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Cover Songs, worth the trouble?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Jbon, Jun 28, 2004.

  1. Jbon

    Jbon Guest

    I would like to know, or actually I'd like to just hear others' "take" on the issue.. of recording other peoples tunes, or copyrighted material like Wold Horses or BrownSugar but any, not just stones....and what it'd be involving at the lower or home studio-level..produced mp3's or whatever to offer from a website dedicated to self promotion.
    I have discovered that its a quicker to-do for me in the case of non original material-songs, as in those I am recording to try and establish a listeners base from.. or thos eI am trying to do.. seems i spend a great deal of time on my own stuff.. where if i knew it would not turn out to have been a mistake.. I am simply asking for folk's ideas on the matter; often times, a new group can get a sort-of a "leg-up" by doing a good established song, really well..
    Anyhow this is what I am saying;
    I mean if you don't sell the tunes that you've recorded and offered for listening or download.. that shouldn't be a "sweat" or could it? I'm sure the untold possibilities of ways it could go badly if approached incorrectly, or geez i just sort hven't the foggiest... like I know what I would expect... but these things can certainly catch me off-guard every time I fail to keep a good lookout.
    Sure I'd expect If in the unlikely would be-flattersome event someone else sold them...like in quantity or some crazy sh8tt and if it got to the wrong persons.. if it was extensive enough, maybe... or am I just really being naive... or can or would anyone care to offer his/her opinion/s on this stellar brainstorm of mine..
    I can literally imagine lotsa stuff about this, I do wish anyone might "chime in" for me on this with some shoptalk le confidente.
    Hey- if a dreamer is but allowed to dream..
    I do know what i'd think to be "right"
    But I'd really like to know anybodies practical experiences or knowkedge , they'd share with me if they feel so inclined.

    Thanks for the stamina and for any thoughts..
  2. maintiger

    maintiger Distinguished Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Home Page:
    You can legally record any cover tunes if you pay the piper first. Go to the harry Fox agency website and you can pay the going rate (I believe 8 1/2 cents?) minimum 500 copies of a song. That translate about $40+ a song. Whatever you do with your 500 copy licence is up to you- see them, give them away for download, whatever. After you sell of give away 500 copies of a song you have to pay the piper again. That's the law.

    Anyone can record any previously recorded song if they pay- that's also the law. You can not be kept from covering a tune if you pay. Only unreleased songs are protected from you recording them and releasing them first. This protects the artist and/or songwriter from someone else beating them to the punch with their own song. Imagine if you got hold of a say, counting crows song and release it a week before them just by paying a fee! Thus the law is made to prevent this. However, after the song hits the stores is fair game for anyone to cover.
  3. Jbon

    Jbon Guest


    Very perceptive answer MainT. Thanks

  4. Jbon

    Jbon Guest

    "it sort'o looks as if I'm a bit of an outlaw for more than just the reasons I'd previously been consious of!
  5. my take

    live show - always play at least one cover song, but make it your own

    recording - never record a cover song, to much hassel
  6. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    Actually I just noticed on the Harry Fox website that you can obtain mechanical rights for songs in quantities of 25 now! It used to be hundreds of units. This makes is very reasonable to record cover tunes and pay the rate of less than .10/ song per unit. 10 songs = 1.00 With the cost of duplication and printing at all time lows, you could record a CD for a few bucks and make 70-80% profit if you know what you're doing and have the right equipment and knowledge.
    The process of obtaining mechanical rights takes about 2-3 minutes per song at most once you know what you're doing.

  7. It's no hassle at all to release cover recordings of well known tunes. In fact, it's a very very good idea, as these sell much better than original tunes on iTunes--highly recommended.

    The only time it becomes a bit of a hassle is if it's a very obscure composition that can be hard to locate the owner.

    As has been stated above, you have a RIGHT to record these (in spite of what Frank Zappa's widow has been claiming). Although you do have a responsibility to pay the piper.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Harry Fox charges a per song processing fee (about $15) in addition to the compulsory mechanical royalty. Still works out less for small quantities than the old 500 song minimum.

