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What is a Tribute Band?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

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!

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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon213821 — On Sep 12, 2011

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.

By letshearit — On Sep 07, 2011

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.

By Mae82 — On Sep 06, 2011

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.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 05, 2011

@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.

By seag47 — On Sep 05, 2011

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.

By StarJo — On Sep 04, 2011

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.

By wavy58 — On Sep 03, 2011

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.

By anon80163 — On Apr 26, 2010

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

By anon72364 — On Mar 22, 2010

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?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With...
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