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COVERING SONGS: How Does It Work?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Illbay, Mar 1, 2008.


  1. Illbay

    Illbay

    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    I've recently begun a project with a keyboardist and a sort of "Brian Eno" guy who'll be providing sequencing and "ambience." We have a drummer, a very talented young man who's much younger than us who has sort of "disappeared" of late, but I digress.

    Our genre could loosely be described as an amalgamation of Fusion, "Old School" Progressive Rock and straight-ahead Bebop. We would mostly be writing, recording and (hopefully) recording our own material.

    However, I want to "cover" some material that would fit will with our original stuff, mostly out of great love for the songs. An example would be Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog," or Genesis' "The Carpet Crawlers." Unlike the tribute band approach (which I find rather boring), these would be our own arrangements.

    Two of the three of us come from a Jazz background and we understand the concept of "standards." This is the approach we'd take.

    One of our number has raised the objection to this, claiming that we can't record or perform others' songs with paying EXTENSIVE royalties for the privilege. Now, I understand payment of royalties but I seem to recall this is not a big deal, a sort of standard payment, not terribly onerous, to ASCAP, eg.

    But since I don't really know much about this business, could someone here please explain what we'd have to do to be able to record and perform our versions of others' songs?
     
  2. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Not sure what you have to do, but I know it costs very little. We did it on our last CD but I didn't take care of what needed to be done. It only starts costing if the song becomes popular and starts selling.
     
  3. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    If you are performing in a club or restaurant, they pay licensing fees. If you are recording, the label needs to negotiate rights with the publisher. In other words, I don't think you have a problem. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.
     
  4. You might like to take a look at the mechanical licensing FAQ at http://www.harryfox.com/public/FAQ.jsp

    Essentially, you pay a processing fee of $15 per song, and 9.1 cents per CD copy for songs less than 5 minutes in length. To cover one song and make 500 CDs it will cost you a little over $60 for the mechanical license.

    billm
     
  5. Inflin

    Inflin

    Apr 30, 2007
    Newcastle, UK/Currently London
    Affiliated with Genelec, Avalon Design.
    That's right.
    And don't worry about your own arrangements of songs costing more, thats a myth that I often hear people spouting.
    It's all very painless and cheap.

    The only time this stuff ends up costing extensivley, is when you don't bother asking permission!
     
  6. Mharris

    Mharris

    Sep 25, 2007
    Missoula Montana
    So if I understand this correctly: If you are in a cover band playing bars and clubs and so forth, you've got to pay royalties. Or does this only apply if you are recording and marketing your rendition of these songs?

    I'm wondering because I'm in the process of setting up a cover band right now and I'm trying to get the business side of things all taken care of. Wondering what to expect because I've never done the cover/gig band thing. I've only ever been in an originals band so I'm not sure what to expect with the difference. Any advice or tips would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  7. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Usually the club pays the fees. I believe they have to pay for being able to play songs on the jukebox as well.
     
  8. jady

    jady

    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    Someone has to pay the ASCAP fees. It is usually the establishment you are playing at. If you record then it is your responsability. If a bar owner plays even a boombox with CDs he technically needs to pay ASCAP for usage.
     
  9. DaftCat

    DaftCat

    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    "It is usually the establishment you are playing at."

    That's how I understood it.

    DCat
     
  10. I wouldn't worry about it. The only time you should have to think about it at all is if you're considering recording and releasing a cover song.
    No one can stop you from playing that song live (ya think that guy on the corner screeching out Browned Eyed Girl every day has an ASCAP license? ;))
     
  11. not_jason

    not_jason

    Aug 4, 2004
    Maine
    I think essentially every band and every performer in the universe has played a cover song at a show at some point in their life, and I've never heard tell of it being an issue. I've played cover songs in every band I've ever been in, and I play plenty of covers solo when I do the local open mic night. I've never paid anyone a single cent for it, and I never intend to.

    Recording is a completely different issue. In my case, I rely on my own obscurity to keep me out of trouble.
     
  12. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Seriously why even worry about it. What are the cover band police going to come around and nab you for not paying out royalties for playing someones song live or recording it?

    You don't have to worry about paying royalites for recorded cover remakes unless your music gets distributed on a large scale.

    It may be law that club owners have to pay royalties for cover bands, but how could any organization keep track of that? If you told most of the club owner I know that they have to pay a royalty to the artists who's songs I'm covering they'd probably burst out laughing.
     
  13. threshar

    threshar

    Jul 30, 2002
    Yeah, the venue pays the performance licenses.

    If you are putting them on your cd you need to go through harry fox (most common) or whatever agency and pay royalties. we had a couple covers on our last album. I think we paid $150 per tune per 1000 cds. The rate changes when you get more volume, but I don't know what it is - we haven't quite finished burning through our first run.

    I will note however that it is a huge PIA, especially if it is an obscure artist! One tune took us a couple months to track down the owner! On the upside, he really dug it.
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I remember Mike Dimin mentioning on the forums how he wanted to include a solo bass arrangment of a Horace Silver tune on a CD and had to contact him - but was very pleased when he managed it and got personal approval from the man himself! :)
     

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