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  • Covers or originals?

    Me? Both.

    I've been in 2 completely original bands, and a bunch of cover bands.

    Here's what I've learned:

    1. Original bands don't make much money compared to cover bands.

    2. The original gigs are more of a pain because there are usually 2 to 4 bands on a given night, and all of them have egos because they're "about to be signed".

    3. I've seen more original bands that suck than cover bands that suck. Why? When you play covers, you pick the best of the songwriters. Most local original bands are lucky to have 2 or 3 decent songs.

    4. I always see much more crowd response in a cover band. Face it, most bar patrons are there to have a good time with pals, not to focus on original music. unless they happen to be a musician - then they just stand in the back telling everyone who'll listen how they can do it better.

    5. Cover bands have the opportunity to play multiple times in a month. Most original bands are lucky to get 2 gigs a month.

    I absolutely love the process of writing. I also love performing original tunes. But now I only throw in a couple in with the covers that we do. I like to play, and I like to get paid to play. So, I use the original music to satisfy my need to create at home and in the studio, and use the cover gig at the clubs to satisfy my need to perform while getting paid to do so.

    Having been in both situations (originals for much longer than covers), and for all the reasons I've listed, I've come to prefer to do primarily covers with a few originals thrown in. And for the life of me, I can't understand why so many original guys have a superiority complex! Good music is good music, regardless of who wrote it.
    Shovelhead

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  • #2
    This is the basic question for all who labor in musical pursuits.

    For me, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

    It depends on what the band is trying to achieve...are they wanting to be a club band, or are they more into doing shows with other bands on the bill? Or a little of both, perhaps?

    Side projects can help with this. Say you've just joined a great moneymaking band in town...all covers. Have another project on the side that does originals. Heck, even famous players do this. Suppose for example that I was a hired guitarist for some big act...say (just for argument's sake) Sting or someone. Playing that gig would be sort of akin to playing in a cover band that covered all Sting tunes. It's his show, not mine. To get my ya-yas out though, I have a side project that highlights my own songwriting. The violin player from the Dave Matthews Band, for example, does this, as well as I think the drummer...Carter Beauford, did a project with Victor Wooten.

    But, thinking a bit further, and getting back down to earth...covers have a great advantage in hooking people in to your band. People like familiarity...and cover tunes provide that. Doesn't have to be all of either.
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    • #3
      Perform recitals where all you play is Bach, Mozart and other Dead White Males.

      Does this fall under 'cover'?
      When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will post in Open Jam.

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      • #4
        I'd say that's a yes, Johnny. As a matter of fact, I'll go one further...in that famous artists that go on tour playing their old hits are in effect "covering their own material". That's what audiences want to hear. If you go to hear, say, the Stones...and they only play stuff off their latest CD, there'll be a lot of pissed off fans who came to hear, say, "Brown Sugar", for example. Perhaps most true of "franchise" acts, who have none of the original members, or maybe only one, but are touring with the original name, such as "The Platters", or the current lineup of "The Temptations".
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        • #5
          Originals only here 15 years...........

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Shovelhead

            And for the life of me, I can't understand why so many original guys have a superiority complex! Good music is good music, regardless of who wrote it.


            I grant you that there are a lot of really crappy original acts out there with musicians that have more ambition then talent. But it's much harder to write a set of good tunes than it is to just play a set of other peoples good tunes. That's why original guys have a superiority complex, it's because they're superior! (At least when they don't competely suck).

            I like playing cover tunes, that's why I get together with some friends every other weekend and jam on covers. It's good for my chops, it helps me work out technical ideas with my gear, and it's great fun. I've done cover gig's, I got paid and it was a goof, but I can't relagate myself to being a dedicated cover band guy.

