How much are cover bands paid
How to get to gigs as a cover band and what fee is included - the experiences of the band eXXited
Cover bands inspire their audiences with songs by well-known artists. But is it fulfilling to act out the songs of others? And what fee should you take as a cover band? Andreas Kowalzik, guitarist of the band eXXited, gives us answers to these questions.
eXXited (Band website) is a six-member band from Verden near Bremen. Under the motto "Tribute Hit Show" they give concerts that can last several hours. The band has been in the current line-up for 11 years. The band members are between 40 and 50 years old and first performed with their own songs before they discovered the fun of covering. In 2016 they received an award as the best cover band.
Backstage PRO: Hi Andreas. How are you witheXXitedgot to cover?
Andreas Kowalzik: We were socialized in the 80s and grew up with rock and metal. Like so many, we dreamed of becoming rock stars. In reality, of course, it looks different; it just wasn't easy to be successful with your own music.
At some point we couldn't put so much energy into music, for example because we had families of our own. There was a long pause. eXXited in today's line-up came about because we wanted to play music again. The focus was on having fun, we wanted to play good songs with nice people.
Backstage PRO: The audience has certain expectations of a cover band's repertoire. How do you deal with it when it no longer suits your taste?
Andreas Kowalzik: At first we were a pure rock cover band and only played what we ourselves like. At some point it went really well, then we wanted to play more and get bigger gigs - something like that just develops.
It was not until late that we worked out a real band profile with which we could be considered for many events. We went beyond the cover of rock songs and started towards a party band. We wanted the broadest possible range of music from the top 40, from pop to hit music.
Backstage PRO: How did that work?
Andreas Kowalzik: That went pretty well for a while. But at some point we realized that something would fall by the wayside if you set yourself up too broadly musically. On the one hand, your own fun diminishes, on the other hand, the concerts become more exhausting. There are tented events where there is a lot of alcohol involved and the audience goes there with certain expectations. If you don't do exactly what you want it to be, it can be difficult.
"Young people today are musically socialized very differently"
Backstage PRO: It sounds like the band is perceived as more of a DJ substitute at some events.
Andreas Kowalzik: That's just the spirit of the times. I grew up at a time when the live band was a quality feature at big tent parties. That has changed, young people today are musically socialized very differently. If afterwards a handful of viewers know the name of the band, one can be happy. Often the organizers actually prefer to use DJs, because the only thing that matters is that music is playing in the background to which you can celebrate.
Backstage PRO: So the fun of playing live has subsided at some point. Nevertheless you still perform and in 2016 you were even awarded the German Rock & Pop Prize in the special category "Cover / Revival Band" as the best band.
Andreas Kowalzik: That price was actually the turning point. A tiredness had crept in: Somehow the events no longer suited us, we were just service providers.
I then registered eXXited for the German Rock & Pop Prize without the knowledge of the other musicians. Even though we were only nominated in one sub-category, we were actually named the best cover band. That gave us a positive boost. We wanted to go back to the music we enjoy and play where the audience better suits us. That was a good decision.
"It is not easy to get gigs"
Backstage PRO: As a band you don't always know what to expect and which audience is coming. How can you control that audience and band fit together better?
Andreas Kowalzik: It's not easy to get gigs as a cover band. This is a difficult field these days. You have to take care of it yourself and apply to events that you think might fit.
We have had good experiences with city festivals. There is a stage in front of which there are people who appreciate live music. On the other hand, it is really difficult to get hold of city festivals because the competition is fierce. A lot goes through agencies - but we have never worked with an agency.
Backstage PRO: Which gigs are you not doing anymore today?
Andreas Kowalzik: Shooting festivals, harvest festivals and all these village events just don't suit us. We are often asked here, but mostly reject the offers. The only exception is the festival of the Bürgererschützenverein 1906 e.V. in Hövel in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2019 we play there on June 29th.
Backstage PRO: What is different in Hövel than at other shooting festivals?
Andreas Kowalzik: When we first got there, we thought it would be our last shooting festival. We were really worried that the performance would backfire, also because people were walking around in typical club clothes. A classic shooting festival. Then the audience got so crazy from the first song, including stage diving, that we were motivated to come back.
Backstage PRO: Are the performances financially worthwhile?
Andreas Kowalzik: You should look at that realistically. I hardly know a cover band that can really make a living from it - and wants to. With eXXited, we never intended it because we all have permanent jobs. I'm a music teacher, as is our keyboardist; we also have an engineer with us. Ultimately, music is always a passion and a hobby for us. For me it is also a luxury to say: We can perform, but we don't have to.
