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So Ya Wanna Start A Band? Pt 3

John Welch
Sep 18, 2016


Well, what about song selection. Do you want to be in a cover band, a tribute band or an original band? It may seem simple but the answer to this question will vastly influence the type of gigs at your disposal. Think about it: nobody wants an AC/DC tribute band to play for their daughter’s wedding. There is an art to tailoring your band’s repertoire to specific opportunities. If you wish to be hirable in a variety of situations then you need to have a playlist that reflects variety and malleability, and you need to be able to adjust to your audience on the fly. Each type of band represents different levels of utility to potential employers (frequency and rate); that is an important consideration.

If you want to work a lot, consider being in a cover band. Playing covers means that your setlist needs to reflect your intended audience’s taste. We all know those songs: Brown-Eyed Girl, Sweet Home Alabama, Hands to Yourself, Play that Funky Music, etc. Sure, we’re sick of these songs, but their enduring appeal makes them obvious choices for successful song lists. Remember, the object of a cover band is to appeal to the broadest audience. A band that can pull this off is the easiest to employ.

If you and your band are uberfans of some particular band or performer, consider being in a tribute band. Tribute bands have been around for ages: think about how many Elvis tribute projects are out there. Typically a setlist would be made up of all the hits and some album cuts from one band/performer with some other artists’ hits from the same era (if necessary). A band has to be able to more closely emulate their chosen artist; audiences of a tribute band will expect accurate performances of their favorite tunes. A good tribute band has the potential to earn more money per gig than a regular cover band but they have to travel further in order to work as steadily. Some cover bands have a tribute band component as a side project.

If you wish to go your own way and play original material, know that the risk/reward ratio is much greater. Certainly, cover and tribute bands play other artists’ original material; but it is proven material. For every successful artist (by any definition of success), there are thousands of wannabees. Talent, artistry, motivation, savvy, and skill will not guarantee success, but the lack of anything can kill it. I know that many of the names we know once had to suffer through audience disinterest and employer hatred. I also know that long before many artists were well known, they honed their skills in cover bands; learning the good and the bad of other artists’ songs. Original bands must engender a following for people to want to employ them; no club will want them unless they can bring an audience. Sadly, this is why many good original bands end up in ”pay-to-play” and “showcase” situations.

Have a direction in your setlist. Understand that you will have to play material that you don’t prefer in order to be more employable. Also understand that lesser known material is more likely to limit your audience. You need to have fun in your music and achieve a balance in your song choices if you want to play somewhere other than your practice room.