            When it comes to preforming live, I'd rather play original material, I've got some good songs, I've got something to say, and it's just a lot cooler to do. I know it's gonna piss some people off to say it, but doing covers live just seems a little lame to me.
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            • #7
              What I tend to see in original bands are people who will write music THEY want to hear, but don't really think much about what other people want to hear. So they end up alienating their fanbase before they create it. WIth a cover band, you usually do it the other way around. So of course it's going to be more successful.

              Another issue seems to be the lack of originality of original music. At least around my area there are 2 kinds of original bands: metal and death metal. I can't remember the last time I saw just a regular original rock band or any other type of band for that matter.

              People need to realize that someone is going to be listening to your music, so you need to cater to that. Too many people label that as "selling out." But if no one wants to hear your music, then you're better off playing in your bedroom.

              I'd much rather see an awesome original band than an awesome cover band, but sadly I haven't seen one in years. That's why most clubs in CT refuse to book original bands. But because of the dominance of cover bands, alot of clubs are starting to stop having bands altogether because every band ends up sounding the same. They may as well just have a DJ that's cheaper.
              CT/MA Music - A Site For Connecticut & Western Mass Bands/Musicians/Fans

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Shovelhead
                Me? Both.

                I've been in 2 completely original bands, and a bunch of cover bands.

                Here's what I've learned:

                1. Original bands don't make much money compared to cover bands.

                2. The original gigs are more of a pain because there are usually 2 to 4 bands on a given night, and all of them have egos because they're "about to be signed".

                3. I've seen more original bands that suck than cover bands that suck. Why? When you play covers, you pick the best of the songwriters. Most local original bands are lucky to have 2 or 3 decent songs.

                4. I always see much more crowd response in a cover band. Face it, most bar patrons are there to have a good time with pals, not to focus on original music. unless they happen to be a musician - then they just stand in the back telling everyone who'll listen how they can do it better.

                5. Cover bands have the opportunity to play multiple times in a month. Most original bands are lucky to get 2 gigs a month.

                I absolutely love the process of writing. I also love performing original tunes. But now I only throw in a couple in with the covers that we do. I like to play, and I like to get paid to play. So, I use the original music to satisfy my need to create at home and in the studio, and use the cover gig at the clubs to satisfy my need to perform while getting paid to do so.

                Having been in both situations (originals for much longer than covers), and for all the reasons I've listed, I've come to prefer to do primarily covers with a few originals thrown in. And for the life of me, I can't understand why so many original guys have a superiority complex! Good music is good music, regardless of who wrote it.


                Excellent post!

                I've been in both originals and covers bands. I love both. Each has its challenges.

                Right now (for the past 3 years) I've been playing in a covers-bar band.

                For 15 years before that I was playing originals.

                Before that I was playing covers.

                Before that I was learning how to play by copying covers.

                Before that Dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

                Syko Holiday.com

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Shovelhead
                  Me? Both.

                  I've been in 2 completely original bands, and a bunch of cover bands.

                  Here's what I've learned:

                  1. Original bands don't make much money compared to cover bands.

                  2. The original gigs are more of a pain because there are usually 2 to 4 bands on a given night, and all of them have egos because they're "about to be signed".

                  3. I've seen more original bands that suck than cover bands that suck. Why? When you play covers, you pick the best of the songwriters. Most local original bands are lucky to have 2 or 3 decent songs.

                  4. I always see much more crowd response in a cover band. Face it, most bar patrons are there to have a good time with pals, not to focus on original music. unless they happen to be a musician - then they just stand in the back telling everyone who'll listen how they can do it better.

                  5. Cover bands have the opportunity to play multiple times in a month. Most original bands are lucky to get 2 gigs a month.

                  I absolutely love the process of writing. I also love performing original tunes. But now I only throw in a couple in with the covers that we do. I like to play, and I like to get paid to play. So, I use the original music to satisfy my need to create at home and in the studio, and use the cover gig at the clubs to satisfy my need to perform while getting paid to do so.

                  Having been in both situations (originals for much longer than covers), and for all the reasons I've listed, I've come to prefer to do primarily covers with a few originals thrown in. And for the life of me, I can't understand why so many original guys have a superiority complex! Good music is good music, regardless of who wrote it.

