Have you ever dreamed of having your favorite big band play at your wedding or a milestone birthday?
Just about nobody can afford to hire a chart-topping band to perform for them. Even if you could do this, what if the band you want does not exist anymore?
Enter tribute bands. Tribute bands have been around for many decades, but recently they have seen even more popularity. Reports show that live performances by tribute bands have become a multi-million dollar industry over the last few years.
Not sure what a tribute band (or as only Wikipedia calls it “tribute act“) is? If so, you might be missing out on one of the music world’s most interesting, accessible, and nostalgic phenomenons.
Tribute bands have a fascinating history, and they offer something that’s hard to get these days: live shows of the world’s favorite music, available for just about any event. And in case you were wondering, tribute bands aren’t just cover bands.
Ready to learn everything you need to know about tribute bands? Keep reading as we walk you through what is a tribute band, why they are so popular, and more.
Tribute Bands Explained
If you’re wondering what is a tribute band, tribute bands exclusively play songs from a specific well-known musician or musical group. These tribute acts usually aim to replicate the original material from the artist’s singles and albums as closely as possible.
A tribute band may be a rock band, the traditional lead vocalist, guitar, drums and bass, but many of these bands have grown beyond that, with tributes in many genres including country and dance. In some cases, tribute acts include complete orchestras!
To enhance the experience and make it as close to the original thing as possible, many tribute bands may also mimic the overall appearance and aesthetic of the band or artist they’re paying tribute to.
For instance, members of a Led Zeppelin tribute band will probably rock long hair and put effort into recreating the styles that the original band’s members wore.
Besides this, a lot of tribute bands also choose band names that reference the “tributed” musician or group. Oftentimes, tribute band names also incorporate some humor. For instance, The “Fillers” are a tribute band that has been “filling” in for The Killers in front of huge audiences all over the world.
The “The Faux Fighters”, a Foo Fighters tribute, are another example of a clever, humorously chosen tribute band name.
Although a lot of tribute bands try to stick as closely as possible to the flavor of the band they’re paying tribute to, others inject some of their own personality into the act.
For instance, “Blobbie Williams“, a tribute artist to Robbie Williams, realized that his figure wasn’t close enough to Bobbie’s toned physique for a realistic tribute act.
But, being a longtime performer and a big Robbie Williams fan, he struck upon the name “Blobbie Williams” as a comedic way to reference his larger size. The tribute act has been a hit in Britain and has even received the blessing of Robbie Williams himself.
Blobbie Williams isn’t the only tribute act with a personal twist. Dread Zeppelin is another example. This tribute band exclusively plays Led Zeppelin music, but with a reggae spin. The Iron Maidens are an all-female tribute to the legendary Iron Maiden.
The History of Tribute Bands
Tribute bands have been around for a long time, but they only became a recognized phenomenon during the 70s.
Many people say that it was the documentary “Beatlemania” that sparked the beginnings of widespread tribute bands. Seven years after the Beatles disbanded, a “rockumentary” on the group premiered in Boston.
After this, Beatlemania went on to play across the US. Instead of one band doing several exhausting tours, in each city, the organizers would cast a band to play as the fab four during the show. In this way, dozens of Beatles tribute bands were inadvertently created.
But the Beatles weren’t the only group with tribute bands. Around the same time, Grateful Dead cover bands started popping up in New Jersey.
Pretty soon, there were tribute bands for most popular groups and artists, including ABBA, Journey, Neil Diamond, AC/DC, Shania Twain, KISS, The Ramones, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd to name just a few examples.
Basically, if a band was ever popular, there is probably someone doing a tribute to that band or singer.
Initially, a lot of tribute bands played the music of performers who had passed away and groups that had split up. In other words, they were re-enacting the music so people had a chance of hearing it live again, even though the original band or artist wasn’t around anymore.
Over time, however, tribute bands also started forming for existing artists and groups. For instance, almost as soon as the UK boyband One Direction started topping charts, a music group called Only One Direction was formed.
A lot of tribute bands form because the members are fans of the original band and want to perform its music. Others form to fill a need.
