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Your personal experience with covers of non PD material?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
Your personal experience with covers of non PD material?

Hey,

To come straight to the point: I'm just working/arranging an Avicii song for a live orchestra setup...it sounds damn good, but I wonder if it's really worth it at the end. I covered a lot already, but practically only PD music, and never any newer music.

Anyone of you folks here who has any experience with covering a )non-public domain) track, and then selling sync licenses, put it on your own youtube channel, etc.? (in other words, turning the cover to $$!)
How are the fees and cuts as a rule of thumb?...or are some publishers/artists even do something like a buyout deal?

I also came across a sheet music portal (sheetmusicplus), where they give you the option to legally arrange tracks they have on a certain list... but the chunck you get is even far lower than the (already low) cuts you get for the mojority of microstock music libraries - it's only 10% (...)....so is it THAT BAD with covers in general, and just not worth the hard work at the end, or might it even be a clever approach for gaining more potentional exposure? (and possibly a bit of pocket money) Because youtube seems absolutely floated with covers in all instrumentations and styles, so there has to be a reason after all...(or are those folks simply just not creative as us , so have to rely on just arrangements? ) I wonder...

Cheers!
Freshd.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Sam Watson's Avatar
In the U.S. you cannot sell a sync license for your cover or arrangement of copyrighted material without the original songwriter & publisher agreeing to each & every specific sync use unless they have done some pre-clearing ala what is happening at sheetmusicplus.

Honestly - by U.S. copyright law - all those YouTube videos of people covering songs are not legal. But I think the copyright holders have learned how to extract some profit from it so they allow it. However, if Spielberg wants to use your arrangement of Avicii's song in his movie then all the parties are coming to the table and they could decide turn it down - you will have no power. I think it might be a good attention getter. Maybe it gets a couple extra bucks in the pocket? Because 10% of something is more than 100% of nothing.

Best of luck,
Sam
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Once a song has been released publicly ANYONE can do a cover of it.

Remember, there are TWO copyrights... one for the musical composition and one for the master recording of that specific version of the composition.

When creating a cover, you are creating a new master. You own that master and can license ONLY THE MASTER recording for sync (called a "master use" license).

Whoever is licensing your cover will also have to contact the original publisher or publishers and license the underlying work separately from your license.

This is how it is actually normally done in the "real world" of hit songs. The record label never has the right to license the underlying work into a film/TV production, only the master. The publishing company never has the right to license the master into a film/TV production. This is actually what the majority of a Music Supervisor's job is. It isn't picking the music, it is "clearing" the music. Sometimes a music supervisor will have to call and negotiate with 2 or 3 record labels and 4 or 6 publishing companies to license a famous recording of a famous song.

For example... the song "The Middle" by Zedd feat Maren Morris and Grey... That song is written by... wait for it...

Jordan Johnson (BMI)
Anton Zslavski (ASCAP)
Sarah Aarons (APRA)
Kyle Trewartha (BMI)
Stefan Johnson (ASCAP)
Michael Trewartha (BMI)
Marcus Lomax (BMI)

(SEVEN composers!!!)

Each composer has their own publishing and publishing deals... the publishers involved are....

1916 Publishing (ASCAP)
Kobalt Music (NS)
R8D Music Publishing (BMI)
Solo Ace Publishing (BMI)
Songs of BBMG (BMI)
Sony/ATV Allegro (APRA)
Zedd Music Empire (ASCAP)
BMG Platinum Songs (BMI)
Songs Of Universal (BMI)

(NINE publishers!!!)

Zedd is signed to Interscope. Maren Morris is signed to Columbia Nashville. Grey are signed to Republic Records.

So... If a movie or TV show is using the original recording of this song, the music supervisor for that film/show has to contact NINE publishing companies and THREE record labels to negotiate the licenses for this use.

If Freshdax were to do an orchestral cover of this song for licensing in TV/Film... he does not need permission from anyone to do it (in the US, you only need permission to SELL physical copies. and that permission is usually granted by Harry Fox as a statutory/compulsory license) But if you aren't going to sell any copies then you don't need permission.

BUT!!! If a film or TV show decides to use Freshdax's cover of The Middle... they still need to contact all NINE publishers and negotiate the sync license and contact Freshdax to negotiate the master use license.

Here is where covers can bite you in the behind... just because you can make it, doesn't mean the publishers will say yes to a license request for it. You could have an amazing cover... but the artist or publishing company for whatever reason does not want to allow the licensing of covers or the licensing of that song in a particular instance... so the publishing company can say no. I had this happen to me personally with an amazing cover we did of "It's The End Of The World As You Know It" by R.E.M. It was being used in the Xmen Apocalypse Superbowl Premier trailer. HUGE LICENSE!!! Fox loved it. Warner Chappell (who owns REM's publishing) said no. when the band sold the rights to W/C (back in the 80's), they put a clause in the contract stating W/C could never license the music into any commercials of any kind. I even called REM directly and talked to their lawyer. The band was really interested and was open to the idea of doing it. W/C again said "no". End of story. It never happened. So now I have this AMAZING dramatic orchestral hybrid cover of "It's the End Of The World As You Know It" that I'll never be able to license.

