Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Original Songwrtiters v Cover / Tribute Acts and some ramblings

Original Songwriters v Cover / Tribute Acts and some ramblings

I have been writing and performing original Music for for 14 years. As well as promoting small venues and trying to help expose original acts. In the early days I had a touch of bitterness towards towards cover acts. I certainly did not book many and concentrated on booking original acts trying to help them get exposed on a larger scale ( the ones I beleived in ). After seven years of promoting I finally saw a local talent get signed to a major label - Scott Matthews to Island Records. His original release on the small label ' san remo ' I got a credit for helping with exposure as I was the only person shouting from the rooftops about Scott ( as well as his small label and management team) . My part in it was small - I just thought this guy was hell of a talent. As far as I know the original sales were not massive of his d├ębut album but he did win the Novella Award for the song ' elusive ' - which is the industry saying song of year!!! so well done him.
 Personally it was satisfying to see someone I knew and had been involved with for many years go on and have some success and to play a very small part in this certainly made me proud as low level local live band promoter. At that point I had booked maybe over 1000 bands and acts or so from the Midlands area all with hopes and dreams. And it had been disappointing not to see anyone go on to a larger scale.
 Around that time also, other acts I had booked frequently Like NIZLOPI ( number one with the JCB song ) and the Twang also had major mainstream sucsess.
 All of these three acts are of course original Acts and write original music. As do I. with my beloved friend and singer Omoyele. In those days I was totally in the low end music biz touting about originality and that was reflected in how I ran events and what kind of acts I was interested in booking. This attitude was of course partly fuelled by being in an original act myself and knowing how hard it is out there to get your music noticed and heard - and to be fair to get people interested in going to your gigs. Of course as soon as an act you have been touting ( and people don't listen ) gets any kind media attention or success then the people that were not listening before suddenly are. I haven't really got a problem with that - that is just surely human nature and the reaction to the media saying buy it / see it / like it / love it. Add credibility of T V advert for instance against a small time promoter saying you gotta check this act out and it is very understandable why interest is then ten fold with the credibility of high profile marketing and adds.
 For the hardcore original artists out there reading this post - at this point I could quite easily get into thee X-Factor debate and how crappy the high end Music Industry is and how it works. However , as I come to my point of original acts v cover acts I think I should just say I'm not going there with this Blog just yet. As I'd be going very slightly off my point. Although, I understand I could quite easily get into all that ....not just yet.
So ok Omoyele, the act I play guitar in. One thing I noticed, and use, and still do during our performances, is to drop certain covers in our set to grab attention. We are an original act and play the odd cover for fun. However, we soon noticed that dropping in the right cover at the right time could change an audience reaction to you instantly. For example , a lot of our early gigs were at busy bars maybe open mics etc - and maybe we wouldn't be playing to ' our ' crowd - so naturally people will talk and attention to what we doing on stage may not have been great - and it is then the case of grabbing their attention - we have a lot of quiet songs I suppose - finger picked on guitar - and its a hard job to get people to listen sometimes. Drop in the right cover and hey presto people start taking notice - and then are more inclined to give you a proper listen. We found our cover of Led Zeps ' bring it on home ' ( "Bring It On Home" (Sonny Boy Williamson II song), a blues song, later reworked by Led Zeppelin ) worked for us - in fact it could silence a busy bar - and get them all looking our way and interested.. So now its gets in our set, 2nd song in normally, if we playing pub gigs with our original music etc.  Case in point - By using someone else's song to grab attention - there is more interest on us for the remainder of our show. ( it might tail off - but still - heads were turned )

 And my point is it is about what do people want to listen to? .To me it maybe this simple. I love the music I have written - and have a high regard for it ( just like most original acts do ) - but do random people want to listen to it ? some people do - but most people would rather not have to listen too hard. They would prefer to listen to lots of famous songs they already know. I used to hate the idea of this. But then I realised, no, if someone's out having a good time - and they walk in a pub and there is a random covers act ( who really are doing a great a job ) of playing lots of hits from 5 decades adding to the atmosphere of a lively night out, with people singing along and dancing and having a good time, what's wrong with that? ) If they walk in the same pub and there is an original act playing ( maybe the next Oasis or Radiohead ) they just are not going to get the same reaction - a quality original act will always go down better than a bad one - but still people unfamiliar with the original music will find it hard to give it the attention it needs. Massively so if the point of them being in the bar in the first place is to get drunk and chat etc
 That's not to say that original music shouldn't be given a chance and there are thousands of venues and promoters catering for this - good established small venues and promoters will do a great job of exposing the cream of the crop new talent  they find. It is a hard job and takes dedication from all involved - Oh and  passion - sometimes your lucky - if someone comes along that has so much original talent no one can ignore them. And on the same hand much talent slips through the net - too much !!! but the world we live in is the general public don't try out new acts - friends and family mostly support new talent ( in venues - not fans - although fans can be built up locally - not until the original act has major media help will others soon follow - word of mouth is golden but sometimes is not enough to help out new talent - before Scott Matthews signed to Island he rarely pulled more than 20 in my venue - now he sells 600 plus I would guess in the same city.
 In general People prefer what they already know - Cover band and tributes - I book solo acts that play covers in bars they will get Oasis requests all night long  etc etc - Very occasionally someone will walk over and ask - do you write your own music ? Oh that makes me smile but also the so does  the rest of the pub who are enjoying, not really caring if they do or they don't write their own music- they are just enjoying the show !
 One of my acts I represent is currently turning heads as a cover act - his solo shows really show him off as a young talented singer - he makes great money doing this and people ask me ' why isn't he famous yet , he should be etc '  - his passion is his original song writing- and like most musicians that turn to cover or tribute work , whilst he waits for his big moment he is happy making some extra cash entertaining people with covers....and the people he plays for love it - His name is LUKE BROWN and I will surely keep you posted  in his development - Is he a cover act ? an original act ? or just a young talent that I'd rather not see slip through the net - check him out and spread the word on 


  1. all fair and decent points Stu :-)

  2. ARRR thanks for having a read Darren - think I feel like writing a signing and singing Blog next - we still have our music fully signed when we play as ' omoyele ' and we played a wedding a few years back for partially deaf couple. It all started at Wolves uni of course when we ran that night with you guys many many moons ago - anyway good to stay in touch - hope your well - stu