How (and why) cover bands are taking over venues and weddings across the states. 

The first time I saw a cover band I had incredibly low expectations. I was ready to hear notable but sad attempts of my favorite songs; I was waiting to be left wanting more.

But I was so wrong.

I will give full disclosure here: the first cover band I saw was, in fact, my uncle’s ’80s/’90s cover band here in Nashville. I was blown away by the talent packed into every detail of the performance: the vocals, the musicianship, the costumes…every aspect seemed effortless.

I left that cover band experience shocked and absolutely thrilled at the world that I had just discovered. Not only did they play the best hits from the ’80s and ’90s, but they also had a faithful following of “groupies” keeping the party going the whole night.

A wedding I had recently gone to had a live band playing instead of a DJ. I, yet again, was wary of how they would keep the party going for four hours, and, yet again, I was proven wrong. Their cover of Purple Rain nearly brought the house down.

I had a moment to talk with the keyboardist and was shocked to hear he had been with this particular band for 11 years and had no desire to leave. He told me he got to do exactly what he loved most nights of the week and was grateful that, as a musician, he had a consistent gig.

It really shifted my perspective on the cover band world…should more musicians be choosing this route?

The cover/tribute band world is unlike any other. There are some bands that have been together for decades and maintained a steady career over the years. It is a highly competitive music scene, particularly in L.A., Nashville, and New York. They take their music idols seriously, some of them taking on the physical representation of the particular artist. Think back to the world of Elvis impersonators…some have even taken on plastic surgery to create the right persona.

Many of these bands have at least one consistent date at a venue on a regular basis. Wedding bands make seriously good money in high season and can do free advertising just by showing up and establishing relationships with different venues. Other cover or tribute bands could be booked at popular, tourist-swarmed venues anywhere from three to five nights a week.

The biggest challenge for these musicians is keeping the set fresh while maintaining the integrity of the music they are tributing. In my humble opinion, this is the true test of talent and a representation of the line that is drawn for a successful tribute band to cross.

For a musician with a lot of talent, this may be a lower-risk route to take. It may be competitive, but there is always a market for people wanting to hear and relive their favorite bands or songs from their fondest memories. These are the musicians that want you to remember the exact moment you heard a song for the first time or how many hours you spent learning every lyric. They want you to remember the place you were, and the people you were with.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing in this day and age, so cover bands are sticking around for the long haul.