These four iconic songs, indelibly linked in our minds with the careers of Toni Basil, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, and Whitney Houston respectively, all have one thing in common.
They are all cover versions - versions of songs written and originally recorded by someone else. And of course they are all excellent and unique interpretations of the original songs by talented artists that resonated with audiences around the world.
(Can you name the original recording artists? See the end of this article for the answers!)
There are two ‘sides’ to the ownership of every song
If you are reading this you are probably also familiar with a different type of cover version, copy-cat ‘sound-alikes’ that have become prevalent in the sports and fitness markets.
Cover versions are a great illustration that there are two ‘sides’ to ownership of any song:
the recording (called a ‘master’ recording from the ‘olden days’ when vinyl records used a metal ‘master’ to stamp down on a blob of plastic to make the record).
the song itself, the lyrics and melody (called the ‘publishing’ of the song from the even more ‘olden days’ when songs were released as physical sheets of music, much like book publishing).
It's particularly important to understand this when you need to license a song, for example to use in a sports or fitness routine, because there are some unusual and very closely guarded rights that are needed, such as adapting the track into a mix, and choreographing a routine to that mix.
In order to use any track, you have to get a license from each of the owners. Even in simple cases where there is one recording artist and one songwriter, that can be complicated enough.
In reality, publishing is way more complex, as there has been a trend over the past years for the number of writers on any one song to increase, leading to an average of 9 writers on a popular song.
The most extreme example of this we have found so far is Sicko Mode by Travis Scott, which has one recording owner, Sony Music Entertainment shown in pink above, and 30 (!) writers who each have a share in the publishing, shown in blue above.
Sometimes the publishing shares are very small, but you still need to have a license from ALL of them before you can use the song.
Learn more about these topics here.
How does this affect you?
Most current providers of music for fitness and sports create their own sound-alike cover versions of a song.
They do so with unknown and often uncredited singers and musicians, and use work for hire contracts so the resulting master recordings are owned by them.
They then sell licenses to their rights in these songs, as a way of getting out of having to get a license from the record labels who own the original hit recordings.
What they DON’T do is get permission from each songwriter for the cover version to:
be created in the first place (many songwriters wouldn’t give permission for a simple copy-cat sound-alike version of an original hit)
allow adaptation of the underlying song into a mix
allow choreography to be put to the mix
use a video with the music on your website
This means that sound-alike cover music tracks in general will not fully comply with sports music guidelines (or copyright law), so you still have a mountain to climb to get the majority of the licenses you need from the songwriters if you want to use the track as part of your music mix (the hardest part of licensing).
What Can I Do About This?
If you have already licensed sound-alike cover music, check your license agreement.
If the license specifically excludes publishing and is just related to the master recording of the sound-alike cover recording, or doesn’t provide you with a legal indemnity (where the licensor guarantees to cover any costly legal action and fines that might come your way from using the track), then you will need to contact all the music publishers who represent the songwriters and get a license.
As we explained above, that is a very difficult, expensive, and time consuming job as you need to contact each and every writer who contributed to the song. And you are not guaranteed to get a ‘yes’ from everyone.
If you use music from ClicknClear, you can relax.
Every track on ClicknClear already has all these publishing rights included in the price of our track download and license, so you don’t need to do another thing when you use our music to make your mix.
New Cover Music price tier
Sometimes, though, top recording artists can be ‘restricted’ and not yet available to license at the pricing we have negotiated, or simply we haven’t yet concluded our deal with their record label to offer the original master recordings.
So we have now introduced a cover music price tier, which uses official music industry covers of top songs that are more cost effective than the original artists, but still recompense the original songwriters fully.
Use our ‘Recording Type’ filter to see the thousands of covers - with all rights from cover master recording AND all publishing - that we have available:
Or start by exploring our covers playlist:
Mickey was originally recorded in 1979 by British pop group Racey (about a girl named Kitty).
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was originally recorded by 80’s new wave musician Robert Hazard.
I Love Rock n Roll was originally recorded by British rock group The Arrows in 1975.
I Will Always Love You was originally recorded by country music legend Dolly Parton in 1974.