Many artists start by learning how to cover other people’s songs. This is simply how they learn more about music and develop their craft. It’s also a way for them to show respect to these artists by playing songs that have been so meaningful to them.
In some cases, there are even bands who get famous because of a cover song that they produced. The breakout hit for rock band Alien Ant Farm, for instance, was a cover of the Michael Jackson song Smooth Criminal.
Cover songs aren’t original works, but they may be new arrangements of older works. If you’re interested in doing this, are you allowed to record someone else’s song and then distribute it as your own?
You likely need the rights
You know that cover signs are common, so there is definitely a way to do this. But it is also much more complex than recording the song and just putting it on your next album.
The issue is that you need to get the rights to put out a version of that song. Most artists will sell these rights – this is called obtaining a mechanical license – but they’re going to want a certain royalty percentage. If your song gets a lot of downloads or streams, they’re going to want to be paid a specific amount. So you not only need to get their permission, but you need to understand exactly how much money they’re going to be owed and how that will be distributed.
In a lot of ways, figuring out the legal side of this process is much more complicated than actually recording the cover song. Make sure you know what steps to take so that you don’t put your young music career in jeopardy.