Cover Song meaning

Cover song licensing is a guideline for the usage, reproduction, and distribution of songs owned by another entity. We’ve also included resources to help you to make the best use of cover songs according to law. Recommendations for possible future legislation are also included.

A cover song is a recording of a song that was first recorded or made popular by somebody else (Free Dictionary, 2021).

To be more exact, the cover song definition should encompass issues related to copyright. That is, a cover song is a rendition of a song that is owned by a copyright holder.

What is a or entertainer?

Cover bands or cover acts are entertainers that sing a wide repertoire of songs owned by other copyright holders.

The band or entertainer may perform popular songs in different genres or from time periods such as the forties, fifties, or sixties.

Cover bands may remix the song with a new musical genre, reproduce the original version exactly or perform the song with their own interpretation (Wikipedia, 2021)


Other words for cover song

Other words for cover song include:

  • Cover.
  • Covers.
  • Revival.
  • Cover song.
  • Song cover.
  • Music cover.
  • Cover version.
  • Song revision.
  • Second-hand song.


What is a copyright?

Mirriam-Webster (2019) defines copyright as:

the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Rights of ownership or copyright automatically belong to the creators of any work. Copyright protection is an inherent right that is obtained automatically without the need for registration or other formalities (World Intellectual Property Organization, 2019 cited by Moss, 2016).

However, copyright holders should refer to copyright laws in their respective countries in order to enjoy the full protection of the law. For example, copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office is mandatory in the United States.

By law, copyright owners can assign licenses to others to use, reproduce and distribute their work. This includes the rights to produce covers. These rights are transferred by .

How do copyright holders earn royalties on their compostions?

Music copyright holders earn royalties or income on the usage of their work from:

– performance royalties.
– publishing royalties.

What are performance royalties for music?

By law, performance royalties are paid to music copyright holders when their work is used publicly by themselves or other music users. For example, music users (such as businesses, radio stations etecetra) need to obtain a license to use a music creator’s work.

The following list, which is not exhaustive, contains circumstances for which music users should obtain a license to sue the work of a copyright holder:

  • Karaoke offered at venues.
  • Music used by websites and apps.
  • Live music performances at venues.
  • Music while on hold (via telephone).
  • Music played within healthcare facilities.
  • Music in common areas such as pools, gyms and elevators.
  • Music played at special events, whether live or recorded.
  • Music in company lobbies, break rooms and at company events.
  • Music streamed while transportation services are being provided.
  • Music that plays within television programming at retail establishments.
  • Music streamed at retail establishments by companies or by individual employees (examples include full length songs, song segments or jingles within TV episodes, song segments within commercials, etc.)
  • Cover bands and entertainers who sing cover songs are not eligible to receive performance royalties on cover songs. These royalties for public performances are paid to the copyright holders by a Performance Rights Organization (All Track, 2021).

What are publishing royalties for music?

The term music publishing comes into play when copies or recordings of a song are distributed to the public for sale or rent (Legal Zoom, 2020).

Publishing royalties usually include mechanical royalties and synchronization royalties.

Mechanical royalties are earned on the sale of CDs, digital downloads, cassette tapes, vinyl albums, and other such manufactured formats (BMI, 2005).

On the other hand, synchronization royalties are earned when a creator’s work is attached to media such as film, video, and television.

Therefore, synchronization royalties are paid, for example, when a creator’s work is played in music videos, on television, or in film (BMI, 2021).

What is ?

is essentially a mechanical license to record and distribute musical works owned by a copyright holder (Legal Zoom, 2021).

Therefore, cover song artists distributing under would earn royalties or income on sales of downloads, digital copies, CDs etcetera.

Cover song licensing Distrokid

Usually, the process of paying for is a very tedious and expensive one. However, members of the Distrokid music distribution service can pay a flat, yearly cover song license fee of $12.00.

How to get cover song licensing with Distrokid

You need to register with Distrokid as a member in order to obtain a cover song license with Distrokid. The membership fee is $19.95 yearly.

We use Distrokid as our music distributor. Read our Distrokid recommendations at this link.

As our valued client, we’d like to offer you a 7% VIP discount on the first year’s fee. This is available at our affiliate (sponsored) link.

