Beats

An Explanation of Cover Songs

Cover songs have been around forever. Do you know the background of the covers?

We all have our favourite cover songs, but do you know what a cover song actually is? Do you know all the legalities? We’ve done some digging for you.

  • According to Wikipedia: “In popular music, a cover version, cover song, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.”
  • A popular cover song is Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. The Hendrix recording, released six months after Dylan’s original, became a Top 10 single in the UK in 1968 (US number 20) and was ranked 48th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • The term “cover” goes back decades when cover version originally described a rival version of a tune recorded to compete with the recently released (original) version. The Chicago Tribune described the term in 1952: “trade jargon meaning to record a tune that looks like a potential hit on someone else’s label”.
  • Many tribute bands attempt to recreate another band’s music as faithfully as possible, but some such bands introduce a twist. Dread Zeppelin performs reggae versions of the Zeppelin catalog and Beatallica creates heavy metal fusions of songs by the Beatles and Metallica.
  • Since the Copyright Act of 1909, United States musicians have had the right to record a version of someone else’s previously recorded and released tune, whether it is music alone or music with lyrics. A license can be negotiated between representatives of the interpreting artist and the copyright holder, or recording published tunes can fall under a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through an organization such as the Harry Fox Agency, and is safe under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author.
  • The most covered song of all time is “Yesterday” by The Beatles. Here are the rest: http://mentalfloss.com/article/20811/most-covered-songs-in-music-history
  • Using someone else’s hit song has often been a way for a new act to get heard and recognised. Covering someone else’s material or song isn’t so much of a problem when performing live, but if you want to record and distribute that song as a record or a download, you‘re going to need permission from the song’s publisher. (Source: https://www.makeitinmusic.com/licence-cover-song/)

 

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