I stumbled across this article at Music Think Tank that gave advice on how to make instant money by playing music. Most of their advice consisted of playing, playing, and more playing. They advised to take on as many gigs as possible, not just live shows with your band (although they recommended plenty of that, too). But the biggest point that stuck out to me was the advice to play covers.
In the article, they say it’s a good way to practice and play different styles of music as your band is starting out. Once your band gets more experience and recognition, then you can start pushing your own original music.
I’d like to look at this from the reverse angle. If you are a band that has some solid playing experience and have written a solid catalog of original songs, try playing a cover and give it your own unique spin. I have a friend who plays in a screamo band (I really hate that term, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it). They’ve been playing and touring the country for about five years now. This summer, they were in a studio and recorded a cover of a hit pop song that was getting a lot of radio play at the time. They posted it on their MySpace page and it blew up. They had over 15,000 plays of this song after only three days! There were loads of new friend requests each day from people saying they loved the cover, and quite a few more who said how much they loved the band. That’s a whole new slew of fans just from playing a cover song.
Here is how I would do it:
- Pick a song that’s compatible with your own fanbase, but crosses genres and potentially draws new fans.
- Put in a solid effort when writing and recording this cover. Nobody will want to listen if it sounds terrible!
- Acquire mechanical use licenses so you can legally distribute and sell this recording. Let’s say my friend from the example 10,000 downloads of this track over that weekend; if their cut after paying the publishers and distributors (iTunes, Amazon) is around $0.50, they would have made $5,000 that weekend! I realize that not every cover would generate that type of response, and a 2/3 conversion rate from plays to downloads is pretty generous (especially since the 15,000 plays probably were not all unique plays), but any additional income stream can help an independent musician, no matter how small.
- Push your original music on website visitors who come to hear your cover. If you are using a MySpace page, set up one of your own tunes to auto-play when a visitor hits your site. This will increase the chances of new fans hearing, liking, and/or buying your other tracks or CDs.
- Make sure you splash your tour schedule and other merchandise all over your site so new fans have more opportunities to support you.
So what’s you opinion? Does your band play cover songs? Or do you think it’s wrong to capitalize on the coattails of another song’s success?