The wonderful thing about asking a single question of our core writing team is that I never know what I am going to get back and this month’s little poser certainly surprised me. Let me first elaborate on what the full question was that I asked. Tribute bands (or Shows) vs. Cover bands. When is a band deemed to be honouring the original, and when is it just using someone else’s fame and/or creativity to get gigs?
So let’s agree to disagree…
Now if the opinions of seven music journalists are anything to go by, cover bands are not held in particularly high esteem. In fact the general consensus, I’m sure you’ll agree, was quite unforgiving. So let me be the voice of [at least some] reason.
When I was a teenager I was already crazy about music, making mixtapes all the time and generally collecting as much new stuff as I could get my mitts on. I was kinda like the go-to guy at school when somebody wanted to know more about certain bands, artists, genres, etc. Every now and then I’d call my dad to my room and play him something ‘new’ that I had. An artist/band that I thought was flippin’ awesome and that I thought he’d appreciate for the musicality and originality. So often he’d reply ‘not bad, but I’ve heard it before,’ to which I’d exasperate ‘how could you have heard it before? This is a brand new band. This is their first album!’ He’d simply say ‘yeah but they sound just like XYZ band from the 60’s [or 70’s or whatever] – it’s nothing new.’ Can you imagine how crushed I felt? I thought I was being a tastemaker here, introducing my pops to some new and awesome tuneage! The point here is that being hung up on originality is a bit of an illusion. Everybody takes from somebody, whether you are writing your own ‘original music’ or whether you are playing someone else’s compositions. The day one picks up a guitar or sits in front of a piano you start to copy and emulate those before you.
Now I can already hear the counter argument; ‘but Dave at least the original musician has expressed his/her own creativity.’ So, what, you can’t be creative playing someone else’s guitar riff or singing someone else’s song? Tell that to the most famous of all the blues musicians for the last century. They made a living playing standards borne from songs sung in the cotton fields!
The reality is that music is NOT a competitive sport. It’s an expression of creativity, one that can and may be done in several ways, including forming a band and playing covers. So why hate on guys who do it? It’s a funny paradox since we’re moving into an era where the DJ is becoming the new rockstar, yet they make part of their living out of playing other people’s music – and all they have to do is press play on a CD player and control a couple of volume sliders and EQ knobs!
The bottom line is musicians who play in cover bands don’t do so because they’re lazy or un-creative or anything else like that. They do so because they love music and love playing their instrument. This is what music is about; expressing one’s joy for it, as a musician, as a DJ, as a listener or whatever. We all find our niche.
Let’s not forget that life itself is serious already. Music needn’t be, not on an intellectual level anyway. Some sucks, some doesn’t. Some cover bands can be loads of fun, some are just plain shite. But on a personal note, give me a decent cover band at a restaurant or pub over crappy hi-fi speakers (blaring out some insipid lounge CD on repeat), any day.
We all have our place in music if we want it. You just need to find yours and be comfortable with it. Oh, and ignore the haters!
“Nothing new under the sun” hold true for music, too. The crux of the conflict lies in quality and creativity. If a cover adds to the original, it gets my vote.
Cover bands or tribute bands are super lame and cheesier than Nik Naks. It’s the musical equivalent of dressing up in a Batman suit and pretending to be the real deal – and we all know, there is only one Batman. Write original music or GTFO.
Cover bands are relevant because theatre would crumble and die without the spoon-feeding acts that keep their doors open. This fodder allows them to hopefully host the more interesting gigs that can’t promise a great turn out. As long as there are unimaginative people, there will be a need for cover bands. Interpretations of other artists’ music? Everything is interpretation and that will always be relevant.
Cover bands. They play at weddings right? I heard the question and struggled to think of the name of one. After feeling slightly self conscious at not being able to recall, I realised, wait, does anybody even care?
Cover bands suck ass. Just putting that out there. Unless you’re 17 years old and in one, and you guys are still arguing over whether to call yourselves 17 Brute Eyeballs or Megalohomonym, you know this to be true. Tribute bands. Mmm. They’re mildly redeemed by having the decency to fixate on one band/artist. In the end at least they’re a wayward species of fan. But to each his ‘groan.’
Musicians are free to choose what they want from music – self-gratification, artistic expression, easy money or a career. Sadly, playing cover versions can be more financially viable, as an audience often wants to hear that which is familiar to them. If these renditions are well–executed (and the originators get their due credit and royalties), who are we to criticize the motives behind it?
Tribute bands are there for honouring the gone but not forgotten. Respect is key. Cover bands however, as everybody should know, are not to be taken seriously – you go to have fun, and possibly get trollied. Side fact: the latter makes a lot more money than your average original band…