Just got word in that the publishers of Steely Dan's lyrics refused permission for us to record our Blues version of Dirty Work for our upcoming EP 'Spacejunk'.
For those of you (like me) new to the arcane world of publishing rights, you cant just willy-nilly record other peoples stuff because its:
B: legally actionable
In order to record a 'cover' you need to obtain licensing from one of the relevant bodies (in Australia see www.apra.com.au). Its pretty easy.
However, if your 'version' of the song differs materially from the original (as ours did, musically) then you are no longer in cover territory, you are in 'Derivative Works' territory, a grey area from whose bourne few (independant) travellers return!
So, as we knew our version was in this category, we researched, emailed, phoned and generally did our best to try and comply with the requirements.
Fundamentally, its up to the song writers and or their management and I get that.
Its their baby and someone phones up asking if they mind it being genetically reengineered. Not necesarily cool.
In our case though, I kind of feel as if we were in the too-hard-basket. Before someone can make a determination to say Yes, it requires time and effort, and for the total potential sales value from an indie artist with no profile (harsh but true) it probably works out this way:
A: Total possible return $10
B: Cost of label lawyer to do the paperwork $1000.
C: Nett Return (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH you gotta be kiddin me? Some yutz from a band in Sydney wants to what? Tell him to go ride a Kangaroo, hug a tree, whatever it is they do down there)
Ok, so I may have embellished that last part, but in essence, its probably the right thought process.
Althought this is merely a commercial reality, its also kind of sad, as we had been enjoying that version of the song.
Our options now are to bin it (sad) or write dfferent lyrics (hmm), but what interested me was setting one type of song into a different framework.
A shame but as we cannot remedy it and changing the lyrics to bitch about it is both childish, petulant (and appealing!!) I have no idea where to from here. I have symbolically removed (then re-added immediately, what are you nuts?) Steely Dan from my playlist.
I now feign complete horror, strike my forehead in dismay, issue several choice expletives (Freeform Jazz! Caffe Latte! Knit Sweaters!!!) and move on to the next task: A tibetan throat singing version of 'Billy Jean' - Hey, I'm sure Michael would like what we do with his song. Just ask Donald!