Performing Covers Vs Performing Original Music


Most musicians and those in the music industry will be aware of the fact that playing in a 'covers' band is more profitable at a local level than playing your own music. But is this really the way it should be?

The majority of pubs and bars would rather pay to have bands that perform covers of older songs rather than their own original songs. This is simply because they know that people will come along to the pub to sing along and dance to songs that they know. This way they stay in the pub, buy drinks and talk about how great the pub is because it has covers bands playing there. They don't care who the band are as long as they play songs they know.

There are quite a number of bands who make a decent living from covering other bands and musicians work either under their own band name, covering a few different band's music or the specialist bands that only cover one band or artist's music with the aim to emulate them. The second type of band really can live off performing covers, but only if they are really good at copying the sound, look and stage presence of the band they are covering.

This way of booking covers bands is not a good thing for those bands who want people to hear their own original music.

Specialised 'music venues' and dive bars really are the only way for bands that play their own music to get heard. The sad demise in these kinds of venues is killing off the opportunity for new bands and destroying the local music scene.
Just in Kent, UK we have had several music pubs/small music venues close down over the last few years, mainly due to noise complaints from local residents. Which has meant that there has been gradually less and less places for unknown, new bands and musicians to play.
Without these small venues, there will be no new music getting to the public.

But there are two very effective way for new bands to start to get noticed at a local level.
The first way only applies if you have a lot of money or a benefactor who can pay for promotion on a large scale. This is a very rare way to do it.

The main way is the hard way and requires you to work for your money and fame.
Start as a covers band but with your own band name, play a mix of covers at as many gigs at as many local pubs and bars as you can then start introducing one of your own songs into the setlist at each gig.
I have seen and heard this happen a great number of times. The people at the bar enjoying and dancing away to your cover of Guns 'n' Roses (for example), will usually continue dancing away to one of your own written songs as long as you put it into your set near the end of the night and it fits in the genre of the covers you are playing.

The plan then is to gradually add more of your own songs in your setlist over time and when you get booked, tell them that you play covers but with a few of your own. Most pub owners won't mind but you will get the odd ones that will demand that you just play covers. Don't let that get you down, you will still be paid and that money can always go towards promotion of your own music or even recording studio time.

Just keep plugging on, playing gigs and adding a few of your own songs until you get to the point of a venue calling you to book and you can tell them "we play our own music and it's awesome" and they book you to play a gig with all of your own music. Onwards and upwards from then on.

With playing covers gigs, the rate of pay will always be higher at a local level and you can invest as much of that money as you can into the band by recording songs, making music videos (even self-produced videos and be great) and promoting, you will see that people get to know that you play awesome music that you wrote and composed yourselves.
The idea is to promote, promote, promote! Get your band's name known, try to go viral with a logo, get as many people watching your music videos and ultimately, buying your music.
Start with digital downloads (find the free or cheapest hosts.... not iTunes) then once there is cash in the pot, produce hard copies.
Some bands I know have produced twelve inch vinyl and even cassette tapes. These are great as novelty items to promote yourselves but could you have spent that money on something else?
Every band is different as each person in a band will have their own ideas.

I only urge you to work together on your own band's plan for World Domination!

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