The other sticky area is when you want to take a cut of the songwriting and publishing. When doing arrangements that are different from the original recording, it is considered a derivative work. In doing so, the arranger can get a percentage of the songwriting and publishing. But in order to get it, the original songwriters and publishers have to agree to it and agree to the new percentage splits for that version. And that NEVER happens. The publishers and songwriters would rather just say no than to give up even partial ownership.

But if you call it a 100% cover song, even though you completely rewrote the thing and it sounds nothing like the original, then you aren't claiming any writer's or publisher's share and you only own the master recording of the new version (as though you were the record label). In that scenario the original publishers and songwriters can't stop you from making the cover and releasing it... you just can't sell it retail or put it up on any "retail" type web services like spotify, apple music, etc. But you can try to license the master and cross your fingers that the publisher will say yes to a sync license request for your version when you do get it placed.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Watson View Post
Maybe it gets a couple extra bucks in the pocket? Because 10% of something is more than 100% of nothing.
If you can get a cover version licensed it is Waaaayyy more than a couple extra bucks.

typically for a cover done by a music library, the master use license will be around 50% of what the publishers are asking for.

so for example, the licensing for the publishing alone for a bob marley song or a rolling stones song STARTS at $250k and goes up from there. For a blockbuster film trailer placement it might be $350k~$500k. That means the license for the master starts at around $125K. But it's all negotiable. There is no MFA clause when doing this, which is what makes it so attractive to film and TV companies. The Publishers might ask for an MFA, but if they do, the film/TV studio will 100% of the time ask you to exempt yourself from the MFA. If you push to be included in the MFA then the film/TV studios will just walk away because then it's going to cost just as much to license your version as it would the original.

This is why you see so many Kanye West covers in movie trailers. The publishing sync license for a Kanye song is $900k. And the master use for an original Kanye Song is $900k. So that is basically $2mil. The covers still cost the $900k for the publishing, but then the master use is anywhere from $100k or $450k, which makes it significantly cheaper to use the cover version instead of the original.
Old 5 days ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Sam Watson's Avatar
I did not properly consider the master sync license. Excellent point, Derek. The trick seems to be: HOW do you market your cover? You just have to hope that someone sees it on YT or SC and likes it and wants to put it in a film/commercial and jump through the licensing hoops.

West World is doing a lot of these type tracks and killing it with them. But consider the business model there: The director loves incorporating and repurposing popular songs into the soundtrack via the onset player piano (diagetic) or simply through the underscore (non-diagetic). However, they don't just hunt down random cover versions. They have Ramin Djawadi put together amazing versions that sound exactly the right way for the story space. I just think most cover versions are used in promos / movies because the director actually wants the REAL recording and the label turns down use of the master rights, but says they can license the tune and make a cover version. And then they hire a music shop to create exactly the kind of cover version they want for their brand/film/show.

I suspect that a random cover version is a super long shot for money return. Although apparently if your ship comes in then it is big. Maybe a director loves your cover and hires you to do music for their project that isn't a cover though. Positive things can come out of it that aren't cash directly related to the cover.

Interesting topic. (And I LOVE Djawadi's covers from Westworld. Season Two promo to Heart Shaped Box was fantastic!)
Sam
Old 3 days ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Watson View Post
I just think most cover versions are used in promos / movies because the director actually wants the REAL recording and the label turns down use of the master rights, but says they can license the tune and make a cover version. And then they hire a music shop to create exactly the kind of cover version they want for their brand/film/show.
No, it's a thing now. Famous artists are singing on covers other people do of their songs for big film placements.

here is the thing, Trailers and Advertisements need to grab your attention. They have finally started realizing that a reimagined cover of an old hit song is a FANTASTIC way to do that, because you hear it and you recognize it but you don't know why... and so you start to focus on the advertisement to figure out what song it is... and in the process you see the product.

There are some big covers and it isn't because they couldn't get the rights to the original... it's because of that "hey, why do I know that?" factor. Gary Clark Jr is rumored to have gotten $1mil to do the Come Together cover for the Justice League. The 50 Shades "Crazy In Love" cover was done by a library composer with a session singer. When the film studio sent in the quote request, for the underlying song Beyonce asked to hear the cover... after hearing it she had her assistant call the music supervisor who sent in the request and said "Beyonce is going to be in LA next Tuesday and will record the song..." the Music Sup was like, "uh, what? I just sent a license request didn't I?" The assistant said "yes but she loves the version and wants to sing on it herself for the trailer." A conversation ensued about how they probably can't afford to pay for beyonce to sing on it... etc... the music sup got the film studio involved... the film studio decided to use it in the film and pay Beyonce to sing on it... she did, it was a huge hit.

Same thing happened with I'm a Survivor. Someone else wrote that cover, a library composer. When it was picked for Tomb Raider, Beyonce deicided to sing on it.

