The Art Of Using Cover Songs To Grow Your Audience
Many artists may have conflicted feelings about cover songs, for although they can be fun to play and offer an easy way to connect with your audience, it can also be irritating when cover songs are all an audience wants, or when they get more attention than original compositions. Here we look at the best way to make cover songs work for you.
Guest post by Dave Kusek of DIY Musician
Free Webinar April 26th at 4PM EST
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.
To help you make the most of cover songs and turn them into tools that help you grow your audience and raise awareness for your originals – instead of being a big roadblock, Kevin Breuner from CD Baby and I are hosting a free cover song webinar on Wednesday, April 26 at 4PM EST. See the agenda below…
Here are some Cover Song Basics and best practices you can start using right now.
1. Make it Your Own
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.
2. 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.
You could also ask them to visit a certain URL where they can get a few songs for free in exchange for an email address (give them a cover and an original to introduce them to your own music). If you’re really savvy, you could even 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 can really help you grow your audience and get more fans.
Here are a few things you’ll learn during the webinar:
- WHY COVER SONGS? – Learn why covers are so powerful and how you can use them along side your original music to get more attention and grow your fanbase.
- WHAT CAN YOU COVER (LEGALLY)? – Stop worrying about whether you need a license for covers, or whether posting them will get you in trouble. Learn exactly what you can cover and how so you can jam on in peace.
- HOW TO LICENSE A COVER SONG? – Want to put your cover on YouTube? We’ll explain how that works. Want to release a cover on your album? We’ll show you how to do that too!
- USING COVERS TO ATTRACT ATTENTION? – We’re not all out to be cover bands. But you can (and should) still make use of covers in your sets! Learn how to use cover songs to get people interested in you and your original music.
- GET COVERS NOTICED ONLINE? – There’s A LOT of cover song out there online. Learn how to stand out and get your versions discovered, shared and noticed.
We’ll not only be expanding on some of the tips we presented in this post, we’ll also be breaking down copyright law so you know how to release cover songs legally – both online and on your albums.
We hope to see you there!
Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.