This was the case with musical impersonators Only One Direction. As One Direction started gaining traction on the charts, producer Anna Slater recognized that the band would not be able to keep up with demand for live performances, and saw a gap in the market for a tribute band. She systemically interviewed potential band members and branded the tribute band into a marketable product.
The Growing Demand for Tribute Bands
Although tribute bands have been around for more than 50 years, many people viewed them as phony, fake, and cringeworthy.
Over time, this perception has changed.
Many tribute bands are doing good business, in high demand, tickets to their shows sell out, and band members can earn a reliable income. Over the last handful of years, there has been an even higher surge in demand, and listing agents have watched as bookings grow to a flood.
Thanks to popular demand, you can now book just about any type of tribute band you want and often sell out a venue with a Rolling Stones tribute, an Adelle tribute, a Justin Bieber tribute, or an Elvis Presley act. There are even spin-off tributes from those major bands when the band’s members went solo, like a John Lennon tribute, a Paul McCartney tribute and even George Harrison tribute acts!
How Tribute Bands Differ From Cover Bands
You might be wondering, how are tribute bands different from cover bands? Aren’t they basically the same thing?
Cover bands also play songs from other artists, but they don’t usually specialize in one artist or band’s work. Instead, they do a range of different covers. Cover bands are also more likely to put their own personal spin on cover songs, and sing them in a way that differs from the original recordings.
The most common cover trick artists use is to take a song and quieten it down, drawing out the vocals and playing it more gently.
Like we said above, most tribute bands specialize in one artist or band’s music. Some tribute bands do play more than one musician’s songs. But if they do, they usually keep it to a max of two or three.
The music a tribute band plays is also very much a part of the overall branding of their band. Cover bands rarely, if ever, brand their themselves by paying tribute to one specific band in their name and aesthetic.
In other words, while cover bands play other artists’ music, they don’t usually aim to replicate the original band and song. Tribute bands, on the other hand, usually try to recreate the original experience.
Because of this, tribute bands spend a lot of time studying the music they play. Some of the best tribute bands approach their performances with even more focus and attention to detail than many original creators.
While a cover might sound quite similar to the original track, there’s a high chance that you’ll know immediately that it’s a different band or artist doing their own version. With a tribute band, it can often feel very much like the real thing.
How Tribute Bands Got So Popular
Earlier we mentioned that tribute bands have gotten a lot more popular in recent years. Nobody has one conclusive answer for why this is. But, because we work exclusively with tribute bands, we can make some pretty educated guesses.
For one, there seems to be a global feeling of nostalgia. You can see it in just about any industry, from video games to fashion and interior design.
A huge demand has grown for authentic vintage collectibles, such as record players, cassette tapes, old Game Boys, and more. According to reports, the years of accelerated tech change and the pandemic’s disruption are the cause.
During the pandemic, streams of old music increased dramatically. The overall vibe is one of wanting to cherish and hold on to the special, iconic moments of the past.
And what better way to do this than by watching a live performance of an old band’s music, performed in a nearly identical way, down to the last details such as using the same guitars and amps that the original artists used?
Another reason why tribute bands are experiencing such a high level of demand is they offer people an affordable way to enjoy a live music experience, with music that they know and love.
Unless you’re an indie music fan, you may not feel like watching a small band whose music you’re not familiar with. Most people want to go out and have a good time listening to their favorite music, not necessarily getting to know new music. But, not everyone can afford tickets to big live performances.
And if you’re a fan of 70s rock and roll, live acts of your favorite bands might be few and far between. Def Leopard, is still touring to this day in legendary style, but they are an exception.
Tribute bands aren’t only more affordable, but they’re also more accessible. Big musicians almost never play in out-of-the-way areas. Most concerts are in metropolitan areas, or at big-ticket festival sites.
This leaves less populated areas with only small bands and local musician shows.
There are substantially more tribute band performances in less populated places than there are in metropolitan areas. This phenomenon is most easily seen in the midwestern United States, where a tribute musician can have a fairly steady career and earn a living wage performing live — which is all any musician really wants anyway.
