Def Leppard Takes Control Of Back Catalog By Covering Own Songs

Def-leppard-rock-of-ages-2012Until recently, the only legit digital download options for Def Leppard's catalog was the 2011 "Mirror Ball" album due to their ongoing dispute with Universal Music Group over fair compensation. Last month they released two "forgeries" of singles "Rock of Ages" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" to coincide with the opening of Tom Cruise's movie "Rock of Ages" and their own "Rock Of Ages" tour. They might be dinosaurs but they clearly know how to capitalize on an opportunity.

Though fans have had mixed reactions to Def Leppard's new recordings of old hits, it's a necessary move given their problems with Universal.  According to Joe Elliott:

"When you're at loggerheads with an ex-record label who…is not prepared to pay you a fair amount of money and we have the right to say, 'Well, you're not doing it,' that's the way it's going to be…Our contract is such that they can't do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying, 'No matter what you want, you are going to get 'no' as an answer, so don't ask'…We'll just replace our back catalog with brand new, exact same versions of what we did."

‪Def Leppard – "Rock of Ages" (2012) – Lyric Video‬

They released the singles Pour Some Sugar On Me and Rock Of Ages in early June before attending the movie premier of Rock of Ages featuring Tom Cruise covering metal hits. They then hit the road for their own Rock of Ages Tour 2012 supported by Poison and Lita Ford.

Though they have been complementary about Tom Cruise's cover of Pour Some Sugar On Me, they didn't turn to him or a youthful cover artist. Instead, Joe Elliott says they studied up on their earlier work:

"We had to be really careful that we actually studied them, literally like forgeries. It's like Donald Pleasence in 'The Great Escape' doing passports. It's got to be exactly the same to fool the old German guard. That's the same thing with these songs. We wanted them to have the same energy, that youthful exuberance we had in '83 and '87, so people that are sympathetic to our cause listen to them and say, 'Wow, they've still got it. They can perform the songs the way they did back then.'"

He also points out that the vocals were the hard part:

"Time-wise it probably took as long to do as the originals, but because of the technology it actually got done quicker as we got going. But trying to find all those sounds…like where am I gonna find a 22-year-old voice? I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again. It was really hard work, but it was challenging, and we did have a good laugh over it here and there."

They're now planning to do more forgeries which is a good thing given that much if not all of their back catalog is a torrent away for easy download and is conveniently indexed by Google. Currently their songs available on iTunes look pretty skimpy and not all fans understand why judging from the comments on this Def Leppard Hysteria documentary available through iTunes.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. The re-recording of legacy act back catalog was the business model of the North Carolina independent label CMC International Records before they were purchased by Sanctuary. Have Dokken re-record an early album and then sell it in Eastern Europe where people were Dokken was new.

  2. Nothing sexier than some Grandpas singing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” …can’t wait to buy the cassette!

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