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GOOD IDEA: Beck Re-Records Classic Albums For Free Series

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an ongoing series of doable ideas that might be worth riffing on

BECK Beck has started something he's called the Record Club for which he and friends like Devendra Banhart, MGMT, Jamie Lidell, and producer Nigel Godrich get together and re-record someone else's classic album in its entirety with little or no rehearsal.

According to Pitchfork, Beck will use his website as well as the websites of the other musicians involved to  offer up a free song from the sessions every week. He bravely started off with The Velvet Underground and Nico. I guess because he's giving it away, he's not too worried about paying songwriter royalties.

Why couldn't your band along with other bands in your town or scene or on your record label do the same thing?

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8 Comments

  1. Interesting idea.
    I’m pretty sure that he still needs mechanical licenses for the songs he’s re-recording and distributing. This applies regardless of whether he is selling them or not.

  2. What exactly is “distribution” in today’s climate?
    He’s not offering a “free” download…simply a slightly edited video stream of an “actual” recording session.
    Is he obligated to compensate the songwriter?
    I believe he might need a sync license.
    A very interesting question given the fact that more artists are using their recorded material as a vehicle to drive awareness and not profitability.
    Can anyone confirm this?

  3. Yikes!
    Is he to lazy to write something new, fresh and original?
    Time to fill up his my space page?

  4. That’s a good question. My understanding was you still needed to pay the Publisher for using the song.

  5. I don’t know why but this reminds me of Roger McGuinn’s “Songs From the Folk Den” concept.

  6. To answer your question: because it’s a crap idea.
    First of all, as others have pointed out, it’s not exactly financially viable, because for most material you’ll still need to pay songwriter royalties (unless your doing public-domain stuff, or songs that are so old that copyright protection for them has expired).
    Second, a covers album isn’t exactly the most appealing form of publication to your hardcore fan-base for the reason that Tricky has pointed out – people may feel that it’s a creative cop-out. It also sends the wrong message to newcomers: they may get the impression that you are a tribute/cover band.
    Third, as a marketing ploy this looks to me very much like a stick with two sharp ends: first of all, Beck is an established artist (whatever we may think of his work), so his tackling classic albums may be considered a daring (or at least vaguely interesting) move. Not so for an unknown artist/band – it’s hard to get worked up over what their take on something may be if you haven’t the foggiest idea of what they usually do. Furthermore, if someone does check it out, chances are they’re a fan of the artist whose work you covered. If so, they’re not likely to be terribly impressed with your work. At best, they may consider it “okay, for a cover”, at worst they’ll detest your “defacing a work of genius”.
    Considering all this, I file it under “Marketing stunts by popular artists that stir up way too much excitement in the blogosphere/Unworkable”.

  7. Maybe it’s his secret desire, just like a child with the opportunity of playing with his neighbour’s toys. I don’t think he has a master plan of how this project will work. Revenues are out of question: he knows how fans interact with the web, wanting free and extra stuff from their idols. And, being so concerned with details as he is, recording with almost no rehearsels points to a very uncompromised statement, sort of a reunion with friends to play their favorite music (but with global awareness).

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