You can grow your music career with cover songs

In popular music, a cover version, cover song, revival, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Wendy Thelma shot to the limelight when she did a tribute cover of Mowzey Radio's (RIP) songs shortly after he'd passed on.
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Welcome back from the long weekend! Lord, that was just like the Easter weekend. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, then Monday was Martyrs Day and to cap it off, Allah gifted our Muslim brethren with Eid on Tuesday; four days of blasting and chilling! Well, we’re now back to business.

Like I anticipated, my previous article ‘Band Music’ is soon dying… permanently! earned me some strong insults from the ‘Band Music’ artistes. Take it from me that if you get attacked in such situations, the implication is that you are doing something right; someone out there sees you as a threat to their business. So guys, mwesortinge!

Today, my focus is on ‘Cover Songs’ and whether it is good to do covers or not. When you speak to different artistes, you will get different reactions regarding cover songs. Whereas some hate them, some do love them in equal measure.

If you ask me, it is quite good doing covers of other people’s songs. If you pick the right song at the right moment, you’re bound to make fans run wild and kick start your career in music. On the other hand, covers can also be very frustrating. From experience and observation, an artiste who does covers tends to get more attention for their covers than their original music. In any artiste’s mind, this creates a feeling that they are unappreciated and that the industry is pushing them to the ‘Cover Zone.’ I come bearing good news.

Artiste Bruno K at the 2017 The Uganda Music Awards (TUMA). Bruno K did a rendition of Kabuye Semboga’s ‘Ebisaani’. (Photo Courtesy: www.satisfashionug.com)

If you want to make the most out of your covers, you need to turn them into tools to help you grow an audience and create awareness for your original music along the way. Here are three basics and practices you can start with.

1. Own the cover song

Let’s take a look at the covers done in Coke Studio. The artiste gives the song a completely new feel including lyrics to fit their own style. This should be your main focus. When you decide to cover a song, own it by dropping a unique spin of your own. Make sure the cover has your style. Sometimes, if it means creating a new instrumental, do it.

By doing this, the fans won’t be shocked when you drop an original because it will be you. It helps you stand out from the flood of covers on YouTube, and it also helps you transition to your original music.

2. Push for subscribers, not just views

On YouTube, Subscribers are a more important aspect than Views. In my line of work, I have seen a couple of artistes get lucky with a viral song and then they make the mistake of focusing on getting more views over getting subscribers.

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For a fact, One Million views on a song is totally useless because when you make the next release, it will likely land on deaf ears because you do not have subscribers. So before you think of how to get 100,000 views on YouTube, start off with a focus on how to convert the viewers into subscribers to your channel.

This takes me back to the article I wrote about creating an auto-subscription feature for your YouTube channel. In this, you increase the chance of getting more subscribers who will receive your original song when you drop it.

Rude Boy does a cover of Khaligraph Jones “Kasabuni” at Coke Studio

According to me, 100,000 views of a video on a Channel with 100 Subscribers is totally useless compared to a 10,000views of a video on a channel with 2,000 subscribers because in reality, one person has 100 fans ready to listen to their new music and the other has 2,000 fans ready to receive any new project.

3. Use ‘Call to actions’

It’s been proven that when you talk to someone, chances are high that they will do what you want them to do. I will advise that in your cover videos, do not get tired asking viewers to subscribe to your channel for more covers and originals.

For first-timers, this feels awkward and pushy but don’t get ashamed asking for what you want. If you’re performing somewhere, use breaks to ask revelers to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to see more of your works, or photos that you’re posting from the show.

Create a link to offer your songs in exchange for just an Email address or phone number. With this, you’re building a database of fans you can directly market to when you release new music.

Wendy Thelma’s Tribute Cover of Mowzey Radio’s songs.

Well, there are many reasons why you should consider using cover songs to grow your music career and audience at large. In Uganda, we have witnessed artistes like Bruno K and Wendy who got a breakthrough through cover songs (both did songs by Radio & Weasel). When the chance to cover music of the Legendary Elly Wamala came up, all our big artistes did not waste that opportunity to tap into a whole new audience. Lately, we have seen some instrumentalists get attention by doing renditions of the popular Kyarenga by Bobi Wine.

Let me crawl back to my kamooli. We’ll catch up next week as we build this industry brick by brick.

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