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.