Post #21: ‘COVERS VS. ORIGINALS: LIVING YOUR LIFE TO CREATE YOUR LIFE THE WAY YOU WANT IT’ of ANNIE B.’s D.I.Y. MAGAZINE
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Well, it’s a question that all original artists have. Do you play covers, or do you not? Plenty of us have to play cover gigs to pay the bills. We play hits on the radio, learn those songs from other artists, and we play the ones that we do well, since lots of bars that hire bands & musical entertainers cater to people who want to hear their favorite songs…. the radio hits. They can be from Frank Sinatra or from Lady GaGa. Either way, it’s not a song written by the artist up there on stage. And I know some venues that will not book you again if you play “too many originals”. But let’s face it: We are never going to “make it” by playing covers. We need to get out there and push those original songs, we need to get our original music out there consistently and regularly growing a bigger fanbase with every show. In most venues, you can get away with playing one to four original songs in a whole night. You “sneak them in”. Or, you just decide that you are not going to play cover gigs, and then you have to find another “day job” (which is what I call cover gigs…. that’s my “day job”)! Thank goodness I can make a living as a “live music entertainer” (but I am moving towards making my living as an artist, which is someone who plays their own music)! Granted, at this point, it’s mostly cover gigs that pay my bills. But I am on a mission to earn my living with my original songs, making money at “original music venues”, selling CDs and merch. So, how can that be done???
I guess the first thing we need to do is start looking for those venues, and start booking enough cover gigs to allow us to take a Friday night “off” and play a gig at an original music venue… where we won’t make the same kind of money, if we make anything at all! But then, let’s NOT PUT THAT OUT THERE! We have to start looking for our target audience at the right venues… it is here that we will find people who WANT to discover new artists, who will buy our CDs & Tshirts, and who will tell their friends about you!
Although, we might be better off just booking original gigs on Sunday/Monday/Tue. nights… since those are the nights that the club does not usually expect to have a big crowd of people who want to hear their favorite radio hits. I just e-mailed the Elbo Room in Chicago – I have played there before with Sparklepussy and am looking for some opening gigs as a solo artist. They should be able to offer me some dates. I also just e-mailed a venue in Madison.
So, the goal is to keep contacting venues until you get a substantial amount of dates lined up with your original music, and hopefully you will be asked back and can start building a regular following as an original artist.
It’s hard to find that balance, though. As an original artist, you will not make the same kind of money until you have been doing it and returning to those venues for a year or more. It takes time and patience, which most of us do not have! I was just reading a book about building your audience, and the author recommends the artist hangs out at the venue where they want to play for a month or two, offer to play for free on a weeknight, and then work your ass off for weeks to promote the show to fill the joint and get a great review. Well, that sounds like a great plan on paper, but actually doing it would be frustrating. How can you put so much energy into ONE show, and expect to feel like you are accomplishing your goals? There HAS to be a better way.
We must actively create that perfect situation where we are making enough money playing original music to pay the bills and also have enough to keep getting back into the studio to record new CDs, etc, etc. That requires us to travel. You can’t keep playing the same market an expect people to come out to your shows if you are playing every week. You must make your shows a big deal, and they must be sparse enough to compel people to come out when you do have a show, since they might not get a chance to see you again for 2 or 3 months or more.
Well, now at least we have a plan. I’ll let you know how it goes with me! Anyone who can suggest a venue in SE Wisconsin or Northern IL, even as far as Dubuque, IA, PLEASE e-mail me at AnnieBBaby at gmail dot com!