“Many of our tribute acts look like the original artists in their hungry glory years,” says Brent Meyer, co-owner of Music Zirconia, “not the tired, uninspired versions that might have last toured, if the original act still exists at all.” The local agency includes a roster of around 60 tribute bands, around a third of those based in San Diego.
Meyer contends that his faux acts are often better than the real thing. “Tribute bands are more particular about sounding more like the recorded versions than the original artists, who may get bored and take liberties with arrangements.… Tributes generally adhere to what’s in the vinyl grooves.”
Founded in late 2008, musiczirconia.com includes around 45 video clips featuring agency acts such as Sweet and Tender Hooligans (Smiths/Morrissey), the Joshua Tree (U2), Blasphemous Rumours (Depeche Mode), Rio (Duran Duran), Gabba Gabba Heys (Ramones), Ghost in the Machine (Police/Sting), Dust N’ Bones (Guns N’ Roses), and the Cured (duh).
“Like cubic zirconia, we offer a replica of a high-valued product for a fraction of what it costs to buy the real thing,” says agency cofounder Michael Twombly, who specializes in booking multiple tribute acts on a single bill. “I haven’t witnessed too much competition among the bands. The rare exception is when there are two or more tributes to the same artist. There’s sometimes a rub there that can range from friendly and interested competition to bitter rivalry.”
According to Meyer, “Gigs may be drying up for original artists, but things are currently better than ever for tribute bands. We attribute that to a tighter economy and music fans wanting to get more bang for their buck.
“Tributes represent a snapshot in time, so that fans can feel as if they’ve seen rock-and-roll history. Like Hendrix at Woodstock or U2 at Live Aid. Only without the brown acid and skinheads.”