“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
So I have been rattling on and on about how cover bands are a customer service business and that people’s opinions matter and I stand by that assertion. People typically support the things they like and they already know what those things are.
Sometimes though people don’t know what they want until someone shows them that they may like it. Innovation and creativity are still out there in this market and there’s plenty of untapped concepts to be marketed.
My first foray into professional cover bands was my stint as a fill-in vocalist for Yacht Rock Revue. If you haven’t heard of them or the concept it’s because they invented it.
Basically, there was a funny mockumentary web series about how Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, etc wrote all of their hits back in the late 70’s & 80’s. The guys in an original band called YOU (you should seriously check their stuff out) had a residency at a local club and did a one-off gig as a joke and played a bunch of smooth 70’s easy listening songs.
That joke turned into a standing room-only phenomenon and these guys quit their day jobs and now travel the world playing this music. They got so popular that they made another band, Yacht Rock Schooner to keep up with demand.
There are now probably hundreds of copy-cat acts around the country. 8 years ago this kind of band didn’t exist.
Another great example is Mac Sabbath: I can’t even explain what they do you just have to watch this.
if that’s not an original concept, I don’t know what is.
I have not had the “lighting in a bottle” idea yet like these guys have. They went for something and it paid off in big ways. You have to be willing to try new things and fail or you may never get out of the rut you may find yourself in.
As an active member of the cover band community I see people pontificating about the kind of music they play a lot. The general gist (I’m paraphrasing from a post I saw this week) is that they play the music they want to play and that the audience is merely invited to their self-indulgent wank-fest. If you are in the cover market and this is your approach you will not last. Actually, you will most certainly fail. Here’s why:
After the demise of my original band I got together with some slamming musicians and put a group together that was going to do things differently. We decided we were going to be a band that played covers of songs that other bands didn’t cover. Instead of playing the big hits we’d do the other songs that were popular but not as obvious. This was easily the best band I had ever played in and we were a force to be reckoned with. We named the band “Jukebox Zero” and thought we were the smartest guys in the room.
We started gigging out and within a year it was over. Bookings dried up and we were done. It had nothing to do with how good we were. It had everything to do with our arrogant mindset that we didn’t need to conform to the whims of the bars we were playing at.
In case it hasn’t been brought to your attention, live bands are in the customer service industry. Your customers are the venues/events you play and their patrons/guests. Your ability to make money is solely based on your ability to satisfy those customers. If you are unwilling or unable to change your approach to meet those needs you will fail as a business. Period.
Does that mean you have to be one of those “Mustang Sally” bands? Not at all. There is plenty of business to go around and plenty of music to fill out a night. But if you do not consider what is viable in your market when creating a band or a song list you are not doing yourself any favors.
Being in a cover band isn’t about you. You are a vessel to deliver a service. Unless you are the songwriter there are plenty of people in the world to do what you are doing. I have no illusions of my role or ability. I am actually actively looking to replace myself in every band I play in.
If you want to succeed, you may want to put your theory classes to bed and start using all the business courses you took instead. But thats for another post….
Adam and Dan play in bands. They're pretty good.