The BIG World Of Tribute Bands
I've recently become quite familiar with the tribute band industry. For the record, a tribute band isn’t the same as a “cover band” (i.e., a band playing any number of hits from assorted artists). A tribute band does its best to present an accurate re-creation of whatever famous band they’re emulating - and lots of 'em are making bank. In the past year or so, after talking with various folks I know in the music business (soundmen, musicians, agents), I came to learn that a well-produced tribute band can often make more than the original act (or whatever’s left of it). At the top tiers, we’re talking anywhere from $10 - $15,000 a night. That’s some damn good cake for a glorified cover band, and part of the reason I got involved with this one small – but robust - part of the music industry.
NAMING. Almost as important as the musicians, art direction, wardrobe, etc. is the chosen name of a tribute band. Probably the most common approach I’ve seen is picking a recognizable song title for the band name: Tequila Sunrise (Eagles); Elevation (U2); Think Floyd (Pink Floyd); Crash (Dave Matthews); Lez Zeppelin (all-girl Led Zeppelin tribute); Ghost In The Machine (Police); and on and on and on. For the tribute band I’m working with, most of the obvious song titles were already taken as dot coms, so I kept trying different variations until I finally found a free name that seems to be doing a good job with getting agent's attention. Here's some background on how my particular tribute band project began.
DAN MCGUINNESS. I first became aware of Dan McGuinness through one of my myspace.com sites, and don’t remember why I decided to give him a listen (there's a million of 'em out there). NOTE: I’ll be sharing a related myspace.com story regarding this tribute band at another time- and it’s not pretty.
One thing I noticed about Dan right away: He’s an excellent singer who can really “scrape the sky” with his voice. In my experience, there’s not that many male vocalists around who can really get up there (hitting a high A, B or even a C), who also have power, resonance, great pitch and timbre/body. Upon hearing him, I couldn’t help but think about a famous singer who could be described the same way: John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. And that’s when the possibility of doing Creedence Again: THE CCR Tribute first happened.
BLESSING OR CURSE? As Dan and I got to know each other over the next several months, I came to discover he was a huge CCR/Fogerty fan, and knew a ton of their songs already. I also discovered Dan was struggling with a similar issue as some other “tribute” artists: Having their own original songs & career eclipsed by the easier-sell, instant recognition buzz and fast paycheck of performing famous songs by famous artists. What’s more, the tribute band industry is tied to the professional impersonator industry, which isn't particularly well-respected by musicians who invest untold hours and years to hone their craft. But Dan’s not quite the same as others in the industry, because I don't think he looks much like John Fogerty (he's actually closer to a blonde, he wears a brown wig for the CCR show); but imagine looking like Julian Stephon.
JULIAN STEPHON. Meet Julian Stephon from
encountered him a year or so ago playing some X-mas benefit in downtown
BLESSING. Julian told me some stories about being mistaken for Prince (including one where he caused such a buzz at an airport, security believed him to be Prince, escorted him to some secured VIP section, and even sent a limo to pick up him from his destination city). He says he's been onstage with the real Prince a few times, has met him, etc. If Julian isn't one the premier Prince lookalikes, I'd like to see who is. I’ve also seen video of his live Prince show, with girls rushing the stage, and some genuine excitement from the audience. All this points to a nice, relatively easy paycheck.
CURSE. No matter what he does, how good his songs or musicianship or vocals or showmanship, he'll NEVER be able to get away from the fact that he looks SO much like Prince - right down to his diminutive stature.
INSTANT SUCCESS. Even though I did a lot of research before going down this road (first-hand and online), there was no way I could have anticipated the kind of immediate results a CCR band would produce. In fact, I've never experienced an easier sell with any musical project I've ever been involved with.
OUR VERY FIRST GIG FOR CREEDENCE AGAIN is at the gorgeous Liberty Theatre in
AGENTS CALLING ME?!?!? The most bizarre sensation I’ve experienced in quite some time – agents calling and emailing me from around the country, unsolicited, inquiring about Creedence Again. As most bands will tell you, trying to get through to booking agents – much less gettin a return call – is a real bitch. Especially for an unknown, first-time act with no history of any gigs. But that’s what happened, and has been happening, with this band. Refreshing as hell.
THE POWER OF BRANDING/POSITIONING/MARKETING. As part of my research, I looked at a
TRIBUTE CITY. For a good site with tons of bands, visit TRIBUTE CITY.