    Other stuff:
    1. The FAQ section at CD Baby had the best collection of info on song copyrights on the web last time I checked.
    2. Take your free downloads of cover songs down. By putting them up you forfeit the right to a mechanical license. I think you can put up 30 second clips legally, but you should check this before you do it.
  9. despi714

    despi714 Guest

    The way I see it is, if your not playing at a wedding or a birthday party then leave the covers alone. Sure some acts have developed a following doing a great version of someone else's song, but to be remembered, stay out of trouble, and find some true fans stick to your original material.
  10. matilda

    matilda Active Member

    Jun 3, 2010
    I wonder if you could help me with a few pointers on the idea of recording a cover song but only in the form of using the lyrics?
    i.e making a new musical arrangement & singing the lyrics from a pre-recorded song over it..?
    When does a cover version become a new musical arrangement anyway? I mean you are re-recording it so if you leave out a piano part for example or even add a little chord change or bridge does that suddenly make it no longer a standard cover?

    The reason I ask is that I wish to use the lyrics from a song over a new arrangement & release it on my album..
    I dont expect to sell many copies as it will be on vinyl only (300 copies), but it will also be available as a download so who knows how many copies i could sell there.. & there are a few variables because i live in australia I dont think i can apply thru harry fox to do a cover..
    More to the point, I dont think what i want to do is a straight cover so maybe i'm not allowed to simply apply to make a cover version?
    & Even more to the point if i dont envisage selling more than say 1000 copies of the song (wishful thinking) is it even necessary to bother going the legal option thru harry fox (or the relevant australian agency) to actually license the song.. I mean do you really think someones going to sue me or do me any damage if i have no money & i am selling under a 1000 copies of a song??? I mean why bother with all the legal biz at this level??

    thanks for your opinions.
  11. despi714

    despi714 Guest

    Hi Matilda, You most likely can get away with using the pre-written lyrics of the song in your new arrangement considering the distribution is so small. On the other hand you never know what can happen online. I mean what if your song became a big deal and then you had legal issues to deal with. My advice is to take the lyrical concept of the song and re-write it in your own words. Capture the passion, feeling, and concept of the lyrics but write it in your own words.
  12. matilda

    matilda Active Member

    Jun 3, 2010

    You know that is one of the (if not the) best responses I've ever had from a forum.. It made complete sense & was honest & heartfelt.
    I had very strongly considered doing just that because I agree with you wholeheartedly, but for 2 reasons it would be very difficult for me to give up the idea of using these lyrics.
    1. they just fit perfectly over the arrangement i have written & describe exactly the emotion of the music.
    2. doing a cover of this particular artist is a great marketing strategy (as often is with cover songs) so I am keen to do it if i can..

    It just seems like such a rigmarole to ask a company like SONY who will need to contact these writers & ask them if its ok to use their lyrics for 300 vinyls & some downloads.. ( but downloads is the problem i guess)
    Maybe i should just do it as a vinyl only thing...

  13. Feeder6

    Feeder6 Guest

    As for the music market cover songs are really a great notice to a certain artist. The hassle this days is doing the cover legally, an agency would help you do it and make you be cleared of any obligations legalizing a cover song from a certain artist.
  14. casemaker

    casemaker Guest

    Record for personal use maybe.

    I agree with Brandon.... cover songs can pull you out of a downward spiral live, but it's never good practice to record or produce them. Although, (or unless) it happens to be a song that you've loved all your life, say for the sentimental value. If you're recording something that has deep meaning to you personally, I'd say go ahead and record it. Just don't plan on sharing it much :)
  15. Ryan Edward

    Ryan Edward Active Member

    Aug 9, 2010
    I never knew that you could not be stopped from covering a record. That would explain Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton then.
  16. jasonthomas

    jasonthomas Guest

    I agree with you there.
  17. Ryan Edward

    Ryan Edward Active Member

    Aug 9, 2010
    I must admit that I always prefer it when my favorite artists record original songs rather than covers.
  18. bart_R

    bart_R Active Member

    Jan 11, 2012
    I've heard some artists do some pretty good covers in concerts, live aid and the Free Nelson Mandella Charity Concerts being Prime examples.
  19. jasonthomas

    jasonthomas Guest

    Great advice.
  20. jasonthomas

    jasonthomas Guest

    Are there different rule or procedures to covering a song in for example a live performance and recording said track?

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