The Power of Cover: Are Tribute Bands Overrated?


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Why do we go to live music tribute shows? We do we fork out – almost the same monetary equivalent of that as an original act – our hard-earned money to sit and listen to a mildly generic and a poorly modified version of a band we actually like?

If we loved that band so much, we would go above and beyond to obtain gig tickets for that actual band, right? Of course, there’s complications that arise with this one. Many bands don’t exist anymore as collectives and so tribute acts are the closest thing to seeing the real thing. Of course, I get that whole-heartedly.

Now, this may be coming from a wealth of experience seeing shoddy remakes of tribute bands, but I have never seen a tribute act that has blown me away and I’ve sat there thinking to myself, “damn, that’s impressive.” Which to me, is a real shame. Either weak vocalisation or misshapen band set-up leading to a wall of noise are often the most common factors to tribute travesty.

But the underlying problem with that is, do we need to? This snobby expectation we get from ourselves is perhaps expecting it will be in any way like the real thing. Hence why we’re all left disappointed well in actuality – we should really just enjoy the celebration of a band that everyone loves in that room. Even if it’s just for a few hours. Above all, it’s a truly fantastic sight to see where both musician and fan are the same person – and there’s no stage between them. Then, it becomes just an extravagant karaoke sing-along to those songs we have all loved and enjoyed over the years.

Also, there’s been moments where tribute bands have been operating far too close to the truth. There has been many occasions where the original artist or band have actively sued the tribute band for copying their get-up so much that fans were purchasing tickets for the tribute act – under the presumption that it was tickets for the original songwriter. Obviously, this lies a bit down to the management teams and of course, the dense consumer fan-base that aren’t doing their research properly, but it makes me wonder if the original musicians and artists themselves appreciate tribute acts and what they’re about, or if they think they’re money-sucking leeches into someone else’s creativity too. Many artists have publicly honoured their tribute counterparts for the work they do and inspire, while others .. well others sue.

Of course however, the names that tribute acts associated themselves with are simply fabulous. The likes of Antarctic Monkeys, Lez Zeppelin and Blobbie Williams spring to mind on this subject. We also have the likes of Fell Out Boy and The Black Charade who we saw last night at the 02 Academy Leicester. There’s a real sense of creativity, passion and admiration for some of the greatest tribute acts in the world. It’s completely shoddy and lazy to earn a reputation and money off of someone else’s musicianship, in my humble opinion, but it’s fun in every sense of the word, above all else, right?

Either way, let me know your thoughts on cover bands, tribute acts or anything “COPYCATS” below and we can have a good old natter (or argument if we butt heads…)

5 responses to “The Power of Cover: Are Tribute Bands Overrated?”

  1. Crandew avatar

    I’ve never sought out tribute bands, but I have shared the stage with a few really good ones. Far better than I would have expected. Overall, I prefer original bands to anything else, including cover bands.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EclecticMusicLover avatar

    I have very mixed feelings on this issue, and I agree with your assessment of the conundrum: “It’s completely shoddy and lazy to earn a reputation and money off of someone else’s musicianship… but it’s fun in every sense of the word.”

    Personally, I would never seek out or pay to see a tribute band or act, however, a friend treated me to a David Bowie tribute act a few years ago that consisted of three different musicians who sang songs from different phases in Bowie’s long and storied career. And crazy as it sounds, it actually worked pretty well. Only the guy performing the songs from Bowie’s glam Ziggy Stardust period made a real attempt to not only sound like him, but also dress and look like him. However, the other two performers made more of an effort to capture the essence of the song stylings, rather than Bowie’s look, which also worked out well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. manvmusic avatar

      There certainly is some hidden gems among the tribute act community, with none other than the likes of your Bowie counterparts you’re discussing here! I think, above all else, it’s a fantastic night out sharing the vocals with like-minded individuals who just love the same music as you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew avatar

    In my neck of the woods, tribute bands play in tiny bars. The price at the door is more than affordable. I think there is a place for them in the live circuit. We get the odd licensed tribute band play, like Australian Pink Floyd. The atmosphere is almost always one of a karaoke night. While the real thing is always better, some people just don’t want to pay for the real thing. It almost becomes a brand thing, a la coke versus no name cola. There’s also the fact that the original bands are skipping over so many places. Where I am, lots of bigger names will skip my city altogether. If I’m unable to get to other cities to see them play, a tribute is a decent facsimile. It fills a need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. manvmusic avatar

      Oh yeah absolutely, very similar to my hometown setup too, actually. I hadn’t thought of availability for tribute acts like that. Performing to local audiences where the real artists would miss altogether. Thanks for sharing, Andrew!


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