The explosion of Tribute Bands

In the field of music, tribute bands are a relatively new phenomenon. Several decades ago, there were a few, scattered examples of this genre. Beatlemania was probably the best known. And of course, ever since his status changed from pop star to cultural icon, Elvis Presley has inspired tens of thousands of singers to mimic his style.

But the current slew of tribute bands — also called tribute acts — really came to prominence in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Since then, the number and variety of these types of musical groups has seemed to grow exponentially.

What exactly is a Tribute Band?

First and foremost, a tribute band plays the music of one artist, exclusively. That is the key feature. It is the job of a true tribute act to re-create the music of their designated artist as accurately as possible. This generally includes having the same number of members, comprising the same instrumentation, and covering all the vocals.

Depending on their level of dedication, tribute bands will often go so far as to use the exact same brands of guitars and basses, amplifiers, effects, percussion instruments, and more, of the band they are covering.

Second, many tribute bands will also attempt to adhere as closely as possible, to the look of the original band. This becomes especially noticeable when the original band has a distinct look. Some notable examples are costumes and makeup (“Kiss”), and well-known performers (“The Beatles”).

NOTE: In many countries outside the United States, the appearance of the band is actually more important than the sound. In fact, many countries actually refer to tribute bands as “Look-Alike” bands.

Where can you see these bands?

These days, just about everywhere. Tribute bands perform regularly at casinos, clubs, restaurants, outdoor fairs, festivals, and summer concerts, corporate events such as company parties, and even specialty shows like Woodstock recreation events.

The fact is, there is almost no venue that does not currently feature tribute bands as part of their musical lineup. From their origins as a rare novelty act, tribute bands have become totally mainstream.

How do artists feel about tribute bands?

In most instances, the original artists don’t mind it. Many artists are actually flattered when they generate tribute bands. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Not to mention that while there is almost never any confusion about a tribute band being the “real” band, they do help to promote the music and reputation of the original band.

That being said, there have been isolated cases where original artists have become angry at the idea of a tribute band; some of them have even filed lawsuits. But that is rare. Almost universally, artists understand that the fact that they have a tribute band, or bands, is a sign that they have achieved a certain level of success.