The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Your personal experience with covers of non PD material? Modulation Plugins
Old 14th June 2018
  #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 16th June 2018
  #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 17th June 2018
  #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 17th June 2018
  #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 19th June 2018
  #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 20th June 2018
  #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 21st June 2018
  #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 21st June 2018
  #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 21st June 2018
  #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.
Old 26th June 2018
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by freshdax View Post
...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...
Here is the thing. There is no "set" price. There is no MSRP for any sort of license here in the US, especially when it comes to well known songs. They publisher might give the music away for $5000 but the record label wants $500,000. The publisher may want $500,000 and the record label is willing to do it for $5000. It's all over the map.

with covers, it is also all over the map, even for TV placements. It can be anywhere from $2000 or $3000 for the publishing only sync rights for a well known song all the way up to $500,000. I remember hearing when the (now defunct) TV show Revolution used some Zeppelin songs in-show, the band asked the label and publisher to have a "sale" and "gave" away the music for $200,000 per needle drop ($100,000 for publishing and $100,000 for master recording).

But then I've worked on re-records/covers of things like James Brown and Martha and the Vandellas, and the publishing rights for those, for TV promo use, were $10,000~$20,000.

Instrumental covers of recent hit songs may not have a lot of value because people want the lyrics and they want the brand identity of the original. It's basically Muzak/elevator music at that point. so you probably won't get a lot for the master use license and there is a chance the publisher won't say yes to any sync licenses for any covers of very recent hits because they don't want to dilute the "branding" they have been working on for that artist.


Quote:
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.
You have to realize, covers are not something new. covers have been happening for DECADES. Look at Hendrix's cover of "All Along The Watchtower" or Zeppelin's cover of "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You", or Aerosmith's cover of "Come Together" or Sinead O'Connor's cover of "Nothing Compares To You", Alien Ant Farm's cover of "Smooth Criminal", etc...

The legal issues have all been worked out long ago. You just need to understand how you fit in with them. If you are selling the song, then you need to pay a mechanical license back to the publisher (usually through the Harry Fox agency here in the US, or whatever mechanical collection society there is in each specific country). If you are not selling it and just licensing it, then you need the original publisher has to do the license for the underlying music and you can only license the master recording.

As far as I know, youtube only cracks down on monetized videos when you don't own the master recording or do not have a license to use the master recording. It's really hard for any of Google Content ID's fingerprinting technology to recognize your new master recording as a cover. It doesn't really have the ability to do that. It just recognizes it as a new master recording. If anyone else uses your master recording of the cover then you can flag them on youtube... but the publishers really have no way of policing covers and it's really up to the broadcaster to pay the PRO royalties for public performances through an annual blanket license.

So youtube is responsible for paying the ASCAP/BMI here in the US for any and all songs from their catalogs that air on youtube (regardless of whether they are covers or the original versions). Youtube pays them from the Ad revenue they collect from displaying ads on your cover song. So the person making the cover isn't responsible for paying the publisher for public performances of a cover. the broadcaster or venue is.

With live concerts, the venues/clubs/stadiums have to pay the PROs to cover any and all songs performed in that venue. The performer doesn't pay the publisher directly to play a cover song live at a concert.

Spotify though, since it is kind of looked at as a "sale" of music to get around having to pay broadcaster royalty rates, you might have to pay a mechanical from the money you make on spotify... I don't know. I forget if Sound Exchange or if Harry Fox collects the mechanicals for Spotify and Apple Music, I think it's MCPS in UK. I would look on the Mechanical Collection societies' websites to see what they say about spotify and apple music and who actually pays it (each content creator individually or if the service/broadcaster pays it).

So... the systems are already in place to deal with covers. And this is why cover versions are rampant on youtube. youtube itself has to pay ASCAP and BMI, who pay the publishers, for your broadcast of the cover... so long as you ARE NOT sync'ing the cover to motion picture!!! Then you would need an internet only sync license to do so. Most covers are live performances of the cover. Some are to a still picture, so I don't think it's considered a sync (could be wrong about that though, would have to check with my lawyer).
Old 28th June 2018
  #11
Here for the gear
 

Some awesome info Etch, really helpful and thanks for sharing you knowledge.
Mentioned Products
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump