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What is a Tribute Band?

A tribute band is a group of musicians dedicated to authentically recreating the music and performance style of a famous act, celebrating their legacy. These bands transport fans back in time, offering a taste of the original concerts. Ever wondered how it feels to witness your favorite band's classic show? Join us as we delve into the world of tribute bands.
A Kaminsky
A Kaminsky

What do you do when your favorite legendary rock band breaks up or the members start dying off? Easy - you start a tribute band! A tribute band is a musical group dedicated to performing the music of one particular group, usually a very famous one. Sometimes, the band so honored is no longer performing, but some are still on the road.

One band that has spawned dozens of tribute bands is The Beatles. With the Broadway musical Beatlemania and other shows like 1964, imitating The Beatles is big business. It is also inspired by a love affair with the music.

Most of what brings musicians together to form a tribute band is a collective love of one band's music.
Most of what brings musicians together to form a tribute band is a collective love of one band's music.

Some Beatles tribute bands just sing the songs. Other bands use wigs and make-up to create the illusion of the original Fab Four and hire members based on how much they sound like John, Paul, George or Ringo. Being able to keep up with The Beatles as a musician is also very important in some Beatles tribute bands.

Another popular tribute band pays homage to the 1970s rock band KISS. These guys dress up as the original members, theatrical make-up and all, and rock out to "Dr. Love" and "I Was Made for Lovin' You," while spitting fire from the stage in best Gene Simmons fashion. Other bands that have a tribute band traveling somewhere include Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, the Monkees and even the Osmond Brothers!

Elvis Presley impersonators are a unique genre of tribute band.
Elvis Presley impersonators are a unique genre of tribute band.

Most of what brings musicians together to form a tribute band is a collective love of one band's music. Many bands start with this simple beginning and go on to be successful. Whether it truly constitutes a band is a topic for another article, but Elvis Presley impersonators are certainly a unique genre of tribute band.

It is also a good idea for a tribute band to get a good attorney on board, for the sole reason of securing performance rights to the songs they love. An attorney can help the band wade through the legal quagmire of music copyrights, so that their performances are legal and will not cause problems for any venues where they play. Available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, class reunions and occasionally, gigs in real stadiums, the tribute band is a modern variation on the venerable garage rock band.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a tribute band?

A tribute band is a music group that specifically aims to honor and replicate the music and style of a well-known artist or band. These bands often strive for authenticity, meticulously recreating the sound, look, and stage presence of the original act. Tribute bands can range from local groups covering hits at small venues to touring ensembles that play large concerts, sometimes even collaborating with or receiving endorsements from members of the original bands they honor.

How do tribute bands differ from cover bands?

While both tribute and cover bands play music originally performed by other artists, the key difference lies in their focus. Tribute bands dedicate themselves to one particular band or artist, often replicating their performance style and appearance closely. Cover bands, on the other hand, typically perform a wide variety of songs by different artists and do not necessarily try to mimic the original acts' performances or looks.

Are tribute bands legally allowed to perform another artist's music?

Yes, tribute bands are legally allowed to perform another artist's music live, as long as the venue has the appropriate music licenses. These licenses, typically obtained from performing rights organizations like ASCAP or BMI, cover the public performance of copyrighted music. However, tribute bands must be careful not to infringe on trademarks or engage in activities that could be considered misleading or confusing to fans regarding their affiliation with the original artist.

Can tribute bands record and sell the music of the artists they are paying tribute to?

Tribute bands can record and sell the music of the artists they pay tribute to, but they must obtain mechanical licenses to legally distribute the recordings. This ensures that the original songwriters and rights holders receive royalties for the use of their work. The Harry Fox Agency is one such organization that facilitates the acquisition of mechanical licenses for cover versions of songs in the United States.

What impact do tribute bands have on the music industry?

Tribute bands contribute to the music industry by keeping the music and legacy of original artists alive, often introducing it to new generations. They can also stimulate interest in the original artist's work, potentially increasing sales of albums and merchandise. According to a report by Nielsen Music, live music events, including tribute band performances, play a significant role in driving music discovery and consumption, which can have a positive ripple effect on the industry as a whole.

