How to Choose Between Making a Cover or an Original Song

Many musicians on YouTube struggle with deciding whether they should do covers of popular songs or write original songs of their own. Both covers and originals have their pros and cons, and here are three tips to help you decide what to post on YouTube!

1. Create covers when you first start out.

Covers are great when you want to get your foot in the door in the YouTube music business. It’s helpful to start your music channel with a cover because viewers will be more inclined to click on your video for the first time if they see the name of an artist whom they’re already familiar with. Covers are a great way to honor your favorite artist, relate to your viewers, and give viewers an idea of your channel’s genres. It is also easier to perform a cover than to write and perform an original, and viewers will be able to find you more easily if you are covering a famous song.

However, make sure to put a unique twist on your cover so that your viewers remember that it’s YOUR video (and not just a duplicate of the original artist’s song). For example, here is the group Pentatonix’s soulful a capella cover of the song “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye.

2. Create originals when your channel has momentum.

It’s a great idea to write and perform original songs when your channel has some momentum and you want to express your individuality. Original songs are crucial because they set you apart from the countless cover artists, and they make your viewers remember you. It is much harder to create an original than to create a cover, but at the same time, it’s almost impossible to find huge success when you’re only doing covers! Covers are a great place to start in your music channel, but when you get more experience and momentum you should definitely start writing original songs.

Here’s an example of an original song by Colleen Ballinger (aka the “real” Miranda Sings!), who started on YouTube doing covers and eventually started writing originals.

3. Create both covers and originals after you have experience with both.

After you have had experience creating and performing both covers and originals, it is very beneficial to post a mix of both! When you post both covers and originals on your channel, viewers know that you are both in touch with pop culture and in touch with your individual voice.

You can also create videos that literally mix covers and originals! For example, here is the duo MassforMass’ cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me”, in which they added an original rap verse in the middle of the song.

Both covers and originals have different positives and negatives, but you can certainly use both to your advantage to find success on YouTube. If you post covers when you start out, post originals when your channel has momentum, and post both when you’ve had enough experience, the YouTube music industry will soon be calling your name.

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David Yaghutiel is a Bay Area native who enjoys traveling, theatre, playing the ukulele, and learning as much about the world as he possibly can. He also occasionally daylights as a senior at UCLA.

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