Cover Songs: Give Them A ChanceBy
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
In the never-ending struggle to get more fans, you may be tempted to parrot your muse or the song that’s hot at the moment… but you’re also wondering if this is the right move for your band. If you’re struggling with the cover song dilemma, read on.
To Cover, or Not To Cover?
The debate over covering other artists’ work is one of the dilemmas many artists—new and old—face. While you likely don’t want to become a cover band or be pigeonholed, covering songs can be beneficial.
For new artists, adding a couple cover songs can help round out your set list. It also provides venues an idea of who your band is. If you’re playing gigs on the road or with strange audiences that don’t know your original work, cover songs can help you connect with that audience.
Sometimes, covering another artist’s work well can lead to a devoted following and a big break, as was the case with Michael DelGuidice, the lead signer of a Billy Joel cover band. For semi-established acts, covers can add another facet to your musical profile. Even experienced songwriters and performers, like Bruce Springsteen, are known to occasionally cover others’ songs.
Legal Issues with Cover Songs
As much as you may want to get more fans by playing music that those fans and you both like, stealing someone else’s likeness and sound is not a good idea; the same goes for using their work without going through the proper channels. There are a few legal details that you should be aware of.
If you’re performing the songs, make sure that you (or, more commonly, the venue) has obtained the proper permission from the right Performing Rights Organization. In order to record someone else’s songs, you need what is known as a “mechanical license.” This license indemnifies you from any legal recourse and allows you to profit from the sale of these recordings, so long as you adhere to the terms of the license.
While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, don’t count on that saving your band’s hide if you cover songs without the proper permissions. If your band is going to take on recording or performing other artists’ music in an attempt to get more fans, be sure you are doing everything you are supposed to in order to obtain those rights.
How does your band feel about cover songs? Are they your primary focus, or something you do occasionally, or something you avoid like the plague? Have cover songs hurt or helped your band?