We will be covering stuff like Moonbaby by Godsmack, Minerva by Deftones, Bittersweet by Fuel, etc......with a few of the more common songs like Jeremy and Outshined.
    But as we progress as a band and play more shows and get a "following" we will start throwing in more originals. Then hopefully people will start requesting them.
    You are right, cover bands are a dime a dozen, but do something different that is off the beaten path when it comes to covers. Then let it progress naturally, with a little nudge.
  6. Matt Call

    Matt Call Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    What we did was basically play originals. Then throw in one, maybe two covers.

    The thing you want to do first, is get some kind of recording of a few songs - which it sounds like you have that covered.

    Then hand out or sell them... cheap. You want to get your music out there, listened to. Then when it comes time for another show, do the same thing. After a while, you should have something of a fan base.

    Be real, and open to hanging out with people. If you have a "rockstar" mentality, people will neither want to talk with you; nor listen.
  7. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    My old band did about forty original and a dozen or so covers.

    But some of the covers were almost originals. We did 'Sweet Melissa' by the Allman Brothers twice straight through. Once was a fairly faithful rendition, up to the long rideout at the end, where we would suddenly jump to better tahn douvle tempo and change the feel from southern rock to RHCP and do the whole song again.

    And some were just for fun. When the guitarist broke a string and had to replace it in the middle of a gig, we(the keyboardist, drummer, and I) would start playing a painfully lounge-y vamp and I would sing in my best rat-pack crooner imitation voice "Here he comes. Here comes Speed Racer. He's a demon on wheels..." or I would do a solo rendition of Emily Kaitz' "The Day The Bassplayers Took Over The World":

    The day was very subtle
    Yeah, everything was low key
    And the sky, it was so overcast that you could barely see
    When everything slowed down to a slower frequency
    The day the bassplayers took over the world

    They started pouring out of orchestras
    from symphonies and bands
    and every other kind of combo that was ever know to man
    and although it was spontaneious
    you would think it was quite planned
    the day the bassplayers took over the world

    Yeah one day the bassplayers
    they decided to uprise
    they were tired of being sidemen to all those other guys
    So they kidnapped the horn section
    they put drugs in the drummers drink
    and they tied up all the guitar players with their big old flatwound strings

    And on that day the Earth it was finally set free
    all the creatures they hung out together
    and interacted fretlessly
    and the air began to vibrate
    with such a deep tonality
    the day the bassplayers took over the world.
  8. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    You'll want to be careful dealing with the cover vs. originals thing.

    First, cover bands are a dime a dozen. Yes, it's great fun to dance Friday night to "Sweet Home Alabama," but the truth is that somebody else will be in the same venue playing the same song next week, and the same crowd will be there, loving them. Probably not following you. HOWEVER, if you do have a song, even ONE song, that only you play, they'll have to follow you to hear it. We've got a couple. Most of the new fans like our "Obi Wan Kenobi" song, but our veteran fans have their own personal faves... and you know, there's nothing cooler than having people shout out requests for originals that weren't even on the set list for a show.

    Second, if you work up a reputation of being a cover band and intend to become an original band, the cover reputation will haunt you for years. Think about it. Say you book a gig next week at some frat house and play all covers. Now say next year you book the same frat house, but by now you've gone to all originals. You won't exactly be what they thought they were hiring...

    Also, it's tough to attract attention from record companies (if you're into that sort of thing) if you have a cover band rep.

    I say go all out. If you've got 8 originals, and they're GOOD, then play all 8 over the course of your set. Man, I hate bands who do an entire show of nothing but cover material and then try to pass off a CD of originals on me. Boo. Not cool.

    Fact: The bar will not know if a specific song is an original or a cover (unless, of course, you advertise it over the mic as an original). If you're playing 1 original with 6 covers of the same style, the bar will think you're just playing a cover of a song they'd never heard.

    Fact: Most of what the bar cares about is selling beer, which means getting the folks tired and thirsty. If they're making tons of money off of you every night, they don't care if you're playing covers, originals, or if you're playing the entire collection of Bach suites on nose flute.

    Now, granted, they may say "covers only" the first time you walk in the door, but they just want to stop crappy bands from wasting time with their sucky original songs. Frankly, if they know you'll bring 200 patrons into their establishment every time they book you, they'll book you - originals and all.
  9. Covers are good to make money. If you don't care about making money, play originals.

    Pretty simple IMO, lol.

    Good luck!
  10. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    99 percent of the time, originals = pay to play.

