Covers vs. Originals

This isn’t a topic I thought I would be revisiting in relation to Greg Sandow’s “rebirth of Classical Music” ideas but it’s such a perennial discussion amongst local pop musicians as to warrant mention.  I posted a response in the Greg Sandow’s blog post I mentioned previously to the most recent response.  I’m posting it below, though, as it will take some time for my post to get approved by Greg.

Hey Richard,

Yeah, that’s a common enough story amongst many musicians (the mandolinist in one of my bands practically put himself through school playing in cover bands) that I find it interesting that in the “Pop vs. Classical” debate so few folks want to discuss, much less acknowledge this not-so-“creative” aspect of the pop music scene.

Not that cover bands can’t be creative–one of my favorite local “cover bands” is the Liesure Kings who basically do lounge versions of Rock, Hip-Hop and Heavy Metal tunes and they are really great at creatively adapting the lyrics/melodies into that format.

And hell, some of the greatest tribute bands make a damn good living doing what they do in attempting to “perfectly” recreate a particular artists’ oeuvre and stage show.  Not a whole lot different than the performing standards of the Orchestras we’re claiming to be not so innovative.  Hell, the running joke amongst the original band musicians is that Orchestras are just glorified cover bands.

And yet, they are usually the better paid bands locally and regionally (much to the chagrin of the local/regional original band musicians).  And the given reasons for that are precisely many of the same given reasons that Symphonic organizations program the tried and true warhorses that they do–the oft stated, “it’s what the audiences want.”

It’s good and all to make the claim that the pop music industry as a whole is more innovative than the classical music industry, but if the sample is biased towards referencing the, well, innovative pop musicians as the stand ins for the pop musician industry as a whole then we’ve already stacked the deck against classical music, I think.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with stacking the deck, per se, but by neglecting the cover band side of popular music culture it’s far easier to prop up a straw man argument against Classical Music and in favor of Pop Music especially when one of the main criteria for discussing the two happens to be innovation (or lack thereof) and sustainability!


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