Here’s something to think about, and it’s not going to be something that a lot of you want to hear – but playing in a cover band can actually be sick. Not only can playing a cover band actually be sick but it can also be a tool to not just promote your own original band but to fund it. This is where the money is. I know people who play in cover bands and who get to play four or five nights a week to packed crowds with tons of beautiful people out front who are all singing along and dancing and jamming. I won’t lie – a lot of this article was inspired by my friends in The Watchers who also have a ZZ Top cover band called Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (And yes they have big beards). They have turned their cover band into a profitable enterprise that only serves to grow their brand and let more people get to know you as a musician.
Of course the common complaint here is that you don’t feel as creatively fulfilled when you play in a cover band. I don’t really see how this is the case unless you are completely close minded. There are a ton of known musicians who love to play covers because it fulfills them in a very different way – it gives them a chance to not just bring their own touch to songs they love, it gives them a chance to perform. There are dudes I know in prog bands that are relatively small name, but that’s okay because they turn around and play in an Iron Maiden cover band that tears the roof off to hundreds of people ever night they go out and perform. Think about that. Your shitty band you’re trying to grow probably only draws a few dozen people at best. Any way you slice it that limits your ability as a performer. You need to learn these things. There’s a reason the people who play in cover bands end up better performers for their original bands.
This ties into another aspect of this whole thing. Performing is fucking fun. Having a ton of people dancing and rocking in front of your band is a blast. You need to counterbalance it with other stuff for sure, but it’s a blast. Not only that but the odds are if you’re playing in a cover band you’re going to be paying at least a few songs you love. If you go out and play some guitar in a wild ass glam metal cover band then you can bet your ass not only will people love it but you’ll get to lay down a few wicked solos, shout along to rocking choruses and generally have the time of your life. Why would you want to dip out of that? Sometimes it’s okay to admit that we are playing music just to have a good time and maximizing the good times sometimes is fine. I never got that stigma around having fun. Just go out and do it!
Of course, on a more direct level – doing this can promote your own band. Tim Narducci of The Watchers says of his cover band Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, ““Beer Drinkers is a tribute to the mighty ZZ Top. We focus mainly on the early years of the band. Killer riffs, great songs and magical guitar playing…ZZ has influenced some of the biggest stoner rock/Stoner metal bands out there today. This makes for a nice introduction to our original band The Watchers. Though we are a bit different stylistically, That common thread, the power of the riff is universal and crosses over to many who come to see both bands.” In short – people are going to realize who you are as a musician and will already be impressed with your skills. Not only that but you will have more people to potentially directly interface with. If you interface with more people then the odds are going to be raised that you find potential fans of your band. You are going to boost sales and see your original project having the ability to take on new heights.
Most tangibly though we gotta talk about the financial benefit that being in a cover band can have. Most folks I know in well established cover bands (And it’s not hard to become a well established cover band) walk home with at least a hundred bucks each a night – and that’s just for rocking and rolling to a packed house! Doesn’t that seem like a good time to you? There are a ton of ways to monetize too. Not only do cover bands frequently have the ability to pack a venue on their own, but there is of course the ability to double down with doing wedding and corporate gigs. Those corporate gigs especially have ridiculous budgets and if you can figure out a way to break into it it can be a great way to fund your band.
So it’s not a blow to your pride. You’re not selling out, and you’re not selling yourself short. In fact you are doing something that allows you to better fulfill your dream and have a good time while doing it. I mean what better way to find the money for your band than to play your favorite songs by your favorite artists? It’s a good time and not always something that people are willing to consider. But when you sit down and think about the real benefits it’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of doing a few covers here and there. It’s just a question of being willing to embrace what you have. This is a beautiful world with great opportunities for you to satisfy your dreams – so fucking seize them.