Cover bands, "tribute" bands and royalties

ARGuy

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Yes, although I think we always submitted a set list so the correct performed songs were reported to the PROs and songwriters.
That seems like the professional and responsible thing to do, but I don't know how many bands and venues do it that way. I haven't played in clubs for years, but I don't remember having to submit a set list to anyone. Maybe that's the way it's done now? I thought the venues paid for a yearly license based on the number of seats and how many nights they would have live music.
 

Whitten

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It's probably different in different countries.
 

dsop

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haven't played in clubs for years, but I don't remember having to submit a set list to anyone. Maybe that's the way it's done now?
You don't have to, but you can submit setlists to your PRO.
 

Heartbeat

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I've played some fairly major Live Nation venues with my tribute bands and have never been specifically asked to submit a set list, but I do include a list of songs in our press kit (hard telling if the venues actually read it, though).
 

MusicianMagic

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Nope.

Sorry but that is incorrect.

First clarification - There are two copyrights generally involved with music -

1. the songwriter's copyright (usually shared with the music publisher.

2. the sound recording copyright - this own by performing artist and the record label.

Nothing about cover bands etc. playing the songs made famous by known artists generates any money regarding copyright #2 - this whole topic is entirely about the songwriting copyright.

How it works is maybe easiest explained by an example - and this will be extremely hypothetical -

Let's say I write a song - "David's Lament" words and music copyright 2021 by David Crigger

Great - by law as the original creator of this song - I get complete control over who makes the first public realization/performance (generally its first recording of that song). For this first version, I can negotiate any fee I desire.... So let's say, Taylor Swift wants to record "David's Lament" - we strike a deal

Even if it's a bad deal - this will still likely work out good for me. Because a Taylor Swift recording will likely generate more artists wanting record David's lament - and perform it publicly.

And luckily I won't need to negotiate every future use - those agreements are all pre-determined by statutory law.

Every artist/label that wants to record their version of "David's Lament" - has to pay 9.1 cents per physical copy (CD) and about 6 cents per 100 on-demand streams. These are called mechanical licenses. Again this is federal law arrangement - so no CD's on CD Baby or Amazon or any commercial outlet skip on paying this.

Which bring us to our main topic - performance rights. Meaning who has the right to publically perform someone else's composition. And in this case performance means not just to play the song live, but also to play a recording of the song - any recording. Basically in most every situation in which a song might be heard - the composer of that song deserves compensation - and it is the Performing Rights Organization that are tasked with seeing that composers are compensated.

So if a restaurant plays background music - be it musak, or a stack of CD's played behind the bar - they are required to pay a license fee for that use.

Same with a sports bar, a shoe shop, department store, hotel elevators, etc.

Live performances? Same bit - a major act playing an arena. They may have written all of their songs or not. Or maybe only some band members wrote songs - makes no difference a license fee is paid for all of them based on attendance (in this case, specifically per song as listed on a reporting form)

A club or bar with live and canned music will pay an annual license based on size, general usage, etc

School concerts, free concerts in the park, again, virtually everywhere - if you hear a song in public that you didn't write, there is legal right for the PRO to collect some sort of fee for its performance.

So wedding bands, cover bands in clubs aren't involved with this - as it is generally the venue that is responsible for making sure the proper licenses are paid.

But to be clear - of all of that money collected from all of those sources...none of it goes to the artists of the original recordings, nor their labels - it all goes to the PRO's which them distribute it the songwriters and their publishers. None of that "Don't Stop Believing'" money went to Journey - it all went to Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain and Neil Schon.

This is why it was best to be Lennon or McCartney... less so to be Harrison.... far far less so to be Ringo.

So it's not that there isn't money to be made from sound recording royalties - or record royalties. But it is far far better to get in on the songwriting money. As again - all of the money touched on in this topic's main questions go to the songwriters.

(Tribute bands can I guess get caught in the muck if a band believes they have run afoul of that band's trademarks - but that is a whole different topic. And considering the number tribute bands, one that probably isn't a big problem)
Little Addendum:
Many Restaurants, Retail Stores, Fitness Centers, etc. today use a streaming service like Spotify Business. You can't just play a personal Spotify, Pandora, Aple Music account because that is licensed only for personal use & is illegal. Spotify Business negoiated for commercial licenses with PRO's and other required licenses. Costs like $50/month I think. Still pays us ridiculously little.

When playing live in the past I have come across clubs that only had liceneses with only a single PRO. There is no requirement as long as you have a license for music played there. You should look for the ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN sticker usually near the club entrance.

There was a large club a few years ago that only had bands playing originals. A band playing there got the club into trouble because during a break the band put on a CD or maybe it was MP3's. It was music from another band. My understanding has always been, even if it was their own CD, a license would be required. Also keep in mind not all songwriters own or use their own Publishing company that get their percentage.

