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?