LI Music Scene debates Tribute vs. Original Bands

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The Long Island Music Hall of Fame held two panels at The Space at Westbury to discuss the state of the Long Island music scene. The panels included original artists, cover bands, venue owners, talent buyers and music journalists. They discussed the Long Island music scene and what can be done to nurture and support original artists.

A hot topic debated was “Are tribute bands taking all the gigs.” Members of the panel had different perspectives depending on age and what type of band they play in. Overall, older artists just want to continue doing music in any form while younger ambitious bands are using any tool in their toolbox to create new music and get recognized.

Moderator, Jim Faith, producer of the Great South Bay Music Festival and co-founder of the LI Music Hall of Fame, stated 75% of Long Island is an adult market and people want to hear music that they know. Many people seem stuck in their era and rather listen to songs that they know over new music.

Ian Kenny, front man and song writer for King Neptune & NGHBRS, emerged in DIY Pop Punk community on Long Island that played in basements and VFW halls. Unfortunately, he’s seen the shift in the scene, instead of playing at multiple clubs and venues in Nassau and Suffolk County, he has to flock to Brooklyn, Manhattan and other boroughs to play.

Pop music writer, Glenn Gamboa, uses Taking Back Sunday as a benchmark to measure success in the Long Island music scene. Unfortunately, since records don’t sell anymore, no local bands have been able to reach the same heights Taking Back Sunday and Brand New did in the early 2000s. Gamboa stated, “If I hear the next Taking Back Sunday, I’m going to write about it.” However, if young people don’t read newspapers would his coverage even be valuable to up and coming bands playing local shows?

James Skidmore, music writer and chairman for Alive After Five, believes there should be a collaboration between venues and original music to support local music and creativity. He reminded the audience it takes lots of dedication to listen to new music, however some people don’t want to take the time to do so.

Michael “EPPY” Epstein, owner of My Father’s Place, a venue that has original rock, blues and reggae music, came out of retirement to help up and coming artists and bands. “I will help everyone I can,” said Epstein. Jeff Siegel, General Manager for The Space at Westbury, stated the problem with booking up and coming bands is they need to be able to draw an audience. However, Siegel believes building new music is important and he books original bands to play in the smaller lounge area of The Space on Thursday nights. Dan Welch, owner of 89 North, said the reason why venues book tribute bands on the same night as original bands is to draw a bigger audience so they can afford to let original bands play.

Louis Nava, 21, talent buyer for Revolution Bar and Music Hall, urges original bands to team up with like bands and trade audiences in order to grow a following. Mike Acampora, 22, from the band Times Like These, also encourages bands to follow bands that sound similar to yours and follow their followers.

Michael Delguidice, 47, lead vocalist and pianist for the band Big Shot (a Billy Joel Tribute band) and a singer/songwriter sees nothing wrong with playing in a cover band. “I have to feed my family, I rather play music than do something else,” said Delguidice. Big Shot can sell out The Paramount while Delguidice struggles to find fame with his original music. Instead of working a standard 9-5 job, Delguidice rather make money playing cover songs since “it’s about the love of the game.” He even considers artists/bands that sing and perform songs that are written for them “cover bands” because they are singing other peoples songs.

Katie Pearlman, a singer/songwriter and lead vocalist for The Joni Project (a Joni Mitchell Tribute band), uses the money she makes from playing tribute band gigs to fund her singer/songwriter project. She also urges artists to join the singer/songwriter community and share gigs with other artists.

Whether you want to see a tribute band or original band, continue to listen to music and support the Long Island scene.

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