Thought Starters

Can Cover Bands teach us anything about being Creative?

Cover bands don’t change the world.

I stole that from Todd Henry at Accidental Creative. Yes, I stole it. There is was. It was ripe for the taking. Go check it out. His well thought out and superbly written article is here . He also ends his podcasts with the same quote which is where it first got my attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, I generally read Todd’s writing because I respect what he has to say. The quote just plays nicely, and quite fortunately, into this post.

Let me break it down for you.

First of all, if you are in a cover band you must simply be having some fun even though you are not creating something original. Why else would you do it? Fun. Secondly, would you agree that a cover band has talent? Sure, musical talent must be there otherwise they couldn’t really play. Being in a cover band certainly gives the band members the opportunity to practice their craft. They can certainly hone their skills and get in front of an audience but in no way can they throw in their own work because no one wants to hear it. That’s the issue is it not? No original stuff, we don’t want to hear it! We want what we came for!

All true. But here’s a different take.

Notwithstanding the true tribute bands what are cover bands really doing? They are emulating their heroes or the artists they respect. Most if not all put their own spin on the work anyway (how could they not, they are individuals, after all) and over time get more and more creative as they build confidence. They borrow. And they create. Everyone has to start somewhere. So, instead of just simply copying their heroes they are influenced by them and use the influence to create their own versions of their favourite tunes. Sound better?

From that perspective is building on the creative process similar?

Do you start with the ideas of the masters of your industry? Can you emulate their style, borrow their ideas and put your own spin on it? Sure you can and you must, at first.

That’s how we learn is it not?

We start with theory, application of industry standards and learn how to apply our education from our mentors. When we are tasked to unleash our creativity where do we look for inspiration? We look to our heroes or industry leaders from whom we can borrow and steal. You have the opportunity to test their ideas, styles, approaches and theory on your own sensibilities to see if they stick. You create using YOUR talents which are initially influenced by the ideas of your teachers, your mentors and the superstars in your field.

Just remember they all started in the same place as you. Sure, everyone’s life is different, we all have different opportunities and we all have different experiences but one thing is for sure. We all started generally in the same place; a squirmy fresh faced bright eyed child full of promise with no concept of fear.

It’s what happens after which counts.

We grow up and our talent starts to develop within us. Since we are social beings we are meant to share our ideas and experiences with those around us. We are thereby surrounded by creative influence and it’s that influence, when and where we choose to see it, that helps shape our own ideals. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, an American journalist and essayist, was famous for saying, “There are no original ideas, only original people.” Barbara is telling us we are tasked to be original people.

So, go ahead and steal from your heroes.

Use them but don’t abuse them. There’s a fine line between creative inspiration and blindly copying an idea. Unlike the tribute band it’s not ok to steal in that way. You have to remember to challenge yourself by making something new from the ideas you have so eloquently stolen. That’s the opportunity where you can stretch and challenge yourself to improve upon the idea and make it your own. That’s where you become original.

How do you find your ideas?

You can always read the publications in your industry, look at the work of your contemporaries, study your industry mentors work and find what gets you jazzed. Use that feeling along with what you see, read and hear to build on your style; your way. Steal and feel good about it. Fold those ideas into your sensibilities and if you can and you have the courage, reach out to your influencers and ask them about their work. See if your assumptions are true.

You know what I think about making assumptions though and if not click here to find out.

Just remember, the leaders of your industry are people too and they started in the same place you did and you can bet they learned from their heroes.

So, don’t worry about being a cover band right now. Todd is right. Cover bands never make it but that doesn’t matter because, like cover bands, we all need to learn. So, work on the changes, speed it up, slow it down. Add a jazzy feel, rock it out, or change the words. Just make it your own.

I stole this from a hockey card tucked up under my 50 Mission Cap. I am Canadian, after all.



P.S. Full disclosure. I have written about this idea before and I am at it again because it’s an important topic. You can check out the previous post here.

I stole those ideas for this version.

  • What do you do to find your inspiration?
  • Whose work do you revere?
  • Have you discussed your ideas with any of your influencers?

About rdopping

interior design guy who loves other stuff; social media, photography, film, food and anything that is good for the growth of the self


10 thoughts on “Can Cover Bands teach us anything about being Creative?

  1. Hehe.. you’re right, it is different from Kaarina’s post. It also reminds me of the Everything Is A Remix project – in a good way 😀

    See ya tomorrow, badass 😉

    Posted by ryzeonline | April 18, 2012, 00:46
    • Thank for coming around Jason. Appreciated. You are talking about Kirby right? That is some awesome stuff. Thanks for passing it on. Something I will link on this site. Looking forward to the chat.

