Arranging and recording covers of hyped songs can act as a huge boost in exposure. There’s a broad audience out there, quite appreciative of high-quality interpretations. No doubt about that. But it is also a road quite frequently traveled, by many musicians, so you’re up against a bunch of competition.
If you’re still thinking about whether you want to record and distribute your own version – take a look at these collected pros and cons. They might nudge you in the right direction. Make sure the outcome is actually worth the time and effort you invest. Here’s a spoiler – more often than not, it’s actually worth it.
Let’s start with a very obvious pro…
The potential of multiplication is obviously huge with covers of hyped songs. You might generate numerous shares and also UGC uploads, with channels and tastemakers spreading your cover.
Be ready to act on this response, though. Community impact should always be followed up by reactions from your side. You’re collecting potential distributing partners for your own originals, winning their hearts by starting off with something they know. Something they appreciate.
So – make sure you have time to engage in social media management. This includes comments and dms, maybe even conversations that build rapport.
Aesthetic commentary (+)
Every cover is a statement. No matter how lighthearted you approach the song, the sheer act of selecting this piece of music says a lot about you. And with you, obviously, your artistic persona, taste and overall vision.
Be aware that your choice is definitely scrutinized by a watchful audience. It may shape the way people perceive your brand, and it opens up a new sphere of interpretation.
Think of cover songs as a vehicle of aesthetic commentary. By choosing a certain piece of work, you state your relation to that song, that artist etc. If you pick up on something ironic, that’s a statement. If you choose to cover something sentimental, that’s a statement also.
Song-interpretation is a powerful, communicative device.
Free riding image (-)
There are various reasons to cover a song. Maybe you love it, or it suits your own catalogue, or maybe you are just hoping to gain a little buzz due to the topicality of the music. None of these reasons are better or worse, they just are what they are.
What can happen, though, is that people perceive your work in this area as a kind of free riding. They might think you’re acting purely strategical, covering songs to gain attention, without the intent of spreading original, artistic value among the community.
If you only do covers – that’s one thing. That’s great, many people do that in a hugely successful manner. I mean people become stars doing that, eventually moving on to their own compositions and music. If you want to mix your own catalog with external songs, though, try to keep a balance, try not to overdo it.
People will appreciate your interpretations if they are genuine, skilled and heartfelt. But be aware that originality beats the best strategic play.
Songwriting craft (+)
You know how the Beatles learned songwriting? By covering old Rock n’ Roll tunes in dark, moist basements in Hamburg. Sounds kind of sad, but we all know where that took them, eventually. Not
the worst places, one could say. Anyway – with every song you interpret and every form you learn, you broaden your musical horizon. Even if chords are simple, there’s so much more to interpreting than just laying down the musical cornerstones. To make a song your own, to create something that is appreciated by people out there – and that’s what you should be aiming at – you have to understand the music. And you have to understand the lyrical depth.
Well, mostly that is. Even the shallowest songs can be infused with depth and beauty, and oftentimes that’s what elevates an interpretation to a unique work of art.
Fast content (+ & -)
In our current release climate, fast content is definitely something you want to get your hands on. This can be a double-edged sword, though. Even though covers can provide you with the necessary song material for a fast and effective release plan, they can keep you from getting your hands dirty, compositionally.
The urge to produce fast content shouldn’t keep you from taking your time on these things. Even a cover song should be planned very, very carefully – and executed in an equally careful fashion.
Hugely popular cover songs, even the most intuitive-looking, are almost always extremely well prepared. People just make it seem effortless. The audience doesn’t see the hours of practice, experimentation, maybe even struggle.
Fast content CAN happen, but it shouldn’t affect the overall quality of your musical execution.