Login or Sign Up
Welcome, !
Join the HC Newsletter
Subscribe Now!

They play different songs...but also play by different rules


‘The Gig Kahuna’

by David Himes


My writings are aimed mostly at local and aspiring bands and artists that want to do all-originals. But those of you in cover bands might also pick up a few tidbits that could help you out.

As I’ve stated before, much of what I say might anger you and particularly, upset cover bands. So I’d like to point out the differences between cover bands and original artists, before those of you in cover bands get your shnizzle in a tizzle. What we’re talking is two completely different games that are played by two very different sets of rules.


Cover Bands

Cover bands generally play for a built-in audience of some sort. Whether clubs, wedding receptions, conventions, house gigs or whatever, cover bands are typically hired to entertain people who will already be at whatever event. They usually bring their own PA, lighting, etc. Many cover bands play a “circuit,” usually in a region, depending on where you are. But there’s also the “weekend warrior” type of cover band. Like big-name artists, there are certain psychological elements taking place in what makes the cover scene tick.


Regardless of musical style, people who go to cover clubs do so because they expect to hear music they recognize. Like concerts with big-name artists, people will come out for cover bands in faith they’ll hear the music they know and love. Those of you cover musicians are correct about your logic of providing a service and expecting to be paid for it, assuming you don’t suck. But with original bands and artists, it’s a different story—a much different story.


Before getting into the realm of original bands, I’d like to make one more point about cover bands and clubs. There are also what I’ll refer to as “hybrid” bands. By this, I mean bands that do covers and originals. This game is played a little differently, depending on what part of the country you’re in. While still doing mostly covers, these bands also do a few originals. They might throw an original or two in each set, or maybe even an entire set of originals. They usually sell a CD of their originals at their gigs. This is actually a good strategy. It makes the band much tighter, makes them better musicians, and gives the original side of them good exposure. It also keeps the band working constantly.


Original Bands

For some reason, most original bands and artists think that what applies to cover bands also applies to them. Wrong. Dead wrong. Too many bands think it’s the venue’s job to get the crowd in, and book you to entertain them. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way with original bands.


If you’re playing originals, there’s pretty much no such thing as a built-in crowd and even if there were, if that particular crowd doesn’t like your style of music, it’s a safe bet they’ll be out the door in no time. They will also get bored because they’re not hearing anything they recognize, and clear out.


This doesn’t mean the majority of people are morons because they’re not supporting you. It’s just basic psychology. Most people have a very short attention span, and are simply not interested in unknown artists. Bottom line: Unless you have good, strong material that will grab them, strong delivery and an overall strong show, a built-in crowd will do you little or no good, as they will more than likely clear out.


Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first to say there’s a lot of good talent out there, and it really is sad that a lot of people are missing out on some good bands and artists of all musical styles. The problem is reaching those people who like whatever musical style it is you’re playing. And nobody is going to do that for you. NOBODY.


The Real Service You’re Performing

Some of you might be familiar with “business after hours” or business networking events. This is where someone organizes a bunch of local business people to gather at a venue such as a restaurant/bar to interact and mingle, hopefully resulting in business relationships with other business people.


Chances are your local chamber of commerce puts on such events. But usually, there’s someone who builds a database of local business people, plans and promotes the event, and puts it in a restaurant/bar, usually on an off-evening. They usually charge a cover to get in, offer free snacks or possibly a buffet (from the restaurant), and maybe even get the restaurant to pay a fee.


If the terms are right with both parties, most restaurant/bars will gladly host this type of event—especially on an off-evening. This is because the organizer is bringing a sizable crowd into the establishment, which of course is always welcome.


“So what does this have to do with my band,” you might be asking? This is the service you, as an original band, need to perform. Except the difference is substitute the “business after-hours people” with your fan base. Did I mention you will need a fan base to get anywhere in the music scene? So your job is to put your fans in the venues you play—the more the better.


This also holds true with mid to big-name artists. The difference is you, on a local or maybe regional level, are working on a smaller scale.


The more fans you have, the less you will “get screwed,” the more welcome you will be at the venues, and the more you’ll be able to call the shots—provided you play your cards right. And by “fans,” I mean people who will come out to see YOU—not the other bands or anyone else who happens to be there.


David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.

Join the discussion...
Post Comment
Larry Jones  |  August 15, 2015 at 10:26 pm
I don't know where you are, but if you are playing clubs in Southern California everybody, including cover bands, is expected to bring their own crowd, preferably made up of heavy drinkers. Of course this doesn't apply to weddings and private parties, but in commercial venues the owner feels it is the entertainer's responsibility to fill the seats.
Bluecifer  |  August 08, 2015 at 8:18 am
saturn1  |  August 06, 2015 at 5:31 pm
This seems pretty accurate to me.  I might expand the definition of a 'hybrid' band to include a band that mixes their original music with their own arrangements or versions of cover tunes in a style that fits.  Playing songs that people know in a personal style can help bridge the gap.  I would suspect, though, that your rules for original bands are probably more applicable to this type of hybrid.  There are definitely fewer people who seek out new music than there are those who prefer the familiar.  I am lucky to live in a city that has a number of venues that support original/hybrid acts in a variety of genres.  Nice article.
Reply   |  1 Reply
More Cool Stuff
  ZAOR Studio Furniture furthers MIZA range reach with MkII modification...
Earthquaker Devices Aqueduct Vibrato Can this vibrato pedal quench your thirst?...
sign in
contact us
*Indicates required fields
Name *
Email Address *
Issue Type *
please wait