Leveraging the power of the cover song is a topic that fascinates me so I was particularly pleased to encounter Walk off the Earth's cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." It's a great example of a cover song and music video whose creative approach manages to evade the novelty label while helping build their reputation for unique covers. It's also a great jumping off point for considering the possibilities for building your own brand with cover songs in music videos.
Walk Off The Earth, based in Canada, do original music as well but they've definitely built a reputation through their creative cover tunes and videos. You can check out both originals and covers on their YouTube channel.
Walk off the Earth Covers Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know
When I previously posted about Karmin and 2CELLOS, the question arose as to how to license music for use in videos. I found an initial answer via Alex Holz at Limelight who has written about profiting from licensing covers for audio releases at Music Think Tank.
While Limelight can help with audio licensing, Holz points out on their site that musicians will have to go elsewhere for sync licensing which is required for music video covers:
"If you’re doing a cover song and want to release it on YouTube alongside a video, you’ll need to contact the publisher(s) directly for a synchronization license...There are some cool resources like Jingle Punks, Rumblefish, and Music Dealers that clear independent tracks, though don't do it on the major label/publishing side."
"RightsFlow (parent company of Limelight and MySpark) does handle these licensing projects on a case-by-case basis. If you do ever have any questions re: them, don't hesitate to reach out to me direct (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll point you in the right direction."
If you do create a music video for your cover song, there are some interesting marketing possibilities that go beyond releasing it through the channels that you would for your own original music. They include:
- Submit your video to cover blogs such as Coverville and Cover Me.
- Vie for a spot on Mashable's YouTube Cover Song Face-Off.
- Share on fan sites for the band whose song you've covered.
While it is possible to take a novelty route and get some attention, keep in mind that if that's how you break through to a larger audience, your first look will be as a novelty act. Don't let that stop you from being creative but keep in mind that if you don't take your cover seriously enough to treat it as part of your repertoire, that others may not take it or you seriously.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.