Why Event Planners Choose Tribute Bands
Tribute bands aren’t just popular with audiences and music fans, but they’re also a hit with event planners. Here are some of the reasons why event planners might choose a tribute band over a cover band or indie band.
Tribute Bands Give Event Planners the Chance to Tie Well-Known Music to Event Themes
A big reason why event planners opt for tribute bands is it gives them the chance to tie the theme of their event to a place in music history.
For instance, if you’re hosting a retro-themed event, what could be more fitting than having a tribute band play iconic music to the era you’re referencing? Or, if you’re hosting an event that honors a specific city, you might want to hire a city-specific tribute band, one that plays the music of a famous musician or band from that city, such as hiring a BOSTON tribute band to perform at a sales event in Boston.
Unless you’re organizing football’s “Big Game”, chances are your budget won’t be big enough to hire the original act, providing they even still exist. A tribute band provides event organizers which an almost identical experience to the real deal, at a much lower price tag.
Tribute Bands Draw the Crowds
Another reason why event planners hire tribute bands is for the simple reason that they are a crowd pleaser and shows are often sold out. As we mentioned earlier, most people don’t go out to discover new music and small artists.
The large majority want to have a good time and listen to songs that they already know the lyrics to.
Because tribute bands can replicate original songs almost perfectly, a tribute concert is a sure-fire way to a crowd’s heart.
Cover artists often alter songs and put their own twists on them, and sometimes this doesn’t go down well with crowds. They might not get booed, but there’s nothing quite like the original version (or as close as possible) to get a crowd going.
Event planners want to know that the music act they choose will go over well. A tribute band can guarantee this.
Tribute Bands Don’t Disappoint
Speaking of guarantees, another reason event planners opt for tribute bands is that they don’t disappoint. Good tribute bands know the songs they play inside and out, and diligently rehearse them so they are uncannily close to the originals.
With a tribute band, event planners know that the music will draw a crowd. The songs are tried and tested favorites. Chart-topping songs, whether old or new, also hold emotional memories for people.
If you want to make sure the music at your event connects with the audience, hiring the right tribute band is a sure-fire way to make certain of this.
Tribute Bands Are Cost-Effective
Besides being a sure crowd pleaser, tribute bands are also very cost-effective. While they deliver nearly the same music, booking a tribute band will usually cost a fraction of what event planners would have to pay if they hired the original artist.
Depending on the type of venues you’re booking or event you’re organizing, you might not have a big music budget. However, having the right music is important for just about any event. For some events, the music can be a make or break factor.
For instance, experts agree that cutting costs on music at a wedding is one of the worst wedding planning mistakes you can make.
Not everyone can shell out big money for music. Tribute bands allow regular people to have a show-stopping event at a price they can afford.
Most Popular Tribute Bands
Just like with anything else, you get great and not-so-great tribute bands. But, most tribute bands have to play to a certain standard, otherwise, they won’t survive long. The tribute bands that don’t put the effort in, don’t get booked, and soon dissolve.
Although most active tribute bands play well, a few really stand out and have gained acclaim and a certain level of fame of their own.
Rain (Beatles Tribute Band)
Rain (previously known as Reign) has to be one of the most long-lived, prestigious Beatles tribute bands around today.
Formed in 1975, Rain is one of the first and most acclaimed tribute bands. They cover songs from The Beatles and their name is a reference to the Beatle’s 1966 single Rain.
Rain started out playing Beatle covers at the Mine Shaft in Calabasas. Their realistic covers and performances soon earned them renown and they were hired by Dick Clark in 1979 to record covers for the movie Birth of the Beatles.
After this, they continued to play in live shows and theater acts. In 2008 Rain developed a broadway-style show format, in keeping with the Beatlemania documentary.
Two years later, the broadway show started airing at theaters, and enjoyed extensive runs, with over 300 shows performed.
This long-lived Beatles tribute band is still touring and doing live shows to this day, taking audiences back to the 60s and the music of the Beatles.
