I’ll start this by saying that I just had a project wrap and I am super excited to see it release this month. A group of fellow collaborators and artists took one my originals and gave it a completely new feel through a cover. I have been fortunate in my career to have 2 of my songs covered now. The experiences couldn’t have been more different. It opened up a deeper question I couldn’t really answer myself but I’d like to explore.
Covers: They make music accessible to an audience broader than what the original would have reached on its own. I myself have found songs through the covers (I suspect everyone has) and sometimes I actually prefer the cover. I never gave it a second thought before I started releasing songs that touched millions of listeners.
However, as a songwriter, the flip side of covers is that the original artist’s work can be completely ignored or forgotten as listeners discover your song as though it is someone else’s. You don’t have to do anything other than clear the publishing and then release it. No permission from the original artist is needed; information which sometimes surprises people.
For example, if I want to release a Beyonce song and not credit her, I am able to do so by clearing the publishing so she gets all the royalties from my remake of her song (ha!). As you can imagine, that scenario happens all the time but since she’s the Queen, everyone knows it’s me-covering-her and not the other way around 😉 But if you flip that scenario (Beyonce covering my song)…. many listeners wouldn’t even know there was another version and most would never know I wrote the song. No, Beyonce is not covering my song… but you get the idea. Maybe I shouldn’t care… but I do. These songs are like little babies (and I can say that even after having a real baby!). To have someone take it without you knowing feels strange and somewhat violating.
When “Still With Me” (Tritonal, Seven Lions) was covered it was not a good experience. I didn’t find out until after the fact and it was already out. The covering artists did not acknowledge publicly that it wasn’t their song. Plus, I didn’t care for their cover / interpretation of the song. 5 years later that is just a memory, and I’ve let it go.
However, working with Psymbionic and Bassline Drift, both part of the Gravitas family, it has been a 180 and a truly enjoyable process. We talked, they created a beautiful interpretation of my song “All I Need”, and we all approved the final version. I couldn’t be happier with it.
I haven’t been so conflicted about something artistically in a while, so I thought I’d put it into words and see if it helped me pick a side. Ultimately, I still enjoy covers. I guess I just hope that if you love a song and find out it has been covered, you take the time to go back and listen to the original artist for context. They were probably onto something original before someone else picked it up…