    The only problem with original bands I've seen, besides the financial aspects, is that 99 percent of them suck. Bad. Of course, the 1 percent that don't are great to see.
  11. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Play some covers - you'll know how they sound and what reaction they get compared to your originals. That's valuable information to have. It's especially fun to do covers that are "practically original" - for example, a doom metal version of "Autumn Leaves".
  12. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005

    The punk genre is wonderful about this. Theoretically you could have a punk cover band that doesn't play a single "punk" song, and instead does punk covers of non-punk songs. Would that be a cover band or an original band? Who knows? Maybe the best of both worlds?

    Heck, we give rappers credit when they sample the beat and chorus of an existing song... and all they really do is freestyle over a loop...
  13. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    My band has originals and we're almost done the full album of such, but every show we play is nearly 40-50% covers - we'll do one cover for every 1-2 originals just to keep the audience guessing and interested. Plus we have a handful of fans who are already into the originals and get psyched about them, that helps the crowd stay up for those.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    He probably means the Amherst area...lots of colleges there so lots of places to play, there aint s**t going on in Worcester despite all the colleges.

    Aha...clubs, there's the rub.

    FORGET THE CLUBS. Book your own shows. Rent out a VFW hall and a PA, maybe get another band or two to do the show with you and skip the middleman.

    PS you'll need more than 6 songs...you need 12-15 for every hour that you have to play
  15. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
    Hmmm..., I live in Southwestern CT. The live music culture here died about 20 years ago. It's tough to get work playing covers, let alone originals. Most clubs simply don't want to deal with live bands around here.

    It used to be a live music mecca around here back in the 70's and early to mid-80's. Lots of touring acts and tons of places to play. But since then, it's a tough road to take playing live music in this area. At least if you want to make any money and develop a following. Most clubs you start working at give up on live music before you can achieve either. lol... Around here, you have to travel at least an hour or two to find a decent place to play.

    Hence why all I really do now is record new music in a project studio and jam with a lot of very talented, but unable to find venues to play at, musicians in the area. lol...

    Best of luck and Have Fun!! :bassist:
  16. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    Tell you band that, in your area, you are simply going to have to mix covers and originals, if they want to play anywhere.

    Every band I have been in has had to do that. If you want to go the "originals only, always" route, you have to play bitty-little short shows in Austin, for free or practically so, until you get a following.

    Well, being a parent with a day job, I can't do that, nor can the folk I play with. So, we play the North Shore/Far North Austin/Georgetown area. Out here, you *have* to do covers if you want to capture the crowd's attention. Then you mix in your best originals, while they are listening. It works! Before long, you notice audience memers singing along with the originals.

    It helps if you can put your best recorded work on a demo cd, to either hand out in exchange for tips, or sell outright, cheaply. That gets the crowd familiar with your original songs. This really does work...you get people coming up and *asking* to hear some song or another that was on your demo cd.

    Those guys need to swallow their pride, if they want to get their originals heard by people outside their homes.

  17. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA


    And be sure to make friends with other original bands. Get gigs for them and they'll get gigs for you. Advertise, too. Put up a website. Give out your first demo free...(that's what we're doing, hell you can download it from our website). If people like your stuff, they'll follow.
  18. Play originals....covers will always be around..

    I know it can be scary if you are new to the bass, but I think it is the longer, more interesting trail to take - it's uncovered ground, and nobody knows what will happen if you take it...

    Just keep forging at it, and not only your playing, but your creativity will drastically improve as well - the inner voice that called you to play the bass in the first place.....

    Learn covers too, but don't miss an opportunity to connect with other musicians on a deeper level than refried songs(nothing wrong with them, BTW)
  19. Josh Ryan

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

    Mar 24, 2001
    Grab a Valley Advocate and look through the listings, tons of places to play in Springfield, Northampton, the areas in between.
  20. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    We did a couple of open mikes a week for a few years. I was lucky because I could get paid to run the open mikes when I felt like it. We also got gig slots with other bands about every other month or two, which was all we wanted anyway. We always got at least a 90 minute set, at open mikes we'd get 30-60 minutes usually.

    I still play open mikes whenever I feel like getting psycho. Tons of people know my songs by now and lots of 'em dig it. I've had some radio play locally, but that was only marginally helpful. Jamming with lots of other acts at open mike and sitting in elsewhere have helped to raise my profile a lot. Some of the people who come to see my jazz standards band even dig the weirdness too. Exposure in any form is good, as long as you can bring it.

    Out here jam bands get by far the most bookings. They tend to get the best of both worlds in some ways: freedom to do their own thing, but also playing recognizable, readily danceable tunes. Straight up classic rawk bands here get the dregs for gigs, for the most part. I hardly ever see a band playing contemporary rock covers here at all.

    Whatever you do, have fun and play like you mean it!