"Everyone in the band should get between 200 and 400 euros"
Backstage PRO: Nevertheless you perform as a band and you certainly don't want to pay extra for it. What should you pay attention to when negotiating with an organizer?
Andreas Kowalzik: I always calculate a price that includes the fee for the musicians. But then there is also sound and lighting technology. I also plan a small reserve for other expenses of the band such as marketing, promotion and insurance. Of course, you also have to deal with the subject of taxes.
Backstage PRO: What kind of fee can you ask for?
Andreas Kowalzik: There are cover bands that charge a flat rate of 1,000 euros including sound and light, while others do not perform for less than 5,000 euros. That always depends on the size and type of the event and the budget available. I think every musician in the band should get a fee between 200 and 400 euros. I consider that to be a realistic value that must be included for this service.
"Bands are often taken advantage of"
Backstage PRO: If you book you as a six-member band, you have to reckon with 1,200 to 2,400 euros. This does not include the costs for lighting and sound technicians any more than the "other reserves" you mentioned. At a time when many bands are performing on a hat basis or are even supposed to pay for gigs, you also need a certain amount of self-confidence when negotiating, right?
Andreas Kowalzik: I think this problem mainly affects bands that perform with their own music and are still at the beginning. Unfortunately, this is often exploited. A certain standard has been established among cover bands that is paid for. As a young band, you can orient yourself to this.
As an argumentation aid when negotiating: Also point out your costs for rehearsals, equipment, travel, working hours in the office - and that you also have living costs and that you are using your time and skills for the performance.
Backstage PRO: I am surprised that you bring your own technician and equipment for light and sound. Isn't that something that the organizer normally takes care of?
Andreas Kowalzik: There is also that, but it is less often the case. We usually offer our services in full. We bring our instruments with us, our sound engineer has his own event company and takes care of the rest: PA, monitoring, lighting and so on. We have been working together for more than ten years and are a well-coordinated team.
"Sound and optics are a complete package"
Backstage PRO: That the sound engineer knows you well is definitely a big advantage, isn't it? After all, the best band can sound bad if the person works badly on the controls.
Andreas Kowalzik: Absolutely. Of course, a band can only sound as good as it plays. But if the musicians play great and it still sounds bad, then the problem is either with the technology or with the person at the mixer. That's why I think it's so important to have a technician who knows you and has an understanding of the subject.
Light shouldn't be neglected either. The performance also lives from the fact that the band looks good on stage. So now people are expecting a decent light show. Sound and optics are a complete package.
Backstage PRO: Does your technician get a schedule for each concert, at which point in which song the light changes and when there is stage fog?
Andreas Kowalzik: A lot of professional bands do it that way. But we play programs of up to five hours in one evening. The light is then not programmed for each individual song, but our technician adapts the lighting mood spontaneously to the respective song.
"The creativity of the cover art has its limits"
Backstage PRO: Well, there are sometimes people who consider cover bands to be uncreative because they are just playing songs from other people. Is that an issue for you?
Andreas Kowalzik: No, for me this criticism is rather ineffective. I have the greatest respect for every band that makes their own music and is reasonably successful with it. You need a lot more creativity for that than for re-enacting songs.
As a cover band, you first and foremost need really good musicians. Up to a certain extent you can also bring in your own creativity: we sometimes change an arrangement or assemble medleys from different pieces. But of course creativity has its limits - unless, as a cover band, you have the concept of putting well-known songs in a new guise.
"We do without loops and playback"
Backstage PRO: I am always fascinated by the fact that many cover bands play the songs better than some of the original interpreters do at their concerts. I think good craftsmanship is particularly important in your profession, because you are always measured by the version that the listener knows from the radio.
Andreas Kowalzik: That is only partly true. I don't want to piss anyone off, but there are hardly any cover bands that really play one hundred percent live. Playbacks often play along with the particularly well-booked bands. Some go so far that only vocals and drums are live.
Backstage PRO: That surprises me. However, depending on the genre, I also find playback tracks legitimate. Have you already worked with loops or other players?
Andreas Kowalzik: We were faced with this question when it came to re-enacting dance floor numbers from the 1990s. If you want to faithfully reproduce this sound, you can't do it live because many of the bass and synth sequences are too special. But we decided that we still want to perform completely live without playbacks. That's why we forego songs that don't work so well with a band alone.
Backstage PRO: Thank you for the interview, Andreas. We wish you continued success and, above all, have fun with your band!
If you want to book the band for a gig, you can write to eXXited here at Backstage PRO.
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