E5C4P3(Journey Tribute Band)
According to Google search interest, Journey tribute bands are one of the most in-demand types. They are second only to Beatles tribute bands. Thanks to this, there are many, many Journey tribute bands in existence.
But, the best Journey tribute band around is unfortunately spelled E5C5P3 (pronounced “Escape”). Escape isn’t just any journey tribute band. Its members are all prestigious musicians who have proved their metal, both within the tribute band and outside it.
The lead vocalist has an almost eerie resemblance to Steve Perry, both vocally and physically. Watching him onstage transports audiences back to the 80s and the Journey lineup. This makes for an incredible experience for Journey fans.
Overall, E5C5P3 is a highly respected tribute band that does an amazing job recreating the music of Journey and taking audiences back in time.
Bohemian Queen (Queen Tribute Band)
Filling the boots of the band members of Queen is a tall order, but there is one tribute band out there that has risen to the challenge like no other.
Currently, it’s pretty much an undisputed fact that the best Queen tribute band is Bohemian Queen. Created shortly before the COVID-19 lockdowns started, Bohemian Queen was formed by a group of seasoned national touring musicians. But musical talent and experience weren’t the only criteria for the band members.
Each member had to be able to seamlessly harmonize and recreate all of the Queen setlist songs to perfection.
Because the tribute band formed just before the start of the pandemic, they hit a speed wobble as the entertainment industry ground to a halt. But this didn’t slow Bohemian Queen down for long.
During the months when they couldn’t perform, they took to social media, creating entertaining videos at a time when the world needed it most. Once live shows were a possibility again, the group took to the road, wowing audiences at every show.
Not only are their renditions of Queen’s songs impeccable, but their shows also feature numerous wardrobe changes, all intentionally matched to the era when the songs originated.
To add to everything, the tribute band’s frontman Paulie Z looks and perhaps most importantly, behaves, a lot like Freddie Mercury.
Not only are Bohemian Queen’s shows outstanding, but the group is also committed to giving back to local communities. With every show the tribute band performs, Paulie Z reaches out to local preschools and non-profit schools to offer music education. He personally works with the kids to pass on his knowledge and passion for music.
Get the Led Out (Led Zeppelin Tribute Band)
If you’re a led head, you’ll be pleased to know there are hundreds, if not thousands of Led Zeppelin tribute bands out there.
However, one of the best has to be Get the Led Out (GTLO). Get the Led Out focuses on creating the most accurate studio renditions of the Led Zeppelins hits.
Stocked to the brim with talent, the seven band members tackle the layered guitar riffs, mandolins, harmonica, and challenging vocals with prowess.
Chasing their heels at a close second is Zep LA. While Get the Led Out focuses mostly on replicating the authentic Zeppelin sound, Zep LA offers a full 5-piece band, a spectacular show, incredible sound replication, intricate set preparation, and a strong stage performance.
Are You Looking To Hire a Tribute Band?
Tribute bands fill a big need in the music industry. For decades tribute bands have been serving audiences with their favorite music and creating experiential entertainment.
Tribute bands offer a guaranteed attraction. If you hire the right tribute band, you’re assured a happy crowd.
Are you looking to hire a tribute band? If so, we can help.
Here at Pro Tribute Bands, we connect event planners and talent buyers with the very best tribute bands.
Would you like us to help you deliver top-quality, national act caliber entertainment? Contact us today.
Tribute Band Quick Facts
- A tribute band is a band that covers the songs of a particular artist or band.
- Tribute bands usually consist of professional musicians who have a passion for the artist or band they are paying tribute to.
- Tribute bands often play at music festivals and concerts, and sometimes even tour internationally.
- Tribute bands usually dress and perform in a manner similar to the artist or band they are paying tribute to.
- Tribute bands often have a similar name as the artist or band they are paying tribute to.
- Tribute bands often have a similar logo as the artist or band they are paying tribute to.
- Tribute bands nearly always play the same songs as the artist or band they are paying tribute to.
- Tribute bands often cover the entire discography of the artist or band they are paying tribute to.