Run For Cover
“No self-respecting musician should play covers”.
An ill-conceived but popular opinion shared for the most part by those who play only original material.
To make-it in music nowadays you need a gimmick, a tiny amount of talent, an unfair share of good looks and more cash than it takes to buy a modest apartment on the French Riviera. If you fall short on these criteria then your only hope is the musical-mass-meat-grinder of Reality TV, where you’ll most likely become just another pop-puppet, ridiculed as you desperately grasp for those precious 15 minutes a fame.
While we should have nothing but big respect for anyone with the balls to stand in front of a crowd and play the audience something they’ve likely never heard before, it’s a notoriously tough sell in this modern saturated market.
“I’m not looking for acceptance!” says the budding hipster diva, but If that were so you wouldn’t have cut the umbilical cord to GarageBand and ventured out of your bedroom.
So, you’ve had a fancy promotional photo shoot. Recorded, mixed, mastered and released your EP on all the music network sites you can find or afford and now you’re looking to build up a buzz for your masterpiece with some live shows. You need to understand first and foremost that it takes a level of commitment from the audience, and if they don’t like you as an artist then you might as well pack-up and go back to your day job. Unless your genre is Classical or Jazz then you can’t expect the punters to simply turn up and listen, you need to put on a show. That’s a whole other subject but the important ingredients are charisma and audience engagement. An easy way to engage is to give them something familiar, this is where the cover song can prove an indispensable tool in the arsenal. Think of it as a musical lubricant…
I can appreciate that playing covers may seem like one step up from the club DJ with his finger on the play button, but it really couldn’t be further from it. Learning to play an established artists music helps to shape your own playing and writing style. Choose your cover songs wisely, how and where in the set you place them and they’ll provide the elevated platform for introducing your own material.
If all you do is play covers then there should be no shame in that either. Maybe you’ve tried and been disheartened by the industry or you can simply admit that your composition skills aren’t ground-breaking. If you play covers well and you’re in demand, then it’s not about ripping-off popular songs. You put a little of yourself into those songs, you’ve put just as much effort into rehearsing, just as much money into equipment, just as much sweat into performing and you’re helping make people happy which is what music should be about when all is said and done.