The last time I saw a tribute band that rocked my socks off was at the Warped Tour more than ten years ago. I honestly don't remember the official name of the band but they called themselves punk rock radio.
They would have members of the crowd call out requests and they would play those songs on the spot. I know playing songs from various artists isn’t officially a “tribute band”, but they were awesome, it was a punk rock tribute band. To perform a set like that takes serious talent and a deep musical knowledge.
There are musicians out there aspiring to be a tribute band. The fact of the matter is tribute bands can make a nice living playing music they love. Sure, it's not the traditional band recipe, but it works for many people.
Tribute bands play music from a specific band, many of these bands are no longer touring or have deceased. Think...Elvis impersonators or The Ramones. These acts have a huge, sometimes cult, following and playing their music and emulating their style can funnel fans in their direction.
I admit, most musicians don't aspire to play someone else's songs as a career choice. In a perfect world, musicians would make their own songs and play them to the world becoming successful by developing loyal followers of their music. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
On the other hand, musicians want to play music, regardless of how they do it. Being a successful professional musician means making a living playing music, period. In some cases this can be accomplished very well by covering another band. Playing live shows, making people happy, and avoiding a 9 – 5 day job sounds like a pretty good deal.
Tribute Band vs. Cover band
There is a big difference between a cover band and a tribute band. Cover bands play a wide range of musical selection from different genres and artists. A set will be a blend of musical styles, think The Wedding Singer”.
A tribute band is a specialty band. They recreate the entire atmosphere of a particular group. It is more than just playing the same songs, its giving people the same experience they would have at the original band's show. They play music on a different level. They become the band and to the untrained eye could be mistaken for the band.
The specialization of a tribute band can lead to financial success. Think about it, a tribute band must be able to play every song from the original band as well as look and sound like the original. This level of expertise allows the best tribute bands to charge a premium price for a show. $10,000 for a gig is not uncommon.
Tribute Bands and Social Media
Social media can be a blessing for a tribute band aspiring to become successful. Using social media to promote a tribute band is just about the same as promoting a regular band. First and foremost social media should be used to showcase the skills of the band. Social media can also be used to connect with fans and inform them about the band's activities.
Videos and audio MP3 tracks which can be easily seen and heard allow people to grasp the talent of the band. Uploading a video has potential to draw in new fans, especially if it goes viral. A viral video is one that becomes popular by other people sharing it online. For example, a KISS tribute band, kisstroyer, has a few videos with several hundred thousand views.Youtube leads you to their website and the ability to see or book the band. They have toured the world several times.
Potentially viral videos may be a practice session or a live show. Give the world a sample of the best you have to offer. Take advantage of features built into Youtube, or other social video sites, to get more exposure when your videos are online. Here is how you can do that...
- Use keywords. Fill in the title of your videos with the name of your tribute band and original band. Include the song name if applicable. The description should also be as robust of possible. Remember, people use keywords to search the web, so use the same keywords they might search so you can be found. YouTube allows for a 5000 character description of the video.
- Ask for participation. It is acceptable to remind people in the description or by adding a text box to the video, to rate, comment and share. The more user participation a video receives the more recognition it will get in the search results. This means more views.
- Don’t forget tags. Tags are the search terms someone will use to find videos. Tags are keywords you can enter to enhance the video's chances of getting seen.
- Embed your videos on other social sites. Facebook and blogs (your own or other) will create more opportunities for potential fans to get a view.
- Respond to comments. Allow comments about your video. Don’t be afraid of criticism online. There are plenty of trolls looking to cause controversy, but unfounded criticism will be ignored by the community. Respond to comments in a professional manner and be real with people. Comments allows bands and fans to connect and establish positive relations.
At the end of the day social media is just a tool not the answer for success. But it's undoubtedly a powerful tool to grow a band when placed in the hands of someone who will work hard to do it right.
Creating a successful tribute band may not be for everyone, but it can fulfill the dreams of those wishing for a professional musical career and can't find it playing their own music. I'm not saying those in tribute bands can't hack it on their own! Like any band it takes practice to make the songs up to a standard that people would consider paying to listen. And for a tribute band it means going the extra mile to perfectly emulate the original artist.