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  • Nick Pastorino

Not All Musicians Should Be Cover Artists

I keep seeing people on the internet make fun of artists who prefer to only play their own original songs as opposed to covering music. As if only being able to play your own original work means you're "not a real musician" or you're "lazy". Yeah, because as we all know Bob Dylan is famous for being a guitar virtuoso with vocals that rivaled Freddy Mercury and could cover any song beautifully. Shame on Bob Dylan for being a master songwriter instead of being a good cover artist like thousands of other people already are!

There is an age old debate as to whether it is better to be a jack of all trades or to be a master of one. That's like asking if a glass of water is half empty or half full, both stances are equally true and false. There is an upside as well as a downside to both being a renaissance man and being a sensei. If you are the greatest guitarist in the world and get into an accident that permanently breaks both of your hands, what are you good at now? And if you are really good at several different skills but can't compete with the best performers at any of these skills, how are you going to compete in the job market? But more importantly, what do these philosophies have to do with the question of whether or not a musician should be a cover artist?

My point is that people who have this belief that one must play covers in order to be a respectable musician are only looking at one side of the coin. This universe runs off of balance, therefore there are 2 sides to everything in existence. The upside of being a cover artist on top of writing original music is that it offers a musician more avenues for income and exposure. The downside is that being able to do so many things as a musician means you will never be among the best at any particular skill. Take a look at some of the greatest songwriters of all time: Bob Dylan, Billy Joe Armstrong, Leonard Cohen, etc. How many of these great songwriters are also great singers or guitarists? Yes, you'll have the occasional Neil Young and Pete Townshend but for the most part musicians who are great at one skill tend to be lacking in others. Jimi Hendrix is arguably the greatest guitarist of all time, but who considers him to be a great singer or songwriter? If Hendrix had focused more on vocals and less on guitar he wouldn't have been the greatest guitarist who ever lived.

If I had a nickel for every great cover artist I've seen on Youtube I'd be a very rich man. I have yet to see a single great songwriter or innovative guitarist on the internet. I've been a Youtube addict since its inception and I have seen many fantastic covers of famous songs, but I've never seen anything truly original. This is probably because it is a lot easier to make money as a cover artist as opposed to playing original music, but I digress (mainly because saying the word "digress" makes me sound smart).

If it isn't obvious, I don't agree with the creed of "you have to play covers to be a real musician". Many highly successful musicians don't have the technical skills to be a good cover artist and that didn't stop them from making it big. If you still don't believe that not every musician is cut out to be a cover artist, check out my cover of Adele's "Hello" on my Soundcloud page: Yeah, it's bad. That is a great example of what can happen when you take the majority advice. To be fair to myself, the vocals and piano aren't bad; they just don't mix well.

I'm not putting down cover artists, many great musicians were also cover artists. I'm just saying that it's not reasonable to expect all musicians to be the same. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so please don't put down artists who don't play covers because they are probably better songwriters than most cover artists.

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