The popularity of tribute bands is undeniable, and for some music fans, that is a problem. But if you own a venue that supports live music, you understand that you need to sell tickets, food and drinks, and tribute bands are that draw. To add some clarity, a tribute band plays the music of one particular band or genre, whereas “cover bands” cover material from a variety of artists.
Why so many tribute bands?
Music is the Passion – The Popularity of Tribute Bands
So why are tribute bands so plentiful and popular now? Well from this drummer’s perspective, as a member of Hey Nineteen a Tribute to Steely Dan, I have two reasons, first, I want to be able to perform at a variety of good venues and make “some” money. Being in an eleven piece band means alot of talent want to be paid, so being in our tribute band is more of a passion, which is my second reason.
I have been listening to Steely Dan since I was a kid, I have great memories of grooving out to FM radio in the 70s and 80s and hearing classics like “Deacon Blues, Peg and Reelin’ In The Years.” As a drummer hearing Steve Gadd play the solo in “Aja” or being memorized by the deep rich pocket of Bernard Perdie on “Babylon Sisters” made me want to play those songs too.
Classic bands are Gone – The Popularity of Tribute Bands
Sad to say that the classic bands that we love and were to be able to see live are getting old and many have passed. You can no longer see Rush, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Eagles or Steely Dan live with their original members. And if all the original members are alive, they are older and have lost their ability to reach those high notes. So in come talented young(er) musicians who grew up listing to their favorite band and know every lick and line of every song, a tribute is born.
Technology, Music & Tribute Bands
Other components that lead to the popularity of Tribute bands include improvement in instruments and sound systems, the ease of digital recording and exposure through social media. Bands are sounding better than ever with the availability of digital mixing consoles and in-ear monitors, they can easily be recorded and shared through smartphones and quickly gain a following on social media.
But it’s Not like the Original
Even before I joined a tribute band I was not keen on the idea of someone “trying” to perform something that should only be replicated by the original band. I became especially uncomfortable when a tribute wanted to look like the original band, wigs and makeup tend to be a distraction, especially when you wish to copy bands who rocked afros back in the 1970s like the young Carlos Santana.
But no matter where you stand on Tribute bands, you have to respect that “good” tributes have a considerable bar to raise. Original bands spend a good part of their lives, 7 days a week perfecting their craft, tribute bands, most who are weekend warriors have to get it right, pack up and go back to their day jobs just 24 hours later. Here are some tribute bands I have performed with, have seen live and do an excellent job honoring the music and spirit of the original band.
Drummer for Hey Nineteen