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The problem with digitally distributing cover songs

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I’ve just finished producing a fantastic new cover song for Heather Doré’s Pop music debut. I’ll tell you more about it soon when she launches it. She is a 21st century artist, so she is releasing her music, as it is completed, from her website, and you don’t have to wait, you can get it right away!
But releasing a cover song for digital distribution only from her own website has proven to be complicated as many simple things are in the music industry as it is overrun with paranoid obsession and unbelievable bureaucracy…

If you want to release on CD, or on iTunes within the country it was produced, then it is much more simple, but on your own website, where anyone in the world can buy it? Problems.
This is because the music industry works on a per country basis, that’s why it took forever to get iTunes in most countries because of all the deals and paperwork they had to do for practically every song.

That’s right, the corporate music industry complains, bitches, moans, publicizes and sues about losing money, but they make you jump through hoops and practically give up your first born child to help them make money with their music! Just give us what we want! How simple is that? It’s what, the first rule of business or something? Give the customer what they want. How could scores of billion dollar corporations worldwide forget that rule? It seems intense greed and lust for power blinds one quite severely, and this is why they’re losing money, NOT because of downloading. They would rather destroy their entire business before making it easy for you to give them money.
Good, change is good, and this is all causing music business to move back in the hands of the artist, making the importance of good music key. And that is a very good thing! Ok, rant over.

Basically I am still on the phone with the Canadian Music Rights Reproduction Agency and the song publisher regarding the song, so I don’t have any definitive answers for you. (The CMRRA doesn’t even have anything about digital distribution on their website, but at least we have such an agency to make some things a bit easier than they would be with payment of mechanical royalties in Canada)
What I can tell you is iTunes has done a deal where they pay out royalties as required for sales in each country for cover songs sold, so that simplifies things when releasing cover songs digitally this way.
But if you want to sell the songs on your own website to the world, which is my recommended method of selling music (NOT on myspace or facebook, but on www.yourname.com personal website), you have to obtain special rights for the world to sell the song, AND pay monthly royalties to the publisher yourself with detailed financial statements. And you may have to negotiate with different publishers for different parts of the world. Imagine having to negotiate with 3 or 4 publishers for each country in the world just to sell a song digitally from your website! Within 5 years, most music will be sold electronically!

So you think, ok how hard can that be, you just pay online at the publishers website with a credit card, right? Sorry, you must be taking about an industry that is efficient, progressive and meets the needs of it’s customers, and that’s not how the music industry works, and that is one of the many reasons why they are losing money.

Needless to say we aren’t going to work on many cover songs any more, as fun as it may be.