The Introvert Musician

Playing Other People's Music

The Case For Covers

 

The Case For Covers

I feel as though this article is long overdue to be written. Written by someone, anyone. Seriously, if you know of where someone else has written a version of it please feel free to drop me a link at nickyp@theintrovertmusician.com.
I’ve been more than happy to collect money playing cover songs  as far back as I can remember. Unfortunately, there is a fairly vocal subset of musicians who choose to denigrate people, for choosing to play music for economic reasons. Reactions range from the tepid “whatever floats your boat, I could never do it” to the Absolutely ignorant “you’re not a real musician.”  One of my best friends and my daughters godfather is of the former camp. (If you ever really wanna pick on him he plays bass in a Greatful Dead tribute…so much “I could never do it.”) He still complains about it. Have a few minutes to break away from whatever guitar tab you were researching on ultimate-guitar.com, or the tutorial you were checking out on YouTube? Hang with me a little longer while I lay out what I think is an airtight defense of performing cover songs.

 

Who Needs Observing?

Since I’m asking you to step out of your comfort zone I’m gonna try to make it easy-peasy. To do that, lets begin by isolating the groups people are going to fall into and what those groups want. We can then use this information to make better professional decisions.

1. The Audience
2. The Customer
3. The Competition 

You Have A Better Part Time Job?

Just think about it. You work hard at your day job but need a little extra bread. Time to get a part time job. Obviously the best choice is to go spend you’re time as a cashier or in a factory. Wait, those gigs don’t sound like fun? They’ve never sounded fun to me either. If given a choice of assembly line manufacturing or playing guitar, I know which way I’m going. In the mental battle over singing songs versus being held up at gunpoint working late night at the GetGo, there is a clear winner.
So, don’t think of it as a creative outlet at all times. Think of it as a skill that few people have which can be monetized fairly easily. I promise it’s like getting paid to rehearse, sometimes while drinking. I can vouch, it’s far more lucrative and far superior to picking dirty diapers and chaw spit out of the returned bottles and cans at the redemption center.

Practice Shmactice

Don’t spend enough time on your instrument and not making gains in the skill department as fast as you’d like? I hinted at it earlier but more performing is never going to make you play worse. Barring arthritis I suppose. Regular gigging is a great way to get an extra six hours of paid time getting more comfortable with your instrument. The material you learn is a great way to build learning new skills into your daily routine. I don’t know about you but most other life hacks don’t pay as well.

 

How Much Are You Networking?

I know I’ve spent a lot of time at this front end talking about money. Maybe it’s Because I’m a dad concerned about providing for my daughter. But financial reasons are hardly all there is to be gained with playing cover gigs. Arguably the connections you make are even more important.
Fist, there’s the other musicians you’re going to meet. Even better than mere “Musicians,” you get vetted, capable musicians. No more random craigslist ads where Johnny-never-touch-my-axe is the guy who shows up to jam. Imagine the time you no longer waste on bad craigslist meetups. Unless drinking beer accomplishing nothing is your thing, by all means have at it.
Another useful part is that you often don’t need to go out of your way at all to bring new musicians into you’re circle. Being on stage being your badass self is the best advertisement for your skills and style as a musician and performer. People will inevitably find you and desire to work with you.
This says nothing of the relationships you will build with venues and bookers. Having helped a place successfully make money is a great way to get better opportunities out of them for other projects. Not all venues is this a given but I promise people talk and having a reputation as being successful will never close doors for you. It might however open some.

Still Playing To Empty Rooms?

Building off the networking premise, what better advertising is there than the conversations people liking your cover band can bring. I rarely play to empty rooms and it’s nothing to suggest an upcoming original gig on stage or during a between set conversation. It’s not a hundred percent but when you build a following, those diehards eventually buy into you as a performer. Take advantage of this interest and try to build up that original following you really want. Not to sound like a broken record but…get paid while doing it?

What Kinda Fan Are You Anyway?

Maybe it’s just me but I consider myself a fan first and foremost. I love music and even when I’m performing music that I’m not personally a fan of, I’m still in love with the performance. Being a part of making music and bringing it to an appreciative audience is absolutely a reward in and of itself.
During the course of researching and learning new material i’ve even stumbled upon songs and bands i’d otherwise have been blind to. Quite seriously I might never have known the dearth’s of The Guess Who/Randy Bachman’s catalogue and contributions. Finding new music I can love is worth a Lady Gaga song or two that I got paid to play either way.

Artistic Vision In A Vacuum

I had a conversation recently with a musician friend of mine. We were lamenting how so many of our musician friends have really stopped listening to music since the advent of podcasts. People across the board are listening to less music, time is just scarce. It seems counterproductive to make that even worse and to use artistry as an excuse is even worse.
I’m not sure where this idea of “artistic vision” took on an anti-appreciation tone. I can’t possibly understand why not knowing what’s going on in music around you is useful. Even if you want to be subversive, you can’t subvert what you don’t know is happening. Moreover the expanded sonic palate you’ll have at your creative disposal by both listening and performing is unparalleled. 

A First Class Education In People

One last point I want to make. People are the lifeblood of Music. They’re also the life blood of life. Understanding their motivations and desires is great for both personal and creative reasons. The more audiences you perform in front of and get to witness, the more adept at communicating you will inevitably be. Be it trying to meet women, asking your boss at your dayjob for a raise or crafting the next great American song, your chances of success only improve with how intuitive you are. I can’t express the personal growth my performance business has brought me. I’m certain it can do this for you as well.

 

What To Take Away!

I’m not saying I’m right…clearly objective fact is saying I’m correct. I kid. Perhaps performing cover songs isn’t for everyone. If it genuinely impedes your artistic vision, I’m terribly sorry for you. Hopefully I’ve laid out for those on the fence a solid justification for how performing in a cover band can be lucrative, fun and a great place to grow as both a person and musician. 
If you’re interested in growing or starting your own career side hustle in performance and want to cut out a lot of the “paying dues” I offer Mentoring & have a 6-week Overnight Pro Bootcamp under construction currently. If you’re cool where you’re at, awesome. 
Go forth to peace, gigs and prosperity.
Nicky P
The Introvert Musician