An Explanation of Cover Songs

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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