Upcoming artist spotlight: RnB singer DOA, most recent work = ‘Havana’, a chilled, end-of summer track / socials = Twitter & IG: @_DOAmusic / links: https://open.spotify.com/artist/02pe6TrSVdgGjpgr131bL6, https://songwhip.com/song/doa/havana, https://soundcloud.com/doa_music
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What are the role of covers/remixes in the music industry?
YouTube has over 1 billion active users (Jacobson, 2017), is the second most popular search engine after it’s parent company Google (Castillo, 2017) and is “this generation’s MTV” (Nelson, 2013). It allows users to create video content on any topic, and a subgenre sees aspiring musicians creating covers of songs by their favourite artists. Some will make no changes to the other song, yet others like my chosen artists for today, might twist the song’s lyrics slightly.
This subgenre has grown with the rise of the platform and other social media apps like Facebook and Instagram (Jacobson, 2017), meaning distribution within the music industry has changed – becoming cheaper, faster and better-reaching.
For someone trying to build their fanbase, doing a cover is a pretty good music marketing technique and will gain organic growth and attention (Castillo, 2017). The reasoning links to a topic I discussed in the Ella Mai article, that we like hearing songs we’ve already heard before over something new, like the musicians’ original work. Even if anyone watching the cover hasn’t heard of you, they’ve definitely heard of the song you’re covering, especially if it’s a classic tune (Kusek, 2017).
With cover artist Tyler Ward securing an opening slot for the Jonas Brothers, appearing on Ellen and having his own headlining tour, it’s clear covers have massive potential, and two artists who can testify are Yxng Bane and Tory Lanez.
Londoner Yxng Bane was putting out his own work before making his Shape of You Remix (by Ed Sheeran) in 2017. In 2015, he released “Lone Wolf” (Cliff, 2017) which came across as mysterious, low and snarling. He wore a mask to represent the Batman character, Bane.
His manager suggested doing a remix of Ed’s number 1 song (Armstrong, 2017) and Bane was a big fan of it. Upon completion, Ed received a copy gave it the “green light”. A simple video (Armstrong, 2017) showed Bane eating chips in a car and a female dancer taking centre-stage.
Bane didn’t expect the remix’s positive reaction (Armstrong, 2017). Cliff labels it the “superior version of the track to play in London nightlclubs”, and I remember people would stop dancing as the opening beat came in to hear which version it was. The song was released on Spotify by Ed (Armstrong, 2017).
Bane has since released Rihanna and Bestie ft Yungen, which was in the top 10 for 10 weeks (Armstrong, 2017), and with his presence in the popular genre afropop (Cliff, 2017), he has had industry success come at him fast.
Tory and fellow Canadian musician Drake had a long-running beef (Khal, 2017) before Tory dropped a remix of Drake’s hit Controlla. Naturally some thought this was a dig at Drake, including the man himself who spoke about “all you boys doing fake Controllas”, but Tory says he just liked the song and isn’t a hater (Setaro, 2016).
The two united at Drake’s OVO fest (Blais-Billie, 2017) but Tory’s remix isn’t on Spotify, although the track is “arguably better than Drake’s original” (Marcano, 2016).
Tory went on to release his “long-awaited” album, I Told You, with Say It and Luv which was nominated for Grammy.
How could covers negatively impact the future music industry?
Covers are relatively easy to make as the material is already there compared to writing your own songs (if you decide to stick to the lyrics). And with their far-reaching potential, they are very attractive to musicians. However, this does not mean that their might be some negatives for both the industry and individuals which should be addressed:
Are there any technicalities to consider when making covers?
As I mentioned above, Tory’s track is currently only on Soundcloud. This makes it seem ‘unofficial’ as it isn’t on one of the leading streaming platforms and one of the most recognised, Spotify.
While streaming has made accessing music easier, there is also the issue of piracy and the legitimacy of tracks. Does Drake not putting Tory’s remix on Spotify make illegitimate? Personally, I only listen to it at times like this, when I have been reminded of the song’s existence.
Bane wouldn’t have this issue. His remix is in one of my Spotify playlists, so I’m going to come across it at some point. Also, he’s listed under Ed’s Spotify (Shape of You remixes), so superstar Ed’s fans can easily come across Bane. Essentially, Bane’s remix being on the bigger streaming platform Spotify over Soundcloud presents more opportunities.
And with covers also having a lot of legal issues which can prevent the cover artist both monetising and officially publishing them, are the growth potentials limited for artists?
Will you become known as a cover act?
Covers tend to get more attention than the musicians’ original work (Kusek, 2017). How many times have you seen aspiring musicians with a cover that has thousands/millions of views but the rest of their channel (which contains their self-written songs) doesn’t have the same love?
This can make musicians feel unappreciated (Kusek, 2017) and that to get attention, they must keep making covers. However, this stifles the musicians’ creativity and means their own work is taking a back seat. For the music industry, this means less new content, and potential stagnation.
If you get booked for live performances, they are likely to want you to perform your covers, which may have attracted them to you. If you can do your own work during live performances, this is risky: will the crowd become uncomfortable as they aren’t used to hearing this from you?
By far, covers are the safer option, even if this boxes you into the ‘cover artist’ category.
How can you stand out against other covers on YouTube?
When a new song drops, it’s likely a lot of covers will follow to join the hype. And with YouTube having many content creators offering almost-identical services, you become replacable and are likely to be lost among other videos.
Yet no two musicians are the same and you can exploit this. Yxng Bane and Tory Lanez both put a unique spin on the original tracks and made their covers fit their style of music. Kusek suggests trying another genre, or different instruments to stand out from the crowd (2017).
And this makes the transition to your original work easier. Diverting away from covers won’t be such a shock to your listeners as you’ve already given a taste of what your music will be like.
How can you convert the millions of views from going viral into long-lasting fans?
There’s a lot of conversation today about the difference between impressions (how many people saw the post) and engagement (likes/shares/comments). Covers tend to have the first but not the second, which is a problem for musicians looking to increase their fanbase and advance their career. You want people to stay with you after your cover, not just to watch and forget you exist (Kusek, 2017).
One thing musicians can include are ‘calls to action’, like encouraging people to subscribe or follow your socials. That way when you release more content it will reach them.
I know that if I don’t make a commitment to a cover artist such as these calls to actions, the chances are that I won’t hear about them every again. As the musician, you have to incentivise customers or miss out. The cover drew them to you, capture on this while you can.
SOURCES: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8014883/yxng-bane-shape-of-you-rihanna-interview, https://www.thefader.com/2017/12/22/yxng-bane-gen-f-interview, http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2017/07/the-legalities-behind-a-cover-song-draft.html, https://www.tunecore.com/blog/2017/04/posting-covers-youtube-best-use-time.html, https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2013/05/13/182880665/covering-pop-hits-on-youtube-is-starting-to-pay?t=1536927552644, https://www.complex.com/music/2016/08/tory-lanez-controlla-new-toronto-sway-in-the-morning, https://www.complex.com/music/2017/05/drake-and-tory-lanez-relationship-timeline, https://www.inverse.com/article/19993-tory-lanez-new