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My basslines?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Craig630, Feb 14, 2013.


  1. Craig630

    Craig630

    Apr 8, 2009
    Boston-ish
    So, I've recently quit a band (my first one.) During my time with said band we got several originals down. I wrote the basslines for these songs, which were written by others.

    Are these my basslines? When I join another band are these lines/progressions mine to use? Do I need to switch the key they're played in? If the guit/drums/lyrics are different are these still considered "originals"? If my old band recognizes them could there be issues other than them just being d-bags?
     
  2. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    WI
    Your age? How popular is the band. Were you a gigging band or recording band?

    Blue
     
  3. Craig630

    Craig630

    Apr 8, 2009
    Boston-ish
    Mid-30s.

    We had plans on being a gigging band but never played live. 4 months of bi/tri-weekly practices and they never felt we had enough songs for even an open mic. I kept trying to get us to play live, but the lead said we needed 25+ songs before he'd even consider playing live...

    He wouldn't even let me record practices.
     
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    My legal understanding is that bass lines cannot be copyrighted unless they are the primary melody or "hook" for a song. Therefore you are free to continue playing your bass lines, and your old band is allowed to teach their new bass player your lines and continue playing the songs.

    Of course, most courts do not consider "opinion of random internet guy" to be legally binding, so check with a pro if you have serious concerns. :)
     
  5. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    ^ This is my understanding as well, although it has about as much legal reliability as an anonymous opinion on an internet forum... :p
     
  6. Tractorr

    Tractorr

    Aug 23, 2011
    Philadelphia
    Yes, they are your basslines. If the songs were not published or you were not listed as a songwriter it might be hard to prove.

    Using the lines or progressions shouldn't be a problem unless it is a very recognizable bassline and it is a very prominent part of the song. It wouldn't be worth it for your former band to sue you though because then they would be opening a legal battle over whether you are a songwriter or not.

    I don't think changing the key matters otherwise people could just change the key of popular songs and record them without paying any fees.
     
  7. Tractorr

    Tractorr

    Aug 23, 2011
    Philadelphia
    Another good question to ask is did you have these songs published with a publishing house?

    If so were you listed as a songwriter?
     
  8. Craig630

    Craig630

    Apr 8, 2009
    Boston-ish
    On one song the lines is definitely the hook. But it wasn't like that until I came up the line.
     
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    If the band makes a billion dollars off a song that you wrote the bass "hook," you may be able to claim some of this money, after a lengthy and difficult court battle. For example it took until 2006 for Procol Harum's organist to make any royalties off "Whiter Shade of Pale," released in 1967! If you are planning to go this route, and the song has not yet been published, then you may want to get a lawyer's advice about whether to do so pre-emptively yourself. :)
     
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Also at the risk of stating the obvious, if your old band wrote a cool song, and you like the song, you are allowed to play the song with your new band. This is called a "cover song" and you are allowed to cover any song by any band you like.
     
  11. Sonicfrog

    Sonicfrog Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Fresno, CA
    The line is yours. You would only come to loggerheads if you took the structure and lines from the other players in the old band, and instructed the new band to play those parts as well.

    You can copyright a song. You can't copyright a hook.... Though with the sorry state of copyright and patent laws, I'm sure Disney or Microsoft are working on that! :D
     
  12. Sonicfrog

    Sonicfrog Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Fresno, CA
    From a music copyright site

     
  13. funnyfingers

    funnyfingers

    Nov 27, 2005
    I don't think this is true. Venues have agreements to play covers and do pay a fee so the cover bands don't worry about it.


    *edit - To play music in general which covers bands playing covers, the juke box, etc.
     
  14. Sonicfrog

    Sonicfrog Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Fresno, CA
    Mushroo said:

    funnyfingers replied:

    This is true. There was a big stink a few years ago here in Fresno where the people from ASCAP actually fined a club for not only having a Doors cover band play w/o paying the fee, but they went after the club for having a juke box that played some Doors songs on it!

    However... If the band is not signed, and the song is not registered under an ASCAP or BMI agreement, it's fair game.

    I've played a few songs in my solo act written by former band mates. I always ask the songwriter permission to use the song. It's actually very flattering for them to have another guy want to perform his or her song. Except they're not too happy when i do it because more often than not I butcher the thing! They just let do it because they feel sorry for me and my patheticness I guess!

    In any case, there would be no legal consequences of any kind, unless either I get famous and claimed the song as my own, or my former bandmate got the song published and copyrighted.
     
  15. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    WI
    I am not sure what your bass lines are worth, but I would say they are yours.

    Blue
     
  16. wmheilma

    wmheilma

    Jan 5, 2010
    About a year ago I rewrote and rerecorded bass tracks for a player who left and claimed he 'owned' the bass lines. I thought this was pretty dumb considering there is no money being generated by the tunes anyway. I still joke about it saying, "You stole my note! I own the root that E chord!" So I payed lines I forced into the tunes just to make them different.

    I am pretty sure the right answer lies in the business arrangement which should be put into place up front before you start recording anything.

    I learned that the hard way with a band leader who wrote and sang some lyrics while the drummer and I wrote music. The leader took full credit for all of the tunes on the CD! I quit soon after that. It was clear there was no benefit to spending 250 days on the road and getting no writing credit for any of my creative input. Songs the leader wrote and brought to practice were not the issue just the ones where he made up a melody to fit what the drummer and I came up with when he was not even there.
     
  17. Snarf

    Snarf

    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    Copyright covers melody and lyrics. Sometimes, if the song is defined by a specific instrumental hook, that can count. It's a little subjective, and always involves lawyers and musicologists. Honestly, sounds like there's no real reason to worry too much about getting your share of a million-dollar royalty check.
     
  18. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Were you physically together, with the other contributors of these "songs", when they were being composed? Or did you add a bass line in a "Work for Hire" situation?

    If you were all together, I'd say that you have an equal claim to the "song", not just the bass line. And, the others have an equal claim to your bass lines.

    If you were in a "Work for Hire" situation, you have no claim to the bass lines, but you should be compensated.

    Otherwise, move on. And, notify the estranged band that you will expect payment if any income is earned by these "songs".
     
  19. Non Legal but valid advice:
    "F" 'em,
    Play what you want, when you want, where you want, in whatever key you want. They have no legal control or binding on your exact bass lines or noodling.

    I repeat my personal signature bass lines in multiple bands.
     
  20. Sonicfrog

    Sonicfrog Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Fresno, CA
    BTW, you would not be the first to bag your own line... Phil Collins did it in spectacular fashion!

    The original drum line!

    I Missed Again

    The"Bag"! He used almost the EXACT same drum bits on this reworked Howard Jones song!

    No One Is To Blame!


    I'm a huge Phil fan BTW. Incredible drummer. Sad he can't play anymore due to back and hand injuries.
     

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