There's a reason when a major artist records a song from a composer, the artist or even a few Producers often demands to be added to the songwriting credit just for recording it.
 

Pat A Flafla

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If the Venue can hold 1200 seats, then they will charge say 1 cent per song charge for a seat.
Heh. I rarely run afoul of that number. Even in better days when the gigs were really flowing, my business model was more like having hotels on Baltic and Mediterranean than a house on Park Place. I'm pretty sure the south side dives on my circuit weren't on the "enforcers'" schedules.
 

Rich K.

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I'd bet my last dollar that none of the bars, restaurants and lodges my cover band plays have ever paid a fee to anyone for music rights. One place has a fancy juke box, so maybe at that place there's a fee built in.
 

dcrigger

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I'd bet my last dollar that none of the bars, restaurants and lodges my cover band plays have ever paid a fee to anyone for music rights. One place has a fancy juke box, so maybe at that place there's a fee built in.
That would probably not be a wise bet... as others have written, musicians leading and playing in bands have no reason to have any knowledge of this at all.

The extent of the PRO's ability to ferret out even the smallest, most insignificant places where music is being played live or canned really seems boundless.

If they advertise that they even exist - or have a sign on the street - you can rest assured that they have been visited by the PRO's as to how they are using music in their establishment - live bands or playing CD's from a boombox. Any use requires a license - and if they claim they are not playing any music at all (which 99% of the time is a lie - as virtually every similar business has music playing to some degree). Then the PRO reps will just keep coming back - posing as customers - until they catch them. Then they bill them and if they don't pay, then they sue them and then it starts getting really expensive....

Some will try and go 100% music-less - until they realize that their club, bar, etc. is a boring drag to be in - then like everyone else they cave....
 

dcrigger

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It's probably different in different countries.
Yeah - I think that is primarily a big venue thing in the states. Actually par of the ongoing big gripe that American songwriters (and I believe the European PRO's) - as the US PRO's still over rely on sampling, claiming the cost of actual data collection and management would be too costly. A fine argument on 1970 - utter not true now.

And I believe it is causing problems with reciprocity between Europe and the US organizations - as organizations in Europe believe (and I agree) that writers overall are represented far more fairly there than here. I think leading to a bit of "why should we collect and send back into the American system, when what they are sending back to us is being so unfairly miscalculated.

In true American fashion, the status quo greatly benefits the most famous and powerful writers so you can imagine the up hill climb getting this fixed is being.
 

bpaluzzi

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That would probably not be a wise bet... as others have written, musicians leading and playing in bands have no reason to have any knowledge of this at all.

The extent of the PRO's ability to ferret out even the smallest, most insignificant places where music is being played live or canned really seems boundless.

If they advertise that they even exist - or have a sign on the street - you can rest assured that they have been visited by the PRO's as to how they are using music in their establishment - live bands or playing CD's from a boombox. Any use requires a license - and if they claim they are not playing any music at all (which 99% of the time is a lie - as virtually every similar business has music playing to some degree). Then the PRO reps will just keep coming back - posing as customers - until they catch them. Then they bill them and if they don't pay, then they sue them and then it starts getting really expensive....

Some will try and go 100% music-less - until they realize that their club, bar, etc. is a boring drag to be in - then like everyone else they cave....
This. A good friend of mine was an ASCAP investigator. He'd basically go to any business that had a public storefront. Bars and restaurants, but also funeral parlors (this was a big one), clothing stores, etc. Any place that is playing music that can be heard by customers is required to have a license. You buy the license or you get sued.
 

Pat A Flafla

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That would probably not be a wise bet... as others have written, musicians leading and playing in bands have no reason to have any knowledge of this at all.

The extent of the PRO's ability to ferret out even the smallest, most insignificant places where music is being played live or canned really seems boundless.

If they advertise that they even exist - or have a sign on the street - you can rest assured that they have been visited by the PRO's as to how they are using music in their establishment - live bands or playing CD's from a boombox. Any use requires a license - and if they claim they are not playing any music at all (which 99% of the time is a lie - as virtually every similar business has music playing to some degree). Then the PRO reps will just keep coming back - posing as customers - until they catch them. Then they bill them and if they don't pay, then they sue them and then it starts getting really expensive....

Some will try and go 100% music-less - until they realize that their club, bar, etc. is a boring drag to be in - then like everyone else they cave....
They can only shake down so many places at once, and that's limited by manpower, which I imagine is limited by the diminishing returns they'll get out of the tiny borderline dives. Lawyers don't work for free, and driving dives out of business won't always pay for the lawyers it took to do that.
 

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2 questions! This is a super interesting thread. Shout out to the squirrel man.

1. So, if a major artist (let’s say Michael Jackson) records an album of covers, he (his label) is paying a fee to the publishing companies and the only purpose of that album would be to promote Michael Jackson since he can’t make money off of it?