      Posted by rdopping | April 18, 2012, 06:28
  2. P.S. I like the sig at the end of your post 🙂

    Posted by ryzeonline | April 18, 2012, 00:46
  3. Hmmm…where to start…first off, I agree that there are no truly “original” ideas, as everything that’s on this planet now is a combination/ permutation/ adaptation/ improvement or re-configuration of something that’s come before. It’s indeed the person that makes the difference. The person sees opportunity and a different angle, and creates something “new”.

    I guess my sticking point is actually the word “steal”. When I think of the definition “to take the property of another wrongfully”, I just can’t wrap my head around “stealing” anything from anyone. To me, it’s more like what you do in a brainstorming session when you tag on to another’s idea. If you read something or see something online and build upon it in your own way, BUT give credit where credit is due, I don’t see that as stealing. I see that as the way in which all innovation grows: by seeing the world with different eyes, in a different way.

    So like Jason points out when he references Everything is a Remix, it is…newly configured BUT with proper attribution, thanks and/or acknowledgement. Sometimes in the blogosphere similar posts seem to magically appear at the same time, but that’s because we’ve all seen something that’s sparked a collective resonance.

    Bottom line: maybe it’s just semantics, but I don’t and won’t “steal”. I’ll credit the source. I’ll speak my own message. Cheers! Kaarina

    Posted by Kaarina Dillabough (@KDillabough) | April 18, 2012, 08:49
    • Hey Kaarina, yeah, wow, the power of words, huh!

      I agree on all your points and I can see how a word in it’s context is really important. I understand your point of view and it is actually where I was going with it. The word steal may be a bit too controversial here but it is not meant in the traditional sense of taking something away from anyone. Plagarism, to me, is the negative form of “stealing” here and my point that we need to ensure that we don’t “use or abuse” the people that inspire us is critically important to me.

      Thanks for your comments. The feedback is appreciated. For sure.

      Posted by rdopping | April 19, 2012, 06:43
    • This may help clarify things…

      You can’t “own” or “steal” ideas, but people PAY FOR perspectives, and everyone’s perspective is as unique as they want it to be 🙂

      Posted by ryzeonline | April 20, 2012, 13:39
  4. No clones allowed, huh? Are there any original thoughts, or just variations of a combination of stimuli? I think we all emulate to a certain degree and then blend it in to our originality. Some might look more copied than others, but it’s still your original spin, right?

    I try to learn from every single encounter I have, even if it’s just a tiny bit. I’m might not be the sharpest tack in the box, but I’m no dummy and I can certainly see what works and what doesn’t; at least to my taste.

    That’s my story; and I’m sticking to it today.

    Posted by billdorman | April 19, 2012, 21:55
    • Original spin. Now there’s a name for a rock band….or not. Yes sir! I think what’s important about whay you said is that you learn from your encounters. That’s the critical biscuit and something we all should never stop doing. Someone is always doing it different than us and you neverknow where your next inspiration is going to come from.

      Thanks for your comments, Bill. As always, you add value to the conversation.

      Posted by rdopping | April 20, 2012, 05:54
  5. As a writer, I’ve always struggled with the concept of borrowing or stealing others’ ideas. I’ve gotten plenty of inspiration from those who influence me, sure…but like Kaarina said, it’s hard to wrap my head around the “s-word”! I know that wasn’t the point of the post, but it just goes to show that even the word itself scares me off sometimes. I always want my posts to be 100% original and I don’t stop to think about whether or not that’s even possible. But the fact of the matter is, even if it’s original in my eyes, it may not be once you get it out there! Sheesh…

    Anyway, I enjoyed your cover band comparison. Todd is right: cover bands don’t change the world. But you know what cover bands do? They entertain while they can, they sharpen their skills, and then they eventually get back onstage with their own unique blend of material and kick some butt! I can live with that. 🙂

    Posted by Jill Tooley (@JillTooley) | May 4, 2012, 17:23
    • Jill, thanks for your comments and you nailed it exactly. Two things; the word steal is just a word. Yes, it has a negative connotation but the idea of inspiration is what I explain. It’s absolutely not cool to plagiarize anything but learning form your influencers is the way to go. Second, it is totally acceptable to me too to practice your art by using the ideas of your heroes (i.e cover bands) but I do believe that you need to put yourself out there are create your own magic.

      Appreciate you dropping by.

      Posted by rdopping | May 5, 2012, 09:38

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