                  Heya Shovelhead(You Into Harleys??)
                  You prettwell nailed it with your post. Its been the other way around for me though. Mostly cover bands and a couple of original bands. Never made a cent with the original bands.

                  I guess I been "selling out" most of my musical life. It has helped pay the bills and has paid for all of my gear. That being said, I just about orgasm when some one comments positively about one of the many original tunes Ive recorded.

                  Doing strictly originals is a tuff road to hoe and the chances of commercial success has the same odds as a winning lottery ticket,...... unfortunatly.
                  I have experienced the 'Superior" attitude from a few guys but they were the ones that sucked. THe real good original guys/gals are usually pretty positive, around here anyways, as they realize "word of mouth" advertising can help or hurt bigtime depending on their attitude.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by fastplant

                    Another issue seems to be the lack of originality of original music. At least around my area there are 2 kinds of original bands: metal and death metal. I can't remember the last time I saw just a regular original rock band or any other type of band for that matter.


                    amen to that. And most of these bands can't write a hook to save their lives.

                    That said, I totally respect original music and do some writing myself. But I don't respect people who bash cover bands. I am content to do covers as a hobby and treat it as it is. As long as said cover bands don't have attitudes/act like they are rockstars, I think you should give them respect. It is what it is.

                    And for those who think it's "sad" or whatever, I would contend that it's equally sad for a bunch of guys in their 30's thinking they will "make it" as an original band.
                    Smirkin' jocks with hackysacks in Birkenstocks and khaki slacks.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Shovelhead
                      Me? Both.

                      I've been in 2 completely original bands, and a bunch of cover bands.

                      Here's what I've learned:

                      1. Original bands don't make much money compared to cover bands.

                      2. The original gigs are more of a pain because there are usually 2 to 4 bands on a given night, and all of them have egos because they're "about to be signed".

                      3. I've seen more original bands that suck than cover bands that suck. Why? When you play covers, you pick the best of the songwriters. Most local original bands are lucky to have 2 or 3 decent songs.

                      4. I always see much more crowd response in a cover band. Face it, most bar patrons are there to have a good time with pals, not to focus on original music. unless they happen to be a musician - then they just stand in the back telling everyone who'll listen how they can do it better.

                      5. Cover bands have the opportunity to play multiple times in a month. Most original bands are lucky to get 2 gigs a month.

                      I absolutely love the process of writing. I also love performing original tunes. But now I only throw in a couple in with the covers that we do. I like to play, and I like to get paid to play. So, I use the original music to satisfy my need to create at home and in the studio, and use the cover gig at the clubs to satisfy my need to perform while getting paid to do so.

                      Having been in both situations (originals for much longer than covers), and for all the reasons I've listed, I've come to prefer to do primarily covers with a few originals thrown in. And for the life of me, I can't understand why so many original guys have a superiority complex! Good music is good music, regardless of who wrote it.



                      Exactly! I've found that a ratio of 1/3 originals to 2/3 good covers works out great!
                      God(s) bless the rest of the world(s), too

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by worthyjoe


                        amen to that. And most of these bands can't write a hook to save their lives.

                        That said, I totally respect original music and do some writing myself. But I don't respect people who bash cover bands. I am content to do covers as a hobby and treat it as it is. As long as said cover bands don't have attitudes/act like they are rockstars, I think you should give them respect. It is what it is.

                        And for those who think it's "sad" or whatever, I would contend that it's equally sad for a bunch of guys in their 30's thinking they will "make it" as an original band.


                        I don't think it's as "sad" as it was in say the early 90's/80's. There's alot more "older" people being signed nowadays. Although, I do tend to see alot of older guys (30's/40's) still with the long hair and rocking out carbon-copy Dokken ripoffs and assuming they're going to be the next Dio. That's a little sad in my opinion. You have to change with the times at least a little. But if you're good, you can easily be signed at an older age.

