In the musician community at large, players that perform covers are kinda considered the “black sheep” of the family. Although there are thousands of musicians that play covers in one capacity or another, the practice is still somewhat frowned upon by many musicians.
Well, my friend, I’m here to tell you that playing covers is not only an admirable vocation, but also has many rewards that you may not have considered. Sure, you’re not writing your own material, and perhaps you’re not bringing anything original to the table. But you are providing a service that is always in demand, and is generally appreciated by the masses.
There is a definite art to playing covers, and the musician who puts in his (or her) best effort can certainly reap all of the rewards listed below…and then some. I’m sure you can come up with things to add to this list, but I’m also fairly certain that you’ll agree with this selection of a dozen wonderful benefits.
1. You Get to Play Music for People
The whole reason most musicians started playing an instrument or singing in the first place is because they saw or heard someone else do it, thought it was cool, and the idea of doing it, too, made them feel good.
Anytime you get up on stage, you are channeling that vision, and realizing that dream of being the one that gets to make people dance, sing, smile, have fun, and forget about their troubles. It doesn’t really matter what you’re playing when it comes down to it. If you can promote positive activity and feeling, then you’re probably already well aware that it’s its own reward.
2. You Get Paid
There aren’t too many things that you can do in this life that are fun, yet also make you money. And this doesn’t usually feel like a job, even though it is a job. Sometimes you get paid by check or are on a weekly pay schedule, but quite often, you simply get cash handed to you at the end of the night. There’s something about providing a service and being instantly compensated that is a rare, gratifying treat in life.
3. Free Drinks!
Not all musicians drink alcohol. For those that do, it’s always nice to not have to pay for it. The truth is – getting your drinks for free isn’t always an option. Sometimes you get a discount, and sometimes, in rare cases, you have to pay full price. But there will be several instances that you, as the working musician, will be able to enjoy your libation of choice without having to fork over a penny. When you consider the money you’re making in addition to what you’ve saved on adult beverages, it works out to be a pretty good deal.
4. Free Food!
If you’ve played parties and/or weddings, you know that there’s always food. Sometimes it’s even really good! And you, as the entertainment focal point, always get to partake in the available noms. I’ve even played several gigs where the host insisted that I take some food home with me. The bounty from one particular show actually kept me fed for over a week! It’s pretty common that a lot of musicians struggle with keeping food in the fridge, so free grub is always a good thing.
5. You Get to Travel
When you play in a cover band, unless you just stick to your hometown venues, you’re going to travel to places that you would never otherwise go. In some cases, you’ll actually get to see quite a bit of the world as if you were on vacation, while also getting paid for it! In all cases, you get to experience a place you barely knew existed, and enjoy the sights along the way.
6. You Get to Sleep In
Musicians are notoriously night people. If you’re working a full-time job and playing in a cover band (and especially if you have a family), a healthy slumber into the early afternoon hours is hard to come by. But if your only means of income is playing gigs, then you are among the minority of the working population that doesn’t use an alarm clock.
There’s an inherent joy that comes from waking up naturally. Musicians that play at night will generally wind down a bit after “work,” and then sleep until they’re no longer tired, with plenty of time to still get things done for the day, and go back to play again at night. It’s like every day is Saturday!
7. You Work Mostly on Weekends
Every musician likes to play with people in attendance, and the weekends are the time when most folks go out and party. Cover bands that play full-time always play on the weekends. Bands that play part-time usually play just on the weekend.
Everybody loves weekends. It’s party time, or relaxing time, or simply “I’m-glad-I’m-not-at-work” time. As a working musician, you’re lucky enough to be out and about among all of the nine-to-fivers while they let their hair down and have fun. It’s like being the host of a party in which you get to facilitate their escape – and that’s a pretty cool thing.
8. Less Traffic on the Roads
When there are a lot of cars on the road, you have a mathematically greater chance of something bad happening. When you work as a musician, you may drive on roads that are commonly traveled, but you’re in transit when other drivers are home or at work. This lessens the chance of something bad happening.
I’ve found driving home after a gig with very few cars on the road to be a peaceful, Zen-like experience that perhaps only musicians and truck drivers can appreciate. When you have nothing and nobody in your way, you feel much more of a sense of freedom, and it also serves as a fitting metaphor for your desired goals.
9. People Watching
This is a fun activity for some folks in general, but for musicians on stage, it’s a default exercise based on point-of-view. If you’re out there in the visible crowd, we see you, and we’re just as entertained by you as you are by us.
Musicians that play essentially the same cover band show regularly don’t have much else to do while they’re performing – so when they’re not digging into they’re own jamming, they checking out the people in the audience. Some musicians don’t even realize that they’re doing it, while others find it a welcome way to pass the time and consider the music that they’re playing to be a soundtrack to the life of the spectators.
10. Most People Know the Song You’re Playing
It’s always a lot more fun when you’re playing a gig and the crowd is into it. You have a considerably better chance of that happening when you play songs that people already know. The more successful cover bands keep this in practice, and it typically makes for a better experience for both the band and the fans.
This is much easier to achieve as a musician in a cover band, as opposed to a local original band, which has to do much more work to get people to become familiar with the material. Keeping the crowd excited and engaged is a no-brainer when you get to select from an incredible library of well-known songs…and that makes it a win-win for everybody.
11. People Will Take Pictures of You
Admit it, it’s kinda cool when people tag you in a post on Facebook of you playing on stage. Even if it’s not the best shot, you still feel a sense of accomplishment that your efforts have been captured in a single image for eternity.
With apps like Facebook and Instagram providing methods of taking and storing photographs, you could have your entire musical journey immortalized with digital images, and you don’t really have to do anything but play on stage to make it happen. The ease of snapping pics with a cell phone has made it more likely that your mug will show up somewhere online. People love to take photos, so always look your best!
12. It’s Easy to Make Friends
You’ll meet soooo many people if you play in a cover band on a regular basis. Some you will forget, some you will connect with online but have little interaction. But occasionally, you’ll meet someone and become genuine pals, and the bond will never be broken. Sometimes it’s a stranger in attendance, sometimes it’s an employee of the venue – and quite often, it’s a fellow musician. You’re never too old to meet new people and forge new and lasting relationships. That’s one of the beautiful things about music. It transcends genders, cultures, lifestyles…and generations.
Full time bass player and owner of Cover Band Central