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Discussion Comments


I remember there was a Judas Priest tribute band in my hometown of Akron, Ohio back in the 80s. The lead singer was a vocal dead ringer for Rob Halford, and even looked like him a little. The story goes that the real Judas Priest needed a replacement for the real Rob Halford on an upcoming tour. They discovered this local tribute band frontman and hired him on the spot. He went out on several tours and I believe cut a few tracks on studio albums before Rob Halford rejoined the band.

It seems to me that the biggest drawback to performing in a tribute band is the idea that the fans are mostly there to hear the original band's material, not your own. If you had aspirations of making it as a solo artist or original band in the music business, being in a tribute band may not showcase your true abilities.


I wonder if people in tribute bands ever get mistaken for the actual person they are imitating?

I remember back in my hometown that there was a Kiss tribute band in town and a lot of people didn't really know about it. It wasn't long before sightings of Gene Simmons starting circulating and it was pretty funny to hear people get all excited.

Our town was so small that I had a healthy dose of skepticism over the appearance of any actual members of the group.

I think that when a tribute band has really good impersonators in it the overall experience is actually better for the fans.


Wow, I remember when I was a teenager there was a tribute band that went around as The Backstreet Boys. My friends and I all ended up checking out their shows because tickets to actual performances of The Backstreet Boys were really expensive.

The tribute band we went to only charged $10 for their shows and they did a really fantastic job. Great dancing, good voices and of course, they were passable look-a-likes.

One of the best things too is that tribute bands are actually accessible. While they aren't the real thing, when your a 14-year-old girl, talking to someone even performing the songs of the group you love is pretty fantastic. I guess girls that age are easily excitable for the most part.


@StarJo - I also saw an 80s tribute band, but unlike the one you saw, they were all about the hair and costumes. The music was okay, but their angle was more to portray the fashion and mannerisms of the era. They came across as almost making fun of eighties music.

I saw this band at a Halloween party, which is about the only place that it would have been appropriate. If someone had hired them to play at their wedding reception or other serious event, they would have seemed ridiculous.


There was a Journey tribute band that formed near my town. They played all over the surrounding area, and they developed quite a large following.

They had two things going for them. They had an awesome guitarist who could replicate Journey’s emotional solos, and they had a lead singer with a powerful, airy voice like Steve Perry has. If you closed your eyes at one of their shows, you could not tell that you weren’t at an actual Journey concert.

Things happened with members in the band, such as new marriages and arguments, that ultimately caused them to split. Five years later, they got back together for a reunion tour, and the interest in it was so great that they decided to stay together.


I went to see an 80s tribute band while I was in college. They were playing at a local club, and my friend and I loved to dance to music from that era. We were excited about it.

The members of the band all wore black suits and ties, like some new wave artists did. They played everything from “Tainted Love” to “Need You Tonight.”

I remember letting out a happy scream when they said they were about to play an INXS song. The lead singer commented, “Somebody likes that song!”

It was a really fun night. I never saw that band again, but if I heard that they were coming to town tonight, I would go see them.


I remember when the Swedish pop group A-Teens debuted their first CD in 1998. I thought that they were an Abba tribute band, because every song on the album was a cover of an Abba tune.

Musically, it sounded a lot like Abba. Their voices were a bit too immature to really seem Abba-like, though the band was made up of two girls and two guys.

I guess they are not actually a tribute band after all, because their later CDs feature original songs and covers of other people’s music besides Abba. I really thought they were headed in that direction, though.


This band actually shared the stage with real AC/DC members: Highway to Hell.


so what if you have paid all your licencing for the band's songs. is it then legal to use their name on your cd cover or is that another issue?

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    • Most of what brings musicians together to form a tribute band is a collective love of one band's music.
      By: Andrey Armyagov
      Most of what brings musicians together to form a tribute band is a collective love of one band's music.
    • Elvis Presley impersonators are a unique genre of tribute band.
      Elvis Presley impersonators are a unique genre of tribute band.