Covers of well-known songs are a great way to start out and hone your skills as a musician and vocalist, and I’m sure we all know of someone with a great YouTube channel who got discovered from their cover versions.
But what exactly is a cover? It’s not simply when you interpret an already existing song. A rendition of a song that is almost exactly the same as the original is a cover, but if it’s changed in any way – whether the lyrics, music or arrangement – it becomes what’s known as a ‘derivative work’, which can be harder to distribute to stores.
But don’t think covers are just for beginners – they can be beneficial to your career as an independent artist because they keep the spotlight on you even when you’re not releasing projects of your own and give you extra content to serve your audience. Check out the Quarantine Covers series Dave from Glass Animals released to see what we mean.
In this article we’re be covering:
- How to choose the right track
- Making sure recording is great quality
- Promotion on social media
- How to properly distribute a cover
Let’s dive right in.
First, choose the right track
Selecting the song you’re going to cover is the base of your project and the most crucial part of the process. Ideally, you should choose a track that will highlight and suit your talent. It’s always great to choose something unexpected, or maybe a different genre to your original music to showcase your ability and make fans want to listen to your version and not only the original.
A few cover ideas :
- Cover a trending song that generates traffic
- Cover an old song with an updated version
- Cover a song from a completely different genre to yours
- Create an unplugged version of a song
- Use unusual instruments / effects
Getting a good quality recording
It can seem less important than for your original projects but covers deserve as good as possible a recording as well – it could be this cover that leads new fans to find you so you want to put your best foot forward. Like any recording session don’t stop until vocals and instruments are clear and up to the level you reach with your own music. Vocals are particularly important when it comes to covers so we’d recommend you check out Abbey Road’s guide to recording and processing vocals. You’ll find plenty of advice on mics, placement and sound treatment for your tracks.
Promotion on social media
When we think of cover, we tend to think of YouTube, right? So, make sure to record a video of yourself when you’re doing the cover! When people search for the original your video may also appear in search results, so make sure to optimize the title and description with the appropriate keywords. And don’t forget about vertical versions for your other social media such as IGTV or TikTok. Covers work especially well on TikTok.
Now on to the nitty gritty part. As you already know, songs are protected by copyright owned by artists and/or editors. This means that when you’re covering a track, you have to get a license to distribute it in the stores and social media. Basically, you can’t make money out of another artist’s work. When it comes to covers, this license is called a Mechanical License. You only need a mechanical license if you want your cover to be available as a download in the USA. So to release a cover with Spinnup, you either purchase a mechanical license, or remove America from the list of countries your track will be distributed to.
If you change the song at all it stops being a cover and is classed as a derivative work, which means you will need to obtain the rights to the track, you’ll need to get in touch with the rights owner(s) and ask their permission to release the song.
In all cases, make sure to select the “cover” button when you’re creating your release on Spinnup. https://support.spinnup.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000029278-What-do-I-need-to-release-a-cover-version-before you release your cover to make sure you go about it in the right way.
That’s it. Keep these tips in mind when creating covers and you’re good to go. We can’t wait to see which songs you’re going to cover!