For a lot of musicians, there’s a bit of a love/hate relationship going on with cover songs. On one side of the equation, it’s fun and insightful to cover other people’s songs. And if you pick the right song, fans will really go crazy when they hear a classic tune.
On the other side, covers can be downright frustrating. Especially in the early stages of a music career, venues want mostly cover sets, and the covers you release online can seem to get more attention than your originals. It can make you feel underappreciated, almost like the industry is pushing you into a cover band box. Tributes “R” Us.
So that leads to today’s topic… How to make great cover songs. AND how to use covers to actually raise awareness for your ORIGINAL music.
To show you how to make cover songs and turn them into musical expressions and tools that help you grow your audience and raise awareness for your originals, we’re hosting a free webinar. Daniel Roberts and I will be walking through 5 essential “Ninja Skills” that you can use to adapt cover songs to your own unique style and make a mark on the cover song world.
Click here to sign up for free (choose the date and time that works for you).
In the mean time, here are some Cover Song Basics and best practices you can start using right now:
1. Make it Your Own
What’s the best way to get people who hear your covers into your original music? Put your own unique spin on every song you cover. That means bending the songs stylistically to fit with the kind of music you play and write. Sometimes that will mean a few minor tweaks or just adding your own color. Sometimes it’s a total genre switch and completely different instrumentation.
Not only does this make you stand out from the multitude of cover songs flooding the internet and venues, it also makes the transition to your original music a lot smoother. In a way, listeners have already gotten a little taste of your original sound by listening to your cover rendition. They’ll have a much better sense of what you’re all about as an artist and will be much more comfortable when you move to the original song.
We’ll be really drilling down into this point in the free webinar, so make sure you join us live for more awesome tips!
2. Focus on Subscribers Over Views
There’s this fascination with “viral” videos in the music industry. But a ton of views on a cover aren’t worth much on YouTube unless you can get in touch with those people again. We’ve seen a lot of musicians hit it with a crazy viral video only to release an original music video on deaf ears.
So instead of thinking, “How can I get 10,000 views,” get yourself in the mindset of, “How can I get as many viewers as possible to subscribe?” Setting up suggested videos or playlists on your YouTube channel can be a great way to get people to continue watching, which increases the chance they’ll actually subscribe.
This goes for your live shows too. If you are forced into doing cover sets, think about ways you can connect with those people again. Maybe it’s a contest where they have to follow you on Facebook to enter. Or even a USB stick that you hand out for free with a recording of one of your original songs and your social media channels written out on it.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Call to Actions
And that leads us into the next point – utilizing call to actions. So what exactly is a call to action? It’s basically just you directly asking your viewers or listeners to take some further action. Maybe it’s watching another video, or subscribing to your channel, or entering your contest, or clicking the link in your description box.
If you’ve never done this before, it can definitely feel a little awkward and even pushy at first. BUT it’s been proven time and time again that directly asking people to do something increases the chance that they will.
If you’re releasing covers on YouTube, you can easily use “cards” to suggest other videos your viewers can watch next. As you upload your video, you’ll be able to add cards in the “Cards” tab across the top of the upload screen. Use cards to suggest other cover songs or even original songs when people reach the end of your videos.
If you’re doing a cover gig in a venue, it’s pretty easy to add little call to actions as you talk to the audience. Ask them to follow you on Facebook for more covers and originals, or to see photos that you posted from the show.
Ask fans to visit a certain URL where they can get a few songs in exchange for an email address. Try giving them a cover and an original to introduce them to your own music. If you’re really savvy, give out little download cards so they don’t even have to memorize the URL.
As you can see, cover songs can be an extremely valuable part of your approach. And on top of that, they can really help you grow your audience and get more fans.
If you want more ideas of how to make cover songs your own, I hope you’ll join Daniel Roberts and I in a free webinar. Click here to register for free and learn the 5 essential “ninja skills” that every musician needs.
Here are a few things you’ll learn during the webinar:
- SUBDIVISION & GROOVE – Rhythmically drop into any musical context and make people dance.
- SCALES & TONALITY – Immediately know where the “right” notes are before ever playing a new song.
- HARMONIC FUNCTION – Be able to understand and play chord progressions after only hearing them once.
- MODES – Find the best notes to play over any chord to make your melodies stronger and more memorable.
- VOICE LEADING – Create smooth chord progressions and riffs that don’t get in the way of other parts.