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Recording covers

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Posted By : Tailgates & Substitutes | Comments : 11

Permission to record covers


Has anyone on here released a CD of covers songs? If so, what is the position as regards obtaining a licence to record each song? How do you go about it? I understand that it makes no difference at all whether you are selling the CD or giving it away, you still need licences, and I suppose quite rightly, as you are profiting from someone else's hard work.

There is a lot of stuff on the internet about these 'mechanical licences' and agencies such as Limelight and the Harry Fox Agency, who will attend to matters for you (for fees of course) but most of the information relates to the USA rather than UK.

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# Posted by Synthy Mike - 29/09/2011, 14:22 (GMT)

We've recorded a cover of a song we're trying to get released at the moment. You need to contact whoever owns the publishing rights, usually a record label. If it's a straight note for note cover you're fine now, you just need to negotiate the revenues. However, if you change the arrangement you'll need to contact the songwriters and get their permission and with them go back to the publishing company.

All in all, it can be rather problematic - particularly if one of the credited songwriters has disappeared into obscurity or died.


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# Posted by Havoc 51 - 29/09/2011, 14:39 (GMT)

Limelight & Harry Fox can deal with everything for you. Check your agreement before committing as the standard form is for the US only.

In this country if you distribute through i-tunes they cover all your royalties before you get your crumbs.

Sharing of an audio recording in any form, paid or unpaid, constitutes distribution. Distribution can be in the form of downloads, streaming from any website, including yours, or any physical product such as CD or vinyl. When you distribute a recording a song somebody else wrote, whether it’s for commercial use (making it for sale) or promotional use (giving it away for free), you are still required to obtain a compulsory license and pay royalties.

I had a look at this and decided to use CD baby which handle everything cheaply, offer a good tracking system and lots of good advice.


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# Posted by Bright Shapes - 29/09/2011, 14:42 (GMT)

That sounds like a total ball ache! Imagine trying to get hold of someone like Peter Green or Frank Zappa! One doesnt know what year it is and the other is dead so how would you go about it then? Especially for older songs like back in the 50s or earlier the songwriters are probably long gone! Surely there must be easier ways like pubs pay PRS for licensing and then covers are allowed to be played and PRS pay the artists.

This is an important subject that doesnt seem to be that clear because we have a few covers that we feel we have made our own and would like on record at some point but all the red tape makes me not want to bother!


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# Posted by egbert - 29/09/2011, 14:56 (GMT)

Its essentially the way in which the law of the land viz copyright is applied. With the PRS the clue is in the name (Performing) and allows the collection of royalties for live performance (this bizarrely includes radio or juke boxes etc.), for distributed work its the same as a book - monies claimed by publisher, paid to author or estate. Its cumbersome, and ineffective but its what we have.

You may not want the law changed when you think it through... Covers/tribute bands on here are wholly covered through the performance side of it in terms of playing stuff live. How many of them actually have permission to have the stuff on youtube or their websites etc.? In other words this particular law of the land is being broken by many of you already and the total ineffectiveness of the law/system is clearly demonstrated on a daily basis.


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# Posted by Synthy Mike - 29/09/2011, 15:10 (GMT)

It is an absolute joke, particularly seeing as the songwriters get 80% of any of the musicians' royalties on a performance anyway. The attitude the PRS had towards us was ridiculous. Out of desparation we contacted them and their response was essentially "even if he was a member, we wouldn't tell you". Booooo!!!

In my utopian view of the music industry they'd contact this chap and say "a band have been in touch and they want to give you the vast chunk of any money they make off releasing your song. You don't need to do anything apart from say yes or no". Not really that challenging or inappropriate is it?


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# Posted by The Villains - 29/09/2011, 15:25 (GMT)

Never try and release a Jimi Hendrix cover, the estate is at war with itself and they are greedy bastards!


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# Posted by The Villains - 29/09/2011, 15:25 (GMT)

Never try and release a Jimi Hendrix cover, the estate is at war with itself and they are greedy bastards!


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# Posted by Tailgates & Substitutes - 29/09/2011, 15:33 (GMT)

Thanks for your comments everyone. As I understand it, the songwriter cannot actually refuse permission to record a song, once it has already been publicly released, but you still need a mechanical licence. It's obviously a process which is unclear to many of us and which involves a lot of red tape; as someone else has commented, it makes you wonder if it's worth it. iTunes or CD Baby would seem to be the best bet if they take care of any licencing/royalties before giving you your (meagre) share.

Havoc, you mention Limelight and Harry Fox-as they are US based, do the licences still cover you for the UK?


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# Posted by Havoc 51 - 29/09/2011, 15:53 (GMT)

Their standard forms are for the US only and need to be amended to cover territories outside. Also (my understanding) is that PRS do not have a say in CD's as they are for private use only and not broadcast in the public domain.


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# Posted by Tailgates & Substitutes - 29/09/2011, 16:10 (GMT)

Thanks Havoc. I'm not sure re PRS. I understood that it is MCPS in the UK, who are separate from PRS but come under the banner of 'PRS Music', who, as their name implies, deal with 'mechanical copyright', ie recordings as opposed to live performances.

We could do with a copyright lawyer or 2 to come on here!


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# Posted by The Kerbcrawlers - 29/09/2011, 21:43 (GMT)

MCPS dealt with it when my old band had CDs pressed by EMI.
We filled out the form with tracks lengths, composers, publishers, etc.
They then invoiced us and gave us permission to press.

I once had premission refused by Prince personally (Warner Chappell approached him), as he
didn't want an obscure song of his to appear on the b-side of a 7" single. Guess he didn't need
the money.


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