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Cover Songs, worth the trouble?

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.
I'M JUS' ASKIN FOLK'S OPINIONS
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..

Comments

maintiger Tue, 06/29/2004 - 08:27

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.

pmolsonmus Thu, 04/03/2008 - 20:51

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.

Phil

anonymous Fri, 01/01/2010 - 10:18

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.

BobRogers Fri, 01/01/2010 - 10:49

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.

matilda Thu, 06/03/2010 - 03:44

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.
matilda

anonymous Thu, 06/03/2010 - 09:52

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.

matilda Thu, 06/03/2010 - 11:16

thanks

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...

YES THATS THE ANSWER.. NO DOWNLOADS!
thankyou.

anonymous Thu, 10/07/2010 - 00:48

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 :)

Ryan Edward Thu, 03/08/2012 - 04:49

maintiger, post: 102424 wrote: 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.

I never knew that you could not be stopped from covering a record. That would explain Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton then.

anonymous Fri, 03/16/2012 - 04:30

casemaker, post: 354754 wrote: 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 :)

I agree with you there.

anonymous Thu, 04/05/2012 - 06:46

despi714, post: 349226 wrote: 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.

Great advice.

Al_Weeks Fri, 04/20/2012 - 06:51

maintiger, post: 102424 wrote: 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.

Thanks for the heads up.

anonymous Tue, 01/22/2013 - 06:36

Actually, there's a pretty robust market right now for cover songs for advertising uses and even TV shows, which use cover versions of classic tracks all the time, where in many cases, the agency or production company doesn't want to pay the rates to use the original versions, so they commission musicians/studio to re-track these cover versions. Of course, royalties are still paid, (not to you) but in many cases, it's not nearly as cost prohibitive as using the original tracks by the original artists.

You don't have to pay or get permission from anyone to simply record your own version of a song - it's what you intend to do with it afterwards that dictates what you're allowed to do and how much it will cost...

But, using the above scenario as an example, if you are providing an ad agency or production company with music that they want re-recorded for an ad/commercial/TV show/etc, you wouldn't be paying the rates anyway, that would be their responsibility. Your fee would result from the work and time you put into re-tracking the song, (studio time, session players, etc.) and would be paid by the agency, and it would be a one time thing.
(Don't wait for a BMI or Ascap check to show up in your mailbox, is what I'm saying. ;) )

fwiw

-donny

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