Being in a covers band isn’t easy. With so many bands competing for the same lucrative work, it is often hard to stand out in the crowd. As such, we’ve put together a handy guide, comprising of some top tips for your cover band.
Whether you’re a battle-hardened road warrior, or just stepping out on your journey as a professional musician, we hope you find some of these tips useful.
1. Make sure your promotional material is professional
While word of mouth is still a very powerful tool for securing bookings, more and more potential clients are now looking online to book their entertainment.
As such, your promotional material should be looking, reading and sounding as professional as possible. So, what do we mean by that?
• Your biographical material (that is, the description of your band and its history) should be interesting, and grammatically correct. No matter what your English skills are like, consider having it reviewed/proofed by a friend or colleague to ensure its quality.
• Any audio recordings should sound professional, and be mixed and mastered well, whether they are recorded at home or in a studio. Consider sending off your home-recorded stems to be professionally mixed and mastered, if you cannot afford studio time.
• Any promotional videos should be shot or edited professionally. While not everyone can afford a professional videographer, every attempt should be made to get all the relevant information into it.
• Any photography should be shot professionally. Try to avoid low-resolution camera phone shots.
You can use this material to apply to entertainment agencies, get a listing on entertainment directories (such as Last Minute Musicians) and build a website for your act.
2. Keep an eye out for new arrangements and new material
A great way to secure more bookings and enhance your live show is by learning new material and coming up with fresh arrangements of old material.
If you’re a function or wedding band, keeping your finger on the pulse of the current chart is going to be essential. While not everything in the top 10 is guaranteed to be suitable for your band to cover, being one of the first to pick up on the tunes that are, is going to be a great way to get ahead.
If you’re looking to mix up some of the existing material in your set, then coming up with fresh arrangements of previously learned tunes is a great idea. This can involve everything from adding in additional stops or solos, to mixing in other songs over the same chord sequence.
You can even look to the original artist’s live arrangements of the song, in the name of inspiration!
3. Test out your live sets at public gigs
Perhaps following on from the last point, there are many cover bands that will happily play exclusively in pubs, bars and clubs, perhaps with the occasional birthday party thrown in. These gigs are great, as they can often be described as being relatively low stress and really good fun. However, unfortunately, these gigs are not often well paid.
For bands looking to maximize their income, they’ll often be looking to book in weddings, corporate events and other highly paid private functions. This can sometimes go so well, that it can lead to bands giving up on public shows all together!
That said, there is an argument to be made that you should not give up on public shows entirely. For a start, these gigs can often be a fantastic barometer for changes in your live set. For instance, If you’re looking to add in any new songs or arrangements, like special requests for upcoming gigs, then testing them out in the context of a pub gig (or even an open mic night) will give the band members the chance to play the song in public, before the event. You will also be able to gauge your audience’s reaction to the material, before going on to play it in a high-pressure situation.
You can also invite any prospective clients to come and see you live if they are sitting on the fence.
4. Keep your social media updated
It may sound obvious in this day and age, but keeping your band’s social media updated will help let any potential clients know that you’re busy, and a desirable act. Learning about your audience on each one of your social media platforms will be invaluable in terms of working out what content works best.
Behind the scenes rehearsals, promotional photography, live photography and all sorts of generic content will always work well, but depending on the age of your target demographic, some platforms and content types will carry more weight than others.
Use analytics to keep track of what works well with your audience, and to judge which platform will deserve the majority of your attention.
5. Consider your USP
While playing to common themes is not a bad way to establish initial bookings, there is also an argument for getting a strong USP (Unique Selling Point) as an act.
There has been a steep rise in the number of bands who have been establishing themselves with a strong theme, in order to appeal to different audiences. Popular themes now include “vintage” bands that take modern chart material and play it in the 1920s or 30s style, and “Festival” style bands, bringing a touch of that Glastonbury atmosphere to private events, by playing all manner of hits, in a festival/folk style.
While it might not be easy to find, there is always a new and exciting trend that you can use, to help broaden the appeal of your band and stand out from the crowd.