Playing Cover Music Vs. Playing Original Music Part 3

The differences between playing in a cover band versus playing in an original band become very apparent when it comes to playing gigs.

Shufflin' Noah - Making Original Music Since The Mid 90's
Shufflin' Noah - Making Original Music Since The Mid 90's

   This is the 3rd and final (for now) part of my take on playing cover music versus playing original music in a live band. I’ve written two previous posts on this topic titled Playing Cover Music Vs. Playing Original Music Part1 and Part 2. I’ve played in live bands for 27 years and I’ve played original music as well as cover music the entire time. I have a unique perspective about playing both types of gigs. Today I’m going to talk about the difference between playing in an Original Music band and a Cover Band.

   The biggest differences between playing in a cover band vs. playing in an original band become glaringly apparent when it comes to gigs. I have to say that playing original music gigs can be either the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. Playing cover music gigs are much more consistent as long as your band plays the songs well. Let me explain what I mean.   

   When you play an original music gig you usually won’t have a pre-determined payment amount for the gig. You will usually play for a percentage of what the club makes from the cover charge at the door. The reason for this is because most clubs that feature original music don’t have a regular crowd that comes to every show. Each original music band brings their own crowd to their shows. So if you’re band can’t pull a crowd, you will play for free and play for nobody. As I said, the lowest of lows. Even lower is when you have to pay the club a fee to be able to play there and you can’t get anybody to show up. This all comes with the territory when you’re playing original music and you should read my article “How To Get People To Come To Your Shows“.

   As for playing cover music gigs, you will usually be playing in clubs that have a regular crowd that goes to the club every weekend because the club has established a reputation for bringing in good bands that play music people want to hear every weekend. You just have to be a good enough band to get booked into these clubs. When your cover band is starting out you may play in some new clubs that are trying to get established and you may run into the “bring your own crowd to get paid” obstacle but you won’t be stuck in these clubs for long.

   The biggest advantage of playing cover music gigs is the fact that they will come with pre-determined, guaranteed payment and an established crowd to hear your band. You can have a long career as a musician getting regular, paying gigs playing cover music. But, you will peak out at some point and you most likely will not be able to reach world fame and unlimited riches.

   The are several reasons why playing your own original music is so attractive. First of all, you can get away with a lot less playing ability since you can totally play to your strengths when playing original music. I love playing my own music because I can simply do what I do best. Another reason for playing your original music is the fact that you are creating and saying something that is all your own. Finally, when you play original music you have the best chance to achieve worldwide fame and get all the riches and perks that go along with it!

   You must remember though, that 9 out of 10 bands fail to ever achieve worldwide fame or the riches that go along with it. Still, there is a certain satisfaction looking back on a career of making original music. I have a rather large library of music that I’ve written and recorded. It’s priceless to me, my family and my small group of fans. I have also played to crowds of thousands and crowds of ones playing original music. That’s why I say that playing original music can bring you the highest of highs or the lowest of lows.

   Really, the best solution that I’ve found to satisfy my career as a musician is to play in both an original band and a cover band. I’ve been the happiest doing this even though it really is time consuming and a lot of work to do both. If you’re up to it, I recommend playing some cover gigs for the money, the recognition and the increase in your playing skill level. Then use that cash to build your original music career. That’s what I’ve done and it’s been satisfying personally to me.

   I may never be famous but I’ve made a lot of great music over the years. I’ve had a long career and I hope to keep playing as long as I can pick up a guitar and make decent music with it. Whether you play original music or cover music, the key is to relax and have fun playing! We’re all just doing it for the girls anyway!! -Matt-

Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

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