Like most emo kids on the Internet in 2010, I was practically raised by Fearless Records’ Punk Goes… compilation series. More specifically, I sunk a ton of time into the Punk Goes Pop compilations; I got my taste of contemporary pop by listening to guitar-heavy cover songs performed by bands I was already a fan of.
It’s been a few years since we got a Punk Goes… album. However, the tradition is still very much alive, thanks to artists like Pendulum and Toadies, both of which released some cool, reimagined pop cover songs recently. Additionally, if you’re looking for information about cover songs, we’ll be including three key facts about the process, as well as links to these new covers, below.
Pendulum covers Taylor Swift
Pendulum covered Taylor Swift’s “Antihero” for Like A Version, a segment on Australian radio station triple j. On this weekly radio show, musicians perform one of their own songs–cover a song they love. You can keep up with the radio show here.
This cover came but a few weeks before Pendulum’s upcoming EP, Anima, which is due out on November 3.
Toadies covers Kelly Clarkson
Toadies covered Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” in a different context. This cover was released as part of Texas Wild, a compilation album celebrating a century of state parks in Texas. This compilation album is full of Texas-based artists covering other Texans’ songs–including Ryan Bingham’s cover of Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom”.
On participating in the compilation, Toadies guitarist Clark Vogeler says, “The state parks in Texas are some of the state’s greatest assets and people’s lives would be better if they spent more time visiting them.”
Ever wondered how official cover songs work?
The Internet is ripe with cover songs of all kinds, official and unofficial. This isn’t a surprise. Everyone loves a good cover. It’s also a great way for up-and-coming bands and artists to grow their audience, as potential fans will find the cover songs while looking for the originals. Perhaps, they might fall in love with a new version they heard–and the artist who made it–along the way.
If you ever wondered how cover songs work, or how to go about ethically (legally) go about publishing your own, read on.
Please note: the below information is based on US Copyright law.
Key fact 1: cover songs are considered covers if and only if you have not made any significant changes to the original song.
What this means: in order for a song to be considered a proper cover, you must replicate the melodies and lyrics found in the original song. You must also use the same title as the original song when uploading your cover to streaming platforms, or else it may get denied.
Any song that is inspired by, but makes significant changes to, another artist’s song is considered to be a “derivative version” of that song–not a proper cover. Replicating tunes in this way will have different licensing requirements. The same goes for sampling and remixing the tunes.
However, changing genres or the instruments used in your cover would be fine, as long as the original song’s character remains intact.
Key fact 2: you don’t need permission from the original composer in order to publish a cover, but you do need to let them know of your intent to cover the song.
What this means: you do not need to go hunting down your favorite artists in order to cover their tunes. However, you do need to tell them that it’s going to be happening.
Additionally, depending on what you’re going to be doing with your cover song (uploading to streaming services, offering it as a purchasable download, including it on CDs, filming a music video, etc.) you may need to take additional steps.
These steps may include various forms of licensing, or providing the original copyright holder’s information.
Key fact 3: US Copyright Law calls for ‘compulsory licensing,’ which encompasses instances when you’re exclusively dealing with streaming services. However, you will need to obtain a ‘mechanical license’ or a ‘sync license’ if you move beyond simply uploading your cover to streaming services like Spotify and SoundCloud.
While some platforms will take care of the compulsory licensing for you, it’s always best practice to find out ahead of time what sort of licenses you will need. Different territories will have different licensing requirements, so be sure to check on that before you opt to distribute worldwide. You may also have to obtain licenses for each individual territory you distribute to. You can obtain licenses through services like Songfile or the Harry Fox Agency. These services can also help sort out the exact process you will need to take.
As an overview…
For downloadable or purchasable (audio-only) cover songs, you will need to obtain a ‘mechanical license’ in order to make the transaction legal. You will also need to pay out a set royalty rate per download or purchase of your cover song.
When it comes to visual content, like creating a music video for your cover song, you will need to obtain a ‘sync license’. The original song’s copyright holder is the person who must grant the sync license. You can out who you need to contact specifically by turning to PROs (performing rights organizations) like ASCAP, BMI, or PRS. For non-monetized platforms like Instagram, you will not need a sync license, as you will not be collecting money in exchange for content containing your (unofficial) cover.
Revisiting the ‘OG’ pop cover songs
If you’re looking for cover song inspiration, why not revisit Punk Goes Pop, Vol 3?
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