Reworked covers can be a HUGE money maker. And with a library rep'ing them you have a team of licensing reps pushing the covers whenever possible and pitching them to clients who might not even be thinking of them.

Now the trailer houses and marketing directors at the studios are requesting covers, like the cover I did of the REM song. FOX was even willing to put it IN THE FILM if WC agreed to it. $$$$ But they said no. There was another weird twist in that story which I think is why WC kept saying no. It wasn't a straight cover. It was an overlay. The trailer house had been editing the spot with one of my tracks for about a month and THEN asked if there was any way to put any sort of famous song lyrics/vocals on top of it. But the music itself was already copyrighted and released on its own. So then it kind of becomes a mash-up type of thing, in sync licensing terms it's called an "overlay". So for legal purposes it was an a cappella version of the famous song that was playing in the trailer and our trailer cue simultaneously. Almost like how you can have a drone from one composer playing and then orchestral hits or aleatoric orchestra written by another composer playing simultaneously in a trailer. They are just listed as overlay on the cue sheet meaning they are separate pieces that just happen to be playing simultaneously. WC was not open to that idea even though the band was stoked and wanted to do it.

Oh well... But yes... covers are a big thing. I don't know how much longer this fad will last. But right now it's in full swing.
Old 3 days ago
  #7
Gear Addict
 

100% of nothing is a lot better than 10% of something if that "something" takes dozens of hours to produce.

Don't mess with covers. "Major" publishers are not your friends. You could send them a seven figure sync on a silver platter and they'll be too busy attending SXSW, NXNE, MIDEM, Cannes Lions, Grammy Awards, CMT Awards, Billboard Awards, AMAs, Sundance, Golden Globes etc... to bother to sign the license.

AVOID.
Old 3 days ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFulford View Post
100% of nothing is a lot better than 10% of something if that "something" takes dozens of hours to produce.

AVOID.
I’m with John on this. I’m really tempted to take a week or more of work and do a banger cover but I’m too afraid to waste a week of work to gamble on all the magical pieces to come together.

The only way I can see doing this is either
A. Be willing to roll the dice.
B. Talking to your publisher/lib/syncRep and having them do the work of making sure it’s clearable before you start. Or hand you a list or something...

Personally, I work with a pub that has done some of the biggest trailer covers of the past couple years and outside of a PD trailer track I did, I am really tempted to do this, but I’ve been doing too much gambling lately
Old 3 days ago
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
Wow - some excellent points here and some excellently-layed out advice!

Seriously Derek - GO write a book! (when you find some spare time - which is most likely impossible, for the next say 10-20 years I guess?! ). That might be a bit off-topic, but surprisingly there still seem to be quite some blank spots in terms of books about certain music/sound topic fields.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
....for example, the licensing for the publishing alone for a bob marley song or a rolling stones song STARTS at $250k and goes up from there. For a blockbuster film trailer placement it might be $350k~$500k. That means the license for the master starts at around $125K. But it's all negotiable. There is no MFA clause when doing this, which is what makes it so attractive to film and TV companies. The Publishers might ask for an MFA, but if they do, the film/TV studio will 100% of the time ask you to exempt yourself from the MFA. If you push to be included in the MFA then the film/TV studios will just walk away because then it's going to cost just as much to license your version as it would the original.

This is why you see so many Kanye West covers in movie trailers. The publishing sync license for a Kanye song is $900k. And the master use for an original Kanye Song is $900k. So that is basically $2mil. The covers still cost the $900k for the publishing, but then the master use is anywhere from $100k or $450k, which makes it significantly cheaper to use the cover version instead of the original.
...the numbers - wow! Seriously I expected film syncs more like about being in the 40-100k range for each song. But I guess this is more the rate for rather unknown, indy-composers, resp. singer/songwriters - while stars get about 5-10 times more?

How about syncs for television?! I'm not referring to covers necesarily, but more to song instrumentals of well known songs they play over and over in reality TV formats
...I'm refering to the usual suspects, like: Up town Funk, Happy, Blurred Lines - while the last one in US most likely rather not?! At least in Germany they even used Blurred Lines in thousands of "normal " tv programms, even kids shows (wtf?!) - till they finally found out the lyrics are making fun about a very dark and clearly inappropriate subject...

Anyway, after reading your advice, my goal should rather not to be earning sync money with the arrangement (as it would be a rather not well-suited musicbed anyway - and writing all those publishers might be tough, and too time-intense), but more going the YT way, as I can imagine this can help imensely; especially in terms of getting more traffic to my channel. But the big question would be: how about monetizating covers??! Is it either legal-limbo, or something clearly illegal, of which I could even get a strike, or even law-type re-percussions for?! Or might it be even common, that the original rights holder want a share of the earned YT money?!
I'm wondering especially, simply as YT is FLOATED with covers, and some of them have incredible amounts of views - like take for example the a capella group Pentatonix! Of course they are rather the exception, but last but not least I'd doubt that they would have gained such a immense popularity, if they would have performed something original, instead of Daft Punk.
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