With the rise of streaming and YouTube, cover songs gained a whole new level of importance to provide exposure. Many mainstream artists today started out as independent artists, who at some point covered a song that gained attention. While the model of “discovering artists” by big labels is eroding, it is true that many mainstream pop singers today started out by covering songs on YouTube until someone “noticed” them.
Streaming brings a whole new perspective to covers. Through Spotify playlists, you can actually get a big break with your cover. If your song gets placed in a big playlist with a lot of followers, you might get a nice paycheck in the end. But it all starts with covering your bases and doing everything legally.
Keep in mind that you should always consult an entertainment lawyer before making a big move, but here is the gist of the covering song business according to the law in US: Every song that is commercially released has two types of royalties. Performance royalties and mechanical royalties. The mechanical royalty belongs to the songwriter and performance royalty goes to performer.
If you will release your song in download, streaming and/or in physical format, you need to get a cover license from a company like Loudr or Songfile, who offers mechanical licenses $15 per song. They take care of the rest from there.
Of course you can reach out to the publisher of the song (who is typically the owner of a song) to negotiate a rate with them. Like everything in music industry, the rate can change based on the relationships you have and who you know.
Covers are an excellent resource to bring more exposure to up and coming musicians, and they can be great additions to the catalog. However, an important point to keep in mind is that writing your music is always more rewarding and less complicated. When you write your music, you own all the rights. This is a huge industrial advantage and you hold the keys to a big potential income source.
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com