The Cover/Tribute Band Conundrum
Let me start by saying that I can understand why many musicians choose to start, join, promote, and play in cover and/or tribute bands. While some do it for the fun of it, many, if not most do it for the cash. Cash is King? A good combination; Fun & Cash.. I understand ;)... And I'm not talking about the hard working original acts who throw in a few covers to appease what we know. Not that cover/tribute bands don't work hard, I'm sure they do.
Simply put, most musicians who choose music as a profession count on making money when they perform, and this is one of the best ways to do it. Of course, bars and clubs also demand that bands draw a plentiful crowd, and that has many writing musicians putting songs they have written in the bucket of lost songs, to instead play the role of the coin operated jukebox.
In my opinion this is doing musicians and the local music scene a disservice. Not only are you caving in and playing covers for money, you are supporting the creation of a cover/tribute band scene. If you truly cared about supporting a local music scene you wouldn't be promoting cover and/or tribute bands. Oh yeah, fun & cash, who can resist? When people tell me they are in a cover band, I always say, like a Wedding Band?
Is it Really Paying Tribute?
We all want to pay our respects to those artists who came before us, but isn’t it just a bit hypocritical to play cover songs while never sending a dime to the original artist? And if you’re making money from it, aren’t you merely exploiting the original artist’s success for your own gain?
Imagine if I took a very popular book that made millions of dollars and copied it word for word as best I could, then passed this off as a tribute to the original writer—and then made a profit? Would this be acceptable? And finally, if you’re playing to a crowd built from the popularity of another artist, aren’t you merely taking the easy road out? You know these aren't your songs, right?
The Cost to Creativity
Saturation and accessibility to all forms of art is at its highest peak and for this very reason, song writing and creativity is more important than ever. The artists that I grew up with—those that pulled me in and inspired me—embraced their own unique rock charisma well before they became popular. They lived the lifestyle that they wrote and sang about. To me, music encompasses the stories of the artist in his or her own time period, expressed with both attitude and sound. We still need that. We need today’s musicians to perform the truth as they know it. Instead, we’re losing creativity to the path of least resistance.
I absolutely love going into a musicians home and/or getting out of the traditional studio environment and recording. I've recorded in extremely well thought out studios to garages next to lawn mowers with absolutely no thought to sound control at all. Professional studios spend thousands of dollars on room sound and dynamics so why would I ever want to record at someone's house? Well, costs might be obvious but the reason for me is that I find I get a different energy relating to the musicians performance and the overall experience. Most studios charge by the day or hour. If you're fortunate enough to own a studio or have endless time in one then that's different. For most of us we are on the clock in a strange environment and need to perform relatively quickly. Not very conducive to capturing that "magic" :-). Take away the hustle and bustle of it all and you are already in a better place mentally. Some musicians just feel more comfortable and relaxed in a familiar environment. Maybe a room they have their morning coffee in and reflect with their instrument of choice. Or a place that's filled with warm memories. Or even the room the idea was formed. Recording where the song was created has an interesting connection for me and just maybe it does for the artist as well. So does all that touchy feely' stuff really matter?? And like most everything, that's subjective. For me it matters if the song matters to the artist and they have an interest in creating a connection and memory of not only what the song is about, but where and how it was recorded. If capturing your idea is viewed as more of an adventure then say, a let's just get this done attitude, then yes I think it does matter. And with today's recording technology you are not losing much, if anything at all with regards to the recorded signal. Obviously the room plays a major role of the sound for mic'd instruments but it all depends on what you are trying to capture. Long end of it all is that Portable Professional Recording is a viable option and can really bring out more than you might think, plus it various moments to the journey!!