Two Types of Bands 

Within the realm of live musical performance there are different types of gigs. Some bands play original music, writing and performing their own songs.

Other bands, however, perform cover songs, or tunes written by more well known artists. Here we’ll take a look at the differences between these two types of musical acts. 

Different Spaces, Different Paces 

We’ll refer to the first type of band as “original artists”. Original artists could really play at any venue with an audience. Often times you’ll find them at bars and clubs, sharing a show with other original acts, eventually performing at larger venues once they’ve become more established and popular. 

The second type of group, known as a gig band or cover band, typically performs events with built-in crowds, such as:

  • Weddings
  • Beer gardens
  • Private parties
  • Corporate events

*This distinction, however, is not absolute. That is to say, it’s not unheard of to see a cover band at a club or bar, and it’s not unlikely that you’d see a band performing original music at a private event, such as inauguration or wedding proposal (I’ve played originals at both). 

It is still much more common to see these types of acts filling the spaces I mentioned above. 

Further Breaking It Down 

Within the realm of gig bands and cover bands there are different styles, such as:

  • Classical
  • Classic rock
  • Polka
  • Any other identifiable, established style of music, or genre

Furthermore, some cover bands may take on the catalogue of a specific historic act, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or another beloved musical group. 

Who’s Doing The Hiring Around Here?

Each distinct type of musical act is likely to be hired by different people for different events. A public gig (often original artists) is likely to be hired by the venue, and ultimately makes their money from ticket sales or cover charges, as well as merchandise, and possibly a direct payment from the venue. Their point of contact is often a bar manager, or venue employee or organizer who ideally has a good deal of experience running shows. 


A private gig band, on the other hand, is more likely hired by somebody organizing the event. This could be a bride or groom, a best man, a campaign organizer, or anybody involved with the event who may have much less experience hiring musicians. Because of this, the private event can present additional considerations and complications. The gig band may have to:

  • Provide their own sound system or PA.
  • Negotiate fair payment.
  • Clarify set times.
  • Ask for additional accommodations. 
  • Address any of the many other possible challenges.

What Is a Fanbase, Anyway?

A fanbase can be crucial to the commercial success of an original act. In their case, fans are essentially the ones writing the checks. 

Cover bands and gig bands, on the other hand, often don’t have a fanbase. In some cases, however, a fun cover band with a reputation for putting on a great show might generate a real following. 

Most cover bands, however, rely on their professional reputation for doing a good job, and in some cases rely on the fanbase of the bands who originally wrote the songs they play. 

All About The Benjamins

Your baseline for a cover band is probably more consistent. That is to say that cover bands or gig bands often get hired for set rates. 

Original compositions have a higher potential for maximum earnings, though. If an original act garners enough adoring fans, the sky’s the limit on how much you can earn.  

Think of it like a compressor, assuming you know at least the basics of audio plugins. A compressor takes the dynamic range of a sound and compresses it, bringing up the lowest volume and limiting the high. That’s sort of what playing in a cover band does to your paycheck. 

Creative Fulfillment, and Other Abstract Musings 

Some musicians place a greater value on creative fulfillment, or artistic expression. It’s not unrealistic to say that not all musicians highly value creating different sonic worlds of their own orchestration.

Some players are happy to hone their craft, play their instrument, and be compensated for doing as much. 

If you are a musician who values this type of fulfillment, though, you’ll mostly achieve it playing original music. You may be granted some creative freedom interpreting the songs of other musicians, but in the gig band world, it may not be much.

Some cover bands do interesting takes on familiar songs, however. 

The Gourds, for example, is a band that has covered Snoop Dogg’s song “Gin and Juice” in the style of Bluegrass Music. They would fall into the realm of cover bands that have garnered a fanbase, and it’s worth mentioning that not all of their tunes are cover songs. 

The Final Take 

Cover bands and acts performing original songs both have their own distinct place within the industry of music performance. Bands hoping to fulfill a creative vision and reach a wide audience are more likely creating original music (with some aforementioned exceptions).

Cover bands and gig bands may find more consistent work, but the maximum earning potential in terms of fanbase and merch sales may not be as great, with more foreseeable challenges and responsibilities arising. 

Many musicians will play in both types of band, earning a living and exploring their creativity. Whatever type of act you perform with, BookLive’s expansive platform for musicians has a solution for you.

May all your performances be spectacular.