Covers and Mashups
Cover band mashups are quickly gaining in popularity as are original covers (putting your own unique spin on a cover). My band Fighting Friday has become well known in our small circle and by our fans for our mashups. We’ve tried and A/B tested mashups for years and have figured out what works best for us. There are numerous ways to craft and execute mashups to be highly successful and well received. There are also ways to do it to ensure that it flops and you hear crickets at the end while half your audience is walking out the door (ok it may not be instant, but if you lose people’s attention they will wander off.)
I want to touch on a few key points to consider when you are approaching a mashup or an original cover. Cover bands, take note!1. Attention Span
We are living in the time of the goldfish level attention span. Statistics vary but most people these days won’t even watch a YouTube video for longer than 30 to 90 seconds. Keep this number in mind when you are crafting your medleys or mashups. Try to stick to parts of the song that are the most memorable and engaging and then move on. Find what works for you but my advice is to keep it short and sweet and leave them wanting more.
2. Shock and Awe
Shock and Awe your audience. At the end of the set, you want people coming up to you saying, “I’ve never heard anything like that before! I can’t believe you went from (insert song) to (insert song) to (insert song)”. The great thing about a mashup is that if you craft it properly, you are creating something that no one has ever heard before.
3. Be Self-Critical
By this I mean, if you chose a song to work into your mashup because you love like the song but it’s flopping, be self-critical enough to know when to drop it from the lineup. If people aren’t excitedly looking around at their friends, going crazy, cheering, or singing along to the song, it’s probably not a good choice (for a mashup or in your set list, period). Drop the song and brainstorm for new ideas. Remove yourself from the equation and think about what your target audience would want to hear and will dance to.
Transitions are one of the weak points I’ve noticed with bands trying to execute medleys or mashups. Often the transition sounds sloppy, unrehearsed, doesn’t create a dynamic flow, or is just plain boring. Doing a stop at the end of each segment (every time), using the same style fills, or keeping the same tempo and groove for the whole mashup is entry level nonsense. Don’t do it. Get creative and mix it up. Write the transitions like you’d write an original song and then practice the hell out of them.
5. Be Dynamic
The most well written songs have excellent dynamics. Maybe they start soft and build into a goliath of rock, or maybe they have a slamming intro into a softer verse into a funk chorus. The point is, they move and bend and flow and create an interesting and engaging listening experience. Soft, loud, heavy, funky, fast, slow, etc. Keep it interesting and this will help keep the audience in the palm of your hand.
The best mashups or covers that I’ve heard have included some humor. Show your bands funny side and unique sense of humor. We all have one. Find some songs that you think are funny or are funny in the context of your band playing them. This will help you establish a better connection with your audience on multiple levels.
7. Be Creative
Keep it fresh, be creative, and use your musical knowledge. Push back against the status quo. We all know Sweet Home and All Summer Long work together, because they are the same song. If this is your idea of blending songs, just stop. You’re a musician, not an iPod. Recreate with your own spin and don’t regurgitate.
Armed with these tips, you’re ready to create your own mashups and step up the cover band game for all of us. It’s time to change people’s perception of cover bands. Bring back the fun and exciting aspects of live music and retire the old and tired. Maybe for you, it’s not mashups. Maybe you will discover something fresh that works better for your band. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to keep trying and keep growing. Staying in one place and sticking to the same old formulas is exactly why many people write off cover bands altogether. Let’s change that!
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