How to distribute a cover

What is a cover?

A cover is your version of someone else’s song that stays “faithful” to the original.  Obviously, the word “faithful” is open to interpretation but the more you deviate from the original, the more it becomes an “edit”.

The reason this is important is that you DON’T need permission from the original songwriters to commercialise a “cover” but you DO if it is an “edit”.  Most covers today are something in between a “straight cover” on one end and an “edit” on the other.

If you want to stay on the safe side, don’t touch the melody, lyrics or order of the parts.  However, it is common to adapt things like style, tempo, key, tonality and instrumentation but at the end of the day, the judge of “cover or edit” will be down to the original songwriters.

NB: In Europe, you can sell a straight cover without any permission from the original songwriters.  In the US, you will need permission and you’ll find all details here

Definitions:

  • Cover: Is your version of someone else’s song that stays “faithful” to the original.
  • Edit: Is your version of someone else’s song that adapts (for example) style, tempo, key, tonality and instrumentation of the original above and beyond what we call “threshold of originality”. Theoretically, your contributions could be copyrighted but similarly blocked by the original writers.  An edit needs to be cleared by the publishers of the original.
  • Remix: Is your version of someone else’s song that uses samples of the original recording. Clearing a remix is even more complicated as it involves 2 copyrights : the copyright in the music (ie: the writers) and the copyright in the recording (ie: the label) so it needs to be cleared by both parties.
  • Sound-alike: Is a recording intended to imitate the sound of a popular record or the style of a popular recording artist. Note: iTunes no longer accept sound-alikes (or even Karaoke versions).

What we need from you:

  • The name(s) of the original publisher(s) of the song
  • The name(s) of the original composer(s) of the song (can be different from the performer)
  • The name(s) of the original lyricist(s) of the song (can be different from the performer)

You can use a work database from a collecting society like SUISA.

Step by step example

Here is an example, step by step, for covering the song “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé:

1

Make sure you didn’t alter the structure, the melody or the lyrics of the original version.

2

Search for the publisher(s) (marked as E), the composer(s) and the lyricist(s) (marked as CA) of the original version:
Suisa

3

Put your cover online in your iMusician dashboard:

In the “Tracks” section, enter the name of the track:
track name

Fill in the “Publisher” field and  the “Contributors” fields with the info you found and indicate that it is a cover version by clicking on “Yes”:

Publishers EN Cover

That’s all we need from you to distribute your cover in Europe!

Very important: If you wish to sell your cover worldwide including America, you will also need to obtain a license. Here are two websites that can help:

How to distribute mixtapes or remixes

A remix by definition uses samples of already existing tracks. Usually, there’s a lot of clearing involved, if you want to sell a remix using samples from a song that you didn’t produce yourself. You need to get the authorisation of both the author or publisher and of the record label of the original song you took the sample(s) from. If your remix contains samples from multiple songs you must clear all the samples as described above.

Very important: You’re only allowed to distribute your remix with iMusician in case you cleared all the samples of your remix properly.

How to put a medley track online in your iMusician dashboard

1

When you are putting your medley online from your iMusician dashboard, in the section “Tracks”, please indicate that it’s a medley song:

medley 1

If you use cover songs in your medley, please read “How to distribute a cover” first and indicate that it is also a cover song:

medley 2

Very important: You must name the publishers, composers and lyricists of all songs, if your medley contains cover songs.

2

Write the title of the song in the section “Tracks” as seen below. Here’s an example if you are making a medley of three songs:

“Your artist name – Medley: title of a song / title of a song / title of a song”

How it should look on your dashboard using the band ABBA as an example:

abba

How to make a compilation

Very important: You need to hold licences for all tracks that you want to include in your compilation.

If the compilation includes songs you don’t own the licenses yet, you need to properly license these songs from the owner of the recordings, in most cases this is the label that originally released the song. You can’t distribute your compilation via iMusician if you can’t provide these license agreements.

If your compilation contains cover songs, please read “How to distribute a cover” first and indicate that the track is a cover song. Once you licensed all the songs you wish to make a compilation of, you’re ready to upload it on your iMusician dashboard! In the “Basic details” section, start by clicking on the “This is a compilation” button:

compilation

Continue the uploading of your compilation by following all the different steps on your iMusician dashboard.

Very important: In the “Tracks” section you must fill in the original publisher(s) in the “Publisher” field and the original composer(s) and lyricist(s) in “Contributors” field.