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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cover Bands Have it So Good

Posted by Ezra Ace Caraeff on Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 4:50 PM

darkstar.jpg

See these fashionable folks? That is Dark Star Orchestra, a Chicago-based Grateful Dead tribute band.

While it's tempting, I am not going to say a single negative word about Dark Star Orchestra, mostly because I am in total awe of how they do business. Cover bands come and go, but this one does two—yes, two—nights at the Crystal Ballroom at $28 a (dreadlocked) head. Sure, Modest Mouse can book twice that, but they are a band funded by Sony (via Epic), and have a complete network supporting them at all times. Plus they have to make new music, not just break out a passable cover of "Touch of Grey" during the third encore.

When it comes to Dark Star Orchestra, they don't have to do a damn thing. In fact, unlike say Purple Reign, they don't even have to look the part. Even if you absolutely loathed the music of the Dead, wouldn't you be tempted to lob off a finger (someone has to play Jerry Garcia) in order to cash in on that lucrative cover band market?

Anyway, that's not the point. My question is, do cover musicians split their pay and get paid the same percentage as the original musicians they portray? For instance, I assume Garcia got had more points than drummer Bill Kreutzmann and was paid significantly better from Grateful Dead LLC. So if you play the role of Jerr-Bear in a Dead tribute act—9.5 fingers and all—do you get paid better than your Kreutzmann? That's only fair, right?

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