Many artists with pre-internet record contracts are now rushing to launch lawsuits against the major labels they were once signed to over the cut of royalties they are getting from sales of downloads (traditional record contracts being a little vague on such things). However, there are still a number of artists with contracts swung a little more in their favour, who can veto the digital sales of their music altogether, either on point of principle, or if their former label won’t play ball on royalty splits.
Some, like The Beatles, have eventually come to some sort of agreement with their label friends and embraced iTunes, at least. Others, like AC/DC, remain hold outs. And then there’s Def Leppard. The Sheffield hard rock band have given up trying to reach an agreement with Universal over selling their catalogue digitally, and have instead begun recording “forgeries” of their old hits, starting with new versions of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and ‘Rock Of Ages’.
Frontman Joe Elliot told Billboard this week: “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’. That’s the way we’ve left it. We’ll just replace our back catalogue with brand new, exact same versions of what we did”.
It isn’t an easy process though, so recreating all eight of their Universal studio albums (nine if you count their 2008 covers album, ‘Songs From The Sparkle Lounge’, though covering a covers album might be a step too far) might take some time. Elliot explained: “You just don’t go in and say: ‘Hey guys, let’s record it’, and it’s done in three minutes. We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them”.
He continued: “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”.
Hey, maybe this is a whole new business model. Rather than hashing out ever more disappointing albums trying to re-awaken past creative talents, every few years bands could just go back to the start of their careers again. That way new fans can enjoy the excitement of being there when those songs come out (again), rather than having to listen to old men banging on about “being there at the start” all the time. Come on! Who’s with me?! Anyone? Oh. Sorry.
More on this in this week’s CMU Editor’s Letter, which will be published later today. Sign up to have it sent straight to your inbox here.