These are a few of the common objections I hear when it comes to cover songs:
- “I’m not a serious artist if I do covers.”
- “The world has enough cover songs already.”
- “There are only so many hours in the day; why would I waste time on someone else’s song?”
Alright genius, you can do whatever you want as an artist. But if your de facto stance is NO COVERS, I’d encourage you to rethink things. Because whether we’re talking about live gigs, releasing singles, or making TikTok videos, covers can be a pretty powerful tool. Here’s why:
1. Covers help you keep momentum
Most of us probably know what it’s like to get bogged down as we wait to finish writing ten or twelve great original songs for our next album. Even if we’re in a mode of releasing original singles, sometimes that process slows. Covers help us get back to work.
2. Covers can be quick to record
First, because you’re focused on recording only that one song. But also because there’s an established framework for the song. Whether you adopt or resist that framework, it still gives you a clear jumping off point.
You can follow the blueprint to make a faithful cover. Or if you take the cover in a totally new direction, getting creative with the arrangement is usually quicker than similar arrangement work for an original, because there’s already something there to push against.
The right cover can help you capture existing interest on platforms, either through specific searches or via algorithmic recommendation on sites like YouTube or TikTok.
4. Learn new things!
Covers can be a great way to grow as a writer, arranger, performer, or producer. Stepping into someone else’s work helps you understand more deeply why that song WORKS. A cover song also helps you shed some of your own doubts as a performer because…
5. Covers have proven value in the marketplace
These are songs the world has already shown they loved. The same is not true for your own songs. Not because your songs are bad. Just because most people don’t know your songs already.
So when you perform a cover, you can mute the little voice in your head that’s always asking “will anyone like this song?” You can bypass doubt around the material and step more confidently into delivering the song.
6. It’s a musical language fans already know
A cover song can act as a kind of easy introduction to the rest of your album, playlist, concert, or content. You’re not asking someone to stretch themselves too far. You’re not demanding too much of the listener too soon.
And because familiar songs are… familiar, you put people at ease. Which then makes them more receptive to the brilliance of your own songs.
In other words, if your original songs are supposed to be the main event, covers can be an effective invitation.
7. Covers can SIGNIFY something about your brand
You can use cover songs to quickly establish something very clear about your sound, because a listener will intuitively know how you are taking a familiar song in a new direction.
Your “stamp” will be that much more noticeable.
Want to learn more about picking the right cover song for live gigs, albums, and social video?
Watch this episode of the DIY Musician Podcast (or listen below):