Category Archives: covers

Dae somethin’ we ken, can ye?

David Kilpatrick says:

There are ways in which the overall output of YouTube could be fairly assessed to provide a royalty payment and give permission for all covers. A snapshot of the music content on a given date could be analysed (a hell of a task) and YouTube pay an agreed overall royalty, divided in the usual way according to the analysis. This is grossly unfair to unsigned, minority interest stuff as what always happens is that the big copyright holders get all the money.

It’s how PRS (Performing Rights Society) do it in the UK. On September 7th, one of their reps is due to visit our folk club. Our crew has been briefed – no Beatles, no Elvis, no Elton John etc! Not too much traditional either (it goes nowhere, they still charge the same fee). Phil Ochs, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan stuff – great! Make sure the PRS rep lists a set of deserving copyright holders instead of Sir Paul, Jacko, and corporate friends. Then until the next spy is sent to asses us, our playlist will make sure the £6 a week royalty fee provides a few pence to worthwhile songwriters…

And, of course, people can then play as much commercial cover stuff as they like thereafter. You can’t stop ‘em, it’s what the average pub audience wants. ‘Dae somethin’ we ken, can ye?’

I sense that that means “what can you do about it?”

So what *can* you do about it?

Pub players are jukeboxes for popular songs. That’s the gig and I don’t see any way around it. But I also don’t see that as a blocker, because there are other gigs, and new songs will become popular through them.

It’s not even necessarily a thing which you have you *do*, because this whole thread about cover songs is as descriptive as it is prescriptive. Songs which can’t be covered on the internet aren’t going to remain pub standards. That’s the way nature works. Do nothing, you will receive your new body of songs which are both popular and coverable anyway.

Yes, this is about creating culture which is amenable to participation, and for musicians this means playing songs which others can play too. But all you have to do is only play songs on the internet which you learned from others playing on the internet and things will work out that way no matter what.

The results won’t arrive instantly, they will arrive very slowly, over decades. It’s a drip-drip-drip kind of process. Before you know it, the songs which have been controlled too tightly will be just as forgotten as the waltzes that I have been covering here.

Joe Pribek on the unreturned library book from hell

In this comment on Brett’s post, Joe Pribek sent a chill down my spine:

Personally, I would not release a cover song for free over the internet. The nature of the digital world is that data doesn’t disappear. Over a period of time, even at a couple hundred a year, the downloads would add up and at some point the copyright owner could demand the mechanical royalty for each download.

Ok, so you bang out “Proud Mary” on the acoustic, put it up on Blogger and forget about it.  Ten years later a bill arrives to remind you that the page is still there and that you have been accumulating debt the entire time.

Brett on guitar lessons as culture

Brett posted this excellent comment on the “guitar lessons as the transmission of culture” post:

There’s more to the story. There were two people with guitar videos. One was selling paid internet lessons, the other was not.

As far as I can tell, Sandercoe (who wasn’t selling guitar lessons on his site) just moved certain videos to a new YouTube channel on their UK site (http://tinyurl.com/2edxpg) “so that the main channel at YouTube is not violating any terms of use.”

The blogger linked to above points out that YouTube shut Taub down, not anyone from the music industry. While there was a letter about ‘Brown Sugar’, YouTube simply closed Taub’s account when they got the letter. It’s more complex than a simple “music industry bad, Internet good”. (Not saying you’re doing that, but there are people who do.)

What I want, for myself and as a resource, is a solid explanation of the ins and outs of using copyrighted music. For example, Justin Sandercoe claims the ‘fair use’ argument on his YouTube page. Is he correct? I have no idea.

It’s my belief (based on very little actual data) that posting a cover version of a song, not for sale, in a non-commercial way, is acceptable. Unless the copyright holder asks you to take it down, at which point you can either do that or fight them. Again, am I right about this? I don’t know.

I love the idea of recording public domain sheet music rather than pop songs as a way to get that music back into the listening world. And it would be nice if Mick and Keith and the rest would allow others to futz with their work. Barring that, some clarity as to what is likely to get you a cease and desist letter would be nice.

A meta note: I’m pushing a comment up to an independent post here, and probably will do this again in the future.

guitar lessons as the transmission of culture

guitar teacherPer NPR

Thousands of guitar students lost a valuable resource last week. The most popular guitar teacher on YouTube saw his more than 100 videos yanked from the site. The reason: a music company accused him of copyright  infringement for an instructional video on how to play a Rolling Stones song.

Culture relies on shared references. Sharing requires copying. When a new guitarist copies the way that a skilled guitarist plays a well-known song, culture is being transmitted from one generation to the next.

When a music publisher prevents musicians from learning a song, they are destroying the value of the song. There’s no reason to learn the Smoke on the Water riff except that everybody else knows it, and cultural ubiquity isn’t possible unless learning is absolutely free and unencumbered. Notice that the song in the original quote is by the Rolling Stones, a band that couldn’t matter less if it weren’t part of pop culture canon.

One result of copyright extremism will be the disappearance of cultural icons like the Rolling Stones. They haven’t contributed anything fresh to the culture for close to forty years, and without third parties reusing their old work in ways that make it fresh they hardly exist. In terms of 2007 pop culture, all those covers of “Paint it black” *are* “Paint it black.”

This is why I am resurrecting 150-year old songs and posting them, along with sheet music, on my blog — it’s possible for those songs to be used as source material for new work.

But I suppose that this is needless worry. Waves of takedowns for items like free but unauthorized guitar lessons are usually part of licensing business deals. Nobody bothers to ask for the takedowns unless they have a competing commercial product for which they have paid to license the source materials. If unlicensed guitar lessons featuring Rolling Stones songs are being knocked down, it probably means that licensed ones are coming up behind them.