YouTube & Video

Prince Wants To Stop All Cover Versions Of Songs (Not Just His Songs… Everyone’s)

image from Appearing on the George Lopez Show recently, Prince declared is distaste for those artists, like Sinead O'Connor and Chaka Khan, who have recorded covers of his songs. Despite the millions of dollars that he's made from people covering his hits, His Royal Purpleness believes that the world would be a better much place if there were only be one version of his – or anyone else's – songs.  Watch the video:

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  1. That wasn’t my interpretation of his comments – I heard it more as frustration that an artist had no control over who can cover their songs, and how often the cover artist is given ownership over that song in the eyes of the public.

  2. Wow, Tabloid Headlining there Hypebot. bit of a slow news day or something?
    He didn’t say that at all, he said that he opposed the fact that anyone can cover a song without asking permission to do so and that music was the only artform in which this happened.
    Still, ‘Prince makes valid rational statement on covers’ doesn’t tweet so well I guess.
    Ho hum, back to your copy of Heat magazine then I guess.

  3. I think Janaki hit the nail square on – the problem isn’t covers as such but:
    a. Lack of composer approval rights,
    b. The shortchanging of the composer in terms of recognition as the author of the work.
    Both of these are perfectly valid concerns.
    The third issue is more subjective and that is:
    c. There should exist one definitive version of every song.
    Whether you agree with this or not is a matter of taste and your opinion won’t in any way be more valid than Prince’s (though it does work both ways).
    Ultimately, I think the decision should rest with the songwriter. A perfoming songwriter like Prince can easily get by without additional income from cover songs and should be in a position to say no (incidentally, Polish law actually demands securing author approval for recorded covers – which can get problematic when dealing with overseas authors, who are used to working under the compulsory license regime).
    On the other hand, a pure songwriter depends on as many people licensing their work as possible, so compulsory licensing works for them. However, the end effect could just as easily be secured by a contractual waiver of approval rights. Compulsory licensing is a rather heavy-handed approach.

  4. The composer and his assignees have all kinds of control. The only control that they lack is ability to say no to someone covering their song live or on record after it has been recorded the first time.
    Do you guys believe that a songwriter should have the right to say no?
    In the age of sampling, etc shouldn’t we be looking for more freedom and not less?

  5. That headline is a little Enquirer-esqe, but I assume that’s what you were going for…Prince did say he didn’t like it when people thought he was covering Sinead’s and Chaka’s songs, but that’s just his ego talking. I would probably feel the same way. (On second thought…I might be okay with it, once the licensing checks came rolling on in.) I’d love to hear the cut out parts of that interview in context, because it sounds like someone who doesn’t like Prince very much cut and pasted that interview together to make him sound like a douche.
    What he is right about is the ability of any/everyone (musician or not), to go to HFA/Songfile and get a mechanical license to cover almost anyone. (There are exceptions…for instance, Bruce Springsteen’s licensing for some of his songs are not on Songfile, and need a special mechanical license to cover.)
    He was just saying that you can’t do that in any other art form. You can’t call a movie “Inception”, and use the same, exact plot with different actors, and not expect to have some legal trouble with that.
    Music has always been different, though. Even before recording started. Folk music went from borough to borough, from town to town, being written and re-written and covered by troubadours for hundreds of years. This is pretty much the same thing, just monetized.
    The only thing that comes close to the ease by which music is licensed for cover is attempting to get a play licensed for a theatre company…and even then, the copyright holders and/or playwright can say no.
    Song writers don’t have that choice. Once their work is out there, it is fair game for anyone to cover, as long as they pay for the license.
    But I disagree with him on one point: He said once it was covered, it wasn’t your song anymore. I would go one further, and say that once you write it and put it into the world, it isn’t your song anymore. It is the song of everyone who hears it, internalizes it, interprets it however they like, and makes it their own. You might legally own the rights to that song, but you can never take it back from the hearts and minds of the people who have made it a part of their life.

  6. “…knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door…”
    (and someone from the audience) “…hey, hey, hey-hey-yeah!”
    that beautiful song is spoiled for ever

  7. If the artist could find the songwriter, sure permission would probably be really easy. However, until we go back to mandatory registration for copyright protection, then tracking down those songwriters could be a full-time job in itself.