2. Izzy Stradlin isn’t in Guns N Roses anymore, but he wrote the majority of the songs. So when GNR goes on tour and plays a bunch of football stadiums and Izzy Stradlin is home chilling on his couch, what percentage of the gross does Izzy Stradlin get? Is this a negotiated fee based on his reps and the rest of the band or is it a flat fee based off the songs in the setlist/size of the venue like dcrigger mentioned?
 

dcrigger

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They can only shake down so many places at once, and that's limited by manpower, which I imagine is limited by the diminishing returns they'll get out of the tiny borderline dives. Lawyers don't work for free, and driving dives out of business won't always pay for the lawyers it took to do that.
Believe what you want to believe but this is a big, big far reaching business and they been doing this for the better part of a century.

And it really requires few lawyers - because so few businesses choose to fight cases where they are 100% for sure going to lose.
 

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dcrigger

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2 questions! This is a super interesting thread. Shout out to the squirrel man.

1. So, if a major artist (let’s say Michael Jackson) records an album of covers, he (his label) is paying a fee to the publishing companies and the only purpose of that album would be to promote Michael Jackson since he can’t make money off of it?

2. Izzy Stradlin isn’t in Guns N Roses anymore, but he wrote the majority of the songs. So when GNR goes on tour and plays a bunch of football stadiums and Izzy Stradlin is home chilling on his couch, what percentage of the gross does Izzy Stradlin get? Is this a negotiated fee based on his reps and the rest of the band or is it a flat fee based off the songs in the setlist/size of the venue like dcrigger mentioned?
OK - so I'm by no means a copyright lawyer, but here's my best guess on these...

1. There's plenty of money for Michael Jackson to make off that recording - just not from the publishing/writing rights.

If he had recorded 10 non-original songs - it would cost $0.095 per song per copy. Or 95 cents per copy. That's the writer's royalties for that recording. But Michael would have had an artist contract with the label with am artist's royalty clause - which could be whatever percentage him and the record company negotiates. Probably something between 10-25%. (Jackson would've been on the high side of that).

So obviously, there's lots of money to be made here. But it is really worth noting that the songwriter royalty is paid - in front - from the first copy. While the artist royal is a split of the net profits - which means after recording cost, manufacturing, shipping, advertising, the retailer's cut and songwriting royalties have been paid - then the artist gets their percentage of whatever is leftover. This is not an absolute rule - but it, I believe, the most common arrangement.

2. Izzy would have no arrangement with the band about this more than likely. Concerts at this level require PRO submission forms to be submitted - and the venue or promoter would pay the fees require by the PRO's per size of venue and all of that. And Izzy would get a check periodically from his PRO for this activity.

As would the other band members that wrote or co-wrote sings played. Or any other songwriters whose music was played.

It wouldn't be a lot - but it would 100% mailbox money - and would add up over time.
 

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Believe what you want to believe but this is a big, big far reaching business and they been doing this for the better part of a century.

And it really requires few lawyers - because so few businesses choose to fight cases where they are 100% for sure going to lose.
According to the friend of mine who went into the business, very few didn’t comply and the chronic offenders were very, very few and far between. The usual offenders were usually mom and pop stores that literally had no idea that playing the radio was a public exhibition of licensed works and usually switched to what every other store and venue does: go with the professional model that license fees were taken care of by the music vendor.
 

Jay-Dee

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2 questions! This is a super interesting thread. Shout out to the squirrel man.

1. So, if a major artist (let’s say Michael Jackson) records an album of covers, he (his label) is paying a fee to the publishing companies and the only purpose of that album would be to promote Michael Jackson since he can’t make money off of it?

2. Izzy Stradlin isn’t in Guns N Roses anymore, but he wrote the majority of the songs. So when GNR goes on tour and plays a bunch of football stadiums and Izzy Stradlin is home chilling on his couch, what percentage of the gross does Izzy Stradlin get? Is this a negotiated fee based on his reps and the rest of the band or is it a flat fee based off the songs in the setlist/size of the venue like dcrigger mentioned?
Not to be too picky, but Michael Jackson hasn't been in a position to record anything for quite some time now.
 

Deafmoon

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Interesting question. I know my friends in The Machine that do a Pink Floyd Tribute, we’re endorsed by Floyd as a recommended tribute band and same with Musical Box by Genesis. Now does that mean fees? I’m sure it does. Especially since some of these shows generate $10k a night. How do they get paid is another matter though. I’m not sure how. As for bar bands doing cover tunes? I worked clubs doing covers for years and we never sent money to anyone so long as your union dues were paid up.
 

DanRH

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I've played cover music probably 95% of my music career. Never have I had an issue with a venue. And I started gigging in 1966 and have played thousands of gigs.
 

Pat A Flafla

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I've played cover music probably 95% of my music career. Never have I had an issue with a venue. And I started gigging in 1966 and have played thousands of gigs.
Nor have I left setlists for collection purposes.
 


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