An Event Planners Guide To Musical Tribute Shows

You’re in the midst of planning a fantastic themed event, and you want entertainment to perfectly compliment your theme. The budget doesn’t allow for a national celebrity or “headliner”, so you begin looking into the idea of booking a tribute act. However, you quickly begin to realize that there are many different varieties of musical tributes. We’ve outlined a few important distinctions to help you better understand the world of booking musical tributes shows.

Look-alikes & Impersonators

Look-alikes & impersonators are great for lighthearted events such as “meet & greets” and photo opportunities. A few classic examples would be Elvis, Michael Jackson and Marylin Monroe impersonators. Some Look-alikes & impersonators travel with a band and require sound, lighting and stage support, so it’s important to go over all the technical requirements before booking. Song selection and duration of performance is another important factor to be considered. Not all Impersonators actually sing or put on a show, so this is something to be aware of as well.

Tribute Bands

Tribute bands come in all shapes and sizes. They run the gamut, from big band orchestras to small rock & roll outfits. Some dress and act the part, much like Impersonators, and others are far less literal. A tribute band is technically a “cover band”, in that they play cover songs rather than original material. However, tribute bands are much more focused than the average cover band. A good tribute band, should be 100% focused on the artist they are paying tribute to, and shouldn’t mix and match material from other artists.

Some tribute bands focus on a specific time period. For instance, there are Beatles tribute bands that only play material from the Beatles’ early years. There are other tribute bands that perform entire “album tributes”, where they reproduce a classic album note for note. Given the wide range of possibilities, it’s wise to establish a “set list” of songs to be performed at the event to ensure an experience that is complimentary to your overall theme. The mark of a great tribute band is that they give you the raw experience of the artist they are paying tribute to, and nothing more. The majority of tribute bands will require sound support, and some of the larger acts may require lighting and staging as well.

Composer & Artist Tributes

One of the things that makes unique, is that we offer the largest selection of composer and artist tribute shows available today. There are some key differences between a composer / artist tribute, and the types of tributes described above. Composer & artist tribute shows are performed by acclaimed artists. From Broadway & Cabaret stars to renowned celebrities, composer & artist tribute shows take the audience on a unique journey into the work of a specific composer or artist, through the lens of another great artist. Whereas Impersonators and tribute bands are meant to be a carbon copy of the original, composer & artist tributes are a true co-creation, highlighting both the uniqueness of the artist performing, as well as the material being honored. Composer & artist tributes are typically more sophisticated than other types of tributes. Some degree of sound, lighting and stage support are usually necessary with composer & artist tribute shows.


Booking live event entertainment that is thematically relevant, requires understanding some key distinctions. The first step is determining the type of attraction you need. Having that clear vision, and the language needed to articulate it, will save you time, money and heartache down the road.

When considering any artist, always request video footage. If an artist does not have representative video footage, then you are taking a great risk. Any serious artist should have a professional video demo reel that will quickly help you determine whether they will compliment, or detract from, your event. 

Lastly, as mentioned above, 99% of musical shows require some kind of lighting, staging and sound support. Depending on the act you are booking, costs can vary greatly so you want to sort this out before initiating the booking. We will do a follow-up post shortly on understanding the “tech rider”, which is a document provided by the entertainer containing all their technical requirements.

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