  8. Prince should listen to the CD of Prince covers by Dump: That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice. It is sensational!

  9. I think it is important to go back to when this kind of policy was instituted. The idea of FIRST right was critical to publishers and then quite often publishers worked to get songwriters under contract. Once a song was given to someone after an arduous process, the thought was the more often it was re-recorded the better since mechanicals were so lucrative and there was money in radio play which was also segregated and formatted.
    Now the story changes a lot and an artist like Prince thinks he should have a say in who covers his music. I agree with his right to do so, not necessarily with the wisdom of it.

  10. I don’t buy that, simply because most of the covers are those of commercially released songs. Hint, ones that generally tend to include publishing data.
    Commercially released songs also tend to be registered with licensing bodies and collection societies – in other words, finding the songwriter is no great hardship. Proper businesses do that as a matter of course, especially since they’ll have to pay mechanicals on the song anyway.
    If, however, after a dilligent search you aren’t able to locate the author, the solution is simple: don’t cover that particular song. Seriously, there’s no reasonable case that can be made why you desparately need to do so.

  11. I think that unless we decide that the author has no moral right in her work (why?) then especially in the age of sampling – when reusing someone’s work, possibly in a manner contrary to everything the artist stands for, is easier than ever – we should be looking for less freedom, in order to secure those moral rights.
    Unless our aim is to get the most mileage out of existing works, as opposed to incentivising new creation, sampling and remixing shouldn’t get any preferential treatment.

  12. Without question, with the help of sampling, amazing music tracks were created. But what I am often missing is proper attribution, especially if new music is more or less based on the sampled track (only vocals added or slightly changed). Too often, people do not know the original artist who created the melody/the beat/etc.
    So it is understandable that certain artists do not like to see their music being sampled and it is not easy to say that we should not respect that. It would be interesting to know what other artists think about that.

  13. The eyes of the public doesn’t count. He should be happy that the cover artist bought a license from him and that he gets his royalties from BMI or ASCAP! The real issue is he probably signed his rights away to a publishing company in perpetuity. If dumb shit still owned the rights he WOULD have a say in who could legally cover his material.
    I think Prince is one of our greatest talents but I am a member of of the largest performers rights organization and I know what I’m talking about.

  14. Even if he owns his rights, he can’t overturn a compulsory license request. He can prevent his song from being used in commercial for products he doesn’t approve of, but he can’t stop me from covering his song as long as I give him that 9.1 cents…are you SURE you know what you are talking about?

  15. J ReD is right, publishing company or not, artists do NOT have a right to choose who gets to cover (and market the cover) their own songs. they do get a percentage of royalties when this happens. true story from prince: musicians are the only artists without this right, big or small. and it’s bogus.

  16. Years ago I went to a Pete Seeger concert, the folk singer. He was great, but spent an incredibly long time complaining bitterly that one of his songs that had been covered by another band, a horrible ROCK band instead of a good, hard-working folk band. Pete thought it was outrageous that the corporation and laws responsible for licensing his music permitted such a terrible thing.
    It took me awhile, but eventually I realized he was talking about the Byrd’s version of “Turn Turn Turn (to Everything There Is a Season.” The Bryd’s cover was an international hit, and probably one of the best pieces of music to come out of the 60s.
    I felt embarrassed for him, listening to him try to convince the audience what a victim he was, and how unfair the laws are.

  17. Oh, one other thing. A partial list of songs Prince has covered is:
    One Of Us by Joan Osborne
    La-La Means I Love You by The Delfonics
    A Case of You by Joni Mitchell
    Red House [Purple House] by Jimi Hendrix
    I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt
    Betcha by Golly, Wow by The Stylistics
    Brick House by The Commodores (on Mayte’s album)
    Love Rollercoaster and Skin Tight by The Ohio Players
    Skin Tight
    Bustin’ Loose by Chuck Brown
    Just My Imagination by The Temptations
    Now’s The Time by Charlie Parker
    Brick House by The Commodores
    Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

  18. Maybe he asked for permission first? In the interview his complaint is only against people covering songs without permission.

  19. Prince is definitely old school. Just check out YouTube–everyone covers songs now, even kids. They are really popular.

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