The terms ‘Tribute Act’, ‘Impersonator’, ‘Soundalike’ and ‘Lookalike’ are used to describe a singer or band whose show is dedicated to the reproduction of a popular celebrity or famous band.
This means that the singer (and musicians if it’s a band) must copy the artists vocal and playing style, movement and image whilst performing popular songs from the artists repertoire.
There is a difference between this and a singer who performs a ‘Tribute To’ show. In this case, the singer interprets the preferred artist’s repertoire in their own style. The performer may share some vocal similarities with the artist they are paying tribute to, but does not intentionally imitate or copycat the artist’s gestures, movement, phrasing or image.
Although we would recommend that a singer aim to use their own natural voice, it has to be said that Tribute Acts have become a very popular and lucrative career option, with everyone from Elvis Presley to Kiss being copied by singers of all standards in talent competitions to corporate functions.
The ability to look and sound like the artist/band you are portraying is preferred although not always essential. Changing your hairstyle, colour or using wigs and clothing to copy the artist can all help to create an illusion for the audience but the most important aspects are the ability to imitate the artist’s voice, phrasing and gestures.
Find out as much as possible about the artist that you intend to imitate. Using the same ‘effects’ that are used on the singer’s voice will provide your voice with a similar effect.
Study the artists movements, phrasing and style of singing, practice along to videos and recordings of their performances until you can confidently reproduce their style.
Some singers have voices that naturally sound like a famous artist. If this is the case then creating a tribute act may be the best direction for their career, but if you are a singer/songwriter or solo artist seeking a recording contract this avenue should be avoided as most A & R and Record Labels are seeking artists who have their own individuality.
Vocalists should also be aware that continuously imitating another singers voice and style can cause their natural voice to become overshadowed or create bad singing habits that may damage the voice.
Finding The Gear!
Some artists make their own costumes but for those who are unable to do this there are several options available.
1. Rummage around Charity and Second Hand Clothing or Specialist Clothing Shops, Car Boot Sales and Memorabilia Fairs.
2. Don’t change your hair colour or style unless you want to ‘looklike’ the artist all the time. There are plenty of ‘Wig’ companies who can provide you with a wig that imitates the artists style and colouring.
3. When using backing tracks purchase songs whose arrangements match those of the original artists version.
4. The same applies when purchasing arrangements of sheet music.
5. Be VERY careful when buying backing tracks or sheet music – many bulk packaged commercial products are written in an easier key for the general public than the artist recorded in. Make sure that anything you buy is in the correct key for your vocal range!!
Finding Work as a Tribute Act
Create a publicity pack! Include 3 of your best songs on the demo (songwriters should copyright all songs before submitting or performing them anywhere!).
Buy music industry trade papers like The Stage , NME, Bandit Newsletter, or similar publications that run classified ads for singers wanted. You can even place an advert describing your abilities and offering your services.
Get in touch with the artist or bands official fan club who may run a tribute act database or include you in one of their events.
Contact Recording Studios, Backing Track Suppliers to see if they hire freelance singers or employ ‘in house’.
Use the internet – many music websites offer a free classified ads section for singers, bands, musicians, music industry personnel. Take advantage of this by owning a website that highlights your talents and include the link in your advert.
Keep several Business Cards with you at all times. Don’t miss an opportunity, if a band, musician or producer approaches you at an open mic night, jam night, showcase etc., ask for their business card and give them yours!!
Ask professional singing friends, musicians, voice teacher, performance coach for an introduction or recommendation to an agent or management company. Also ask if they will allow you to do a few numbers as a support act at some of their gigs, you may not get paid but you will get seen by the venue, and/or agent who may offer you bookings.
Enter Talent Competitions (ITV’s Stars in their Eyes is aimed at tribute acts) and offer your singing services for Charity Shows to gain experience and exposure.
Opportunities are only limited to the competence and determination of the tribute act members, who can find work in pubs, clubs, cabaret, nightclubs, films, radio, television or as a session singer.