Original Masters, Covers and Bespoke Re-Records
Ok, let’s take a look at licensing different types of recordings, not so much as a creative option, but as a practical/logistical consideration for your campaign. The producer will have four choices:
- Original master recording(s)
- A bespoke re-record
- A sound-a-like
This will normally be the first recording made of a particular song, many times partly or fully written by the performer, singer, or band members; though there are plenty exceptions. Look, for example at the song written by Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You,” released in 1974. Parton made the “original” recording and many others recorded it through the years – (notably Melissa Etheridge, Kenny Rogers, and Jennifer Hudson) – but its real fame began with the recording by Whitney Houston in the early 1990’s. What began as an understated little love song, Houston turned into a mega-hit anthem and an over-the-top and highly produced release.
This is when the brand wants to make a new, custom recording with the original artist or another celebrity not associated with the original recording – in most cases because the artist is actually appearing in the spot, though not always. The artist would record a track, either of something they were famous for, or perform a song that they’ve always wanted to record.
The best way to define a “cover” is when an artist records a song, but adds her/his own interpretation to a new recording. With any new recording of a known master recording advertising, the central question is: Why? Why make a new recording? The answer to that question is a matter of intention. Does the artist intend to bring a new interpretation to the song? If the answer is yes, then this is miles away from re-recording a song to sound “like” some previously known recording.
The category of “sound-a-like” includes both instrumentals and tracks with a featured vocal. Even the recordings sound alone can be considered a sound-a-like and be the subject of a copyright infringement.
Which Recording Option Is Right For Your Campaign?
Obviously, it’s best to look for an experienced company to work with, and to feel a degree of trust that all the deliverables will be completed without any issues. You also want a company that will follow through with the load of paperwork connected to a campaign, and leave no lose ends.
Michael Welsh is founder/CEO of Michael Welsh Productions, Inc. -a company specializing in music licensing and supervision for advertising, for over 30 years. You can send your questions on related issues to [email protected] www.michaelwelshprods.com.