Cover songs on

is a video streaming website visited by millions of people every day. Millions of fans and artists worldwide upload covers of their favorite songs to . The advantage is good exposure for the artist and also wider promotion of the song.

Unfortunately, most of us were not aware of copyright issues related to this common practice.

YouTube Content ID for copyright protection

YouTube has a system called Content ID. Its purpose is to help Copyright owners to easily identify and manage their content on YouTube.

Whenever a video is uploaded to YouTube, they are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted by content owners.

If a match is found, the copyright owner is informed by YouTube. He or she can then take any of the following three actions:

Block the viewing of the entire video.

Monetize the video by asking YouTube to run ads on it. Copyright owners can also share revenue with the uploader.

Track the video’s viewership statistics (YouTube, 2021)

Who can register for Content ID on YouTube?

There are the YouTube guidelines for Content ID registration:

1. The copyright owner must own exclusive rights to a sizeable body of original work.

2. Copyright owners must submit evidence of ownership of the copyrighted content for which they control exclusive rights.

3. The material must also be frequently uploaded by other members of the YouTube creator community.

Register for YouTube Content ID directly at this link OR

Use the YouTube Content ID service provided by Distrokid for a small, yearly fee (Sponsored link). You must be a Distrokid member to use this service.

How YouTube administers Content ID

1. YouTube continuously monitors Content ID use and disputes in order to ascertain that the guidelines are followed.

2. Content owners who repeatedly make erroneous claims can be terminated from their Content ID access and other Content partnerships with YouTube.

3. YouTube also offers other copyright management tools that include:

The copyright complaint webform.
The Content Verification Program (CVP).
The Copyright Match Tool.

Read more at this link.

4. YouTube monitors live streams for copyright issues:

YouTune scans All live streams to determine matches with third-party content. This includes copyrighted content that had been released in the form of another live broadcast.

If the live stream includes third-party content, YouTube puts a placeholder image and replaces the live stream.

The streamer will be warned to stop streaming third-party content. The stream can continue if the creator complies.

The live stream will be temporarily interrupted or terminated if the third-party content is not removed.

What about live streams that use licensed third-party content?

Some creators may use licensed third-party content in live streams. Prior to the stream creators are asked by YouTube to:

ask the owner of the licensed content to add your channel to their allowlist. This is done through the Content ID system.

All streams can be interrupted if the copyright holder does not add your channel to the allow list.

YouTube Content Verification Tool

YouTube provides a Content Verification Tool

The Content Verification Tool is found in YouTube’s Studio Content Manager.

One must sign in to the Content Manager account to use it.

The tool allows creators who own copyrighted content to search through publicly available YouTube videos for videos that include their content. A copyright takedown request can then be submitted if desired.

How to get Cover song licensing and YouTube Content ID under one roof

All independent self-published music creators and/or independent music publishers need to find ways to automate and ease the workflow.

I recommend using Distrokid music distribution services since all of these are under one platform. Distrokid also provides a comprehensive royalties tracking system that enables members to see exactly where their royalties are coming from.

Distrokid also provides Distrolock which allows members to block unauthorized usage of copyrighted works on . Information is sent via email and members can request a takedown of the work if a license was not obtained for usage.

Click the add to cart button below (sponsored) to gain a 7% VIP Discount on the first year of registration at Distrokid.

Recommendations for legislation

I recommend new copyright legislation to address ways and means to facilitate payments to copyright holders for the usage of their works on sites like video streaming sites, social media sites, download sites, app sites etcetera.

Many of these sites, such as YouTube and Facebook and others do have systems in place. These systems are comprehensive and can be examined for widespread usefulness and cohesion.

I recommend that the legislation be compassionate, realizing that copyright holders gain new fans and distribution channels on these platforms when their work is shared.

Much creativity will be needed since the monetization models and payout rates on these platforms are different from synchronization for TV and film.

My ideas include:

– Content ID matching systems on all social media, video sharing sites etc.
– Guidelines for digital usage and streaming of copyrighted work by users.
– A system for digital Licensing of copyrighted work on these platforms? This should include royalty payments for any usage as in YouTube Content ID.
– Guidelines related to synchronization of copyrighted work by users on these media. YouTube already has a Content ID system for example.

Thanks for reading. Please submit questions and comments.

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