What’s So Bad About Playing Cover Songs?

I’m willing to bet that some people will see this headline and answer the question in the comments without even clicking to read the article. But for those of you that have taken the step to see what this is about, read on.

For starters, why even ask this question?

Let’s begin with my intention. I wish to change the mindset of some musicians who think that playing covers is just copying other people, or cheating, or taking an easy way out. “Write your own songs!” is a criticism I get a lot at Cover Band Central.

The recurring question that I ask myself when the haters speak up is: “Why?”

  • Why is there so much contempt for cover musicians?
  • Why do some players feel that you’re not a real musician unless you write your own songs?
  • Why is it so much better to be an original artist…especially in today’s music climate?

I try to answer it with logic, but I don’t always succeed.

  • Maybe it’s the way some people were taught.
  • Maybe they have never seen or played in a really good cover band.
  • Maybe some people are just plain ignorant.

But what inevitably happens is that I start to question and doubt myself. What if they’re right? What if I am wasting my time playing covers and carrying the flag for all other cover musicians around the world? I mean, I have played in numerous original bands as well, but I’m not a songwriter, and probably never will be. Am I just a hack? A copier? A wannabe?

After sweating those questions, tossing and turning, and re-evaluating my musical existence, I always return to logic.

Many contemporary artists, although they are performing new and original material, didn’t write the songs. A good deal of the top selling albums of recent years have had songs with multiple songwriters. The biggest selling record of 2016, Adele’s “25,” boasts 11 songwriter credits in addition to the artist herself.

This is nothing new. Artists collaborate on new material more often than not, and there are many people in the music industry that are exclusively songwriters and have no interest in performing.

Is there anything wrong with that? Do other musicians look down on those people and tell them that they should be playing, too?

Of course not.

My feeling is that anytime I play a song, I approach it the same way. I play my best, stay true what is being “said,” and interpret it to serve the whole.

The same could be said for classical musicians. Any member of an orchestra that is reading sheet music is playing a cover song. Any theater vocalist is singing a cover song. Every wedding band plays cover songs.

The list goes on.

There are many areas in art where things are copied. Movies are re-made, paintings are reproduced, TV shows are re-booted, dancers learn classic steps that have worked in the past. But these aspects of art are not only rarely shunned, but are most often lauded.

It’s time to stop hating on cover bands and musicians. Yes, there will be bands that aren’t very good, but that doesn’t mean that the whole industry should be frowned upon. Some movies that are re-imagined aren’t very good, some TV shows that try to capitalize on a name don’t make the grade; but it doesn’t give the industry as a whole a bad name.

I choose to celebrate music.

I love new, original music just as much as I love hearing or playing an old favorite. My lofty goal is that all musicians will someday realize that there is, in fact, credibility in playing covers, and that it takes no less talent to reproduce a well-known song than it does to write and record a new one.

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