                        That said, my intention with original music is more for myself. I just want to get out there once in a while and play songs I wrote for people. I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that I'm going to "make it." I just want to enjoy playing my music to people.
                        CT/MA Music - A Site For Connecticut & Western Mass Bands/Musicians/Fans

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by fastplant
                          What I tend to see in original bands are people who will write music THEY want to hear, but don't really think much about what other people want to hear. So they end up alienating their fanbase before they create it. WIth a cover band, you usually do it the other way around. So of course it's going to be more successful.


                          Yes, that seems to be the mentality now on both sides.

                          Trouble is... do you think all those covers that everyone now wants to hear, were originally written with "what other people want to hear" in mind? Some of 'em, no doubt. Others were just a couple of guys in a bedroom writing what they wanted to write. Of course, for every one of those guys there are thousands more who write what they want to write but nobody wants to hear it. And there are also people who do consider "what other people want to hear" when they write, and STILL nobody wants to hear it , or they just come up with formulaic drivel.

                          That's the trouble: real art comes from within, and there's really no telling what's going to catch on with the public. It's a crapshoot. That shouldn't stop anybody from doing it and they don't suck for trying, even if we might think the results suck.

                          On the flip side, cover bands were different at one time too. I've been in cover bands that made good money and we didn't have to play the same tired covers all the time. We could, again, play what we liked and enjoyed playing, and throw in some originals too. Now the big money cover gigs come from agencies who have strictly regimented playlists just like radio does.

                          I think the bottom line is that audiences are much less open to new things than they ever used to be. They want to hear what they expect to hear and little more. It doesn't occur to them that somebody might have written a better song than "Freebird" by now. And at the same time, the marketing aspects of music (both original and cover) has been refined to such an artform that there are tons of bands running around doing nothing but catering to a market demographic instead of creating music.

                          I think original and cover bands both have their place, and my band does cover gigs sometimes to finance some of our other projects, but I think the potential for lameness on both sides has gone way, way up in the last few years.
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                          • #14
                            I currently play in a cover band, mostly because we're having so much fun we just can't stop! We play almost every weekend, everywhere across the province, in front of young people, old people, drunk people, ugly people. Our mix of classic and hard rock, with some metal sprinkled on seems to work pretty much everywhere we play. We always have a blast, make enough money to pay for our "more than we need" equipment, travel, meet people.

                            Yet I long for some original material. I love songwriting and I've been doing it since I got my first electric guitar at 12. Problem is, we gig so often, we don't have the time to write songs (when you're gone whole weekend at a time, your family wants you at home during the week!). So I'm torn: do I quit the cover act and risk never making it with my own stuff, or abandon the rock star ambition and keep having a blast as long as it lasts? I could never find another band like the one I play in, we're just not your typical cover band...

                            Ah well, at least in the meantime I'm getting lots of stage experience. I just hope this will come handy one day!
                            What is this sorcery?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by fastplant
                              Another issue seems to be the lack of originality of original music.

                              This touches on my pet peeve: In today's popular music, is lead guitar dead? Or are the musicians simply incapable of playing an interesting lead?

                              Think of the recognized "guitar heros" and they're almost all from long ago - Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Allman, Gilmore, Santana, Gibbons, Schon, etc. They have their roots in the 60s, and 70s. Even Steve Vai and Steve Morse come out of the blues tradition, although they've definitely transcended it.

                              Nowadays when I hear a popular artist, the traditional "lead break" is nothing more than a rhythmic section with few single notes, but rarely any melody. Most bands seem to know how to play downstroke chords, and that's all. I call them the Quarter-Note Kids, because it seems all they can play is a downstroke on the beat. Anybody ever hear of syncopation?

                              I'm not asking in this thread for more people to listen to - although I'm always looking - I just don't understand why popular music shows such limited musicianship and gets away with it.
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