Do Cover Bands Pay Royalties: Bringing the Truth to Light!

“Cover bands,” which perform well-known and historical songs for audiences, have been around for a while worldwide. Whether playing at business functions, webbings, or pubs, these bands frequently spark enthusiasm, bonding people via the common language of music.

But among the excitement of live performances, there is one big question that always remains unanswered, do cover bands pay royalties?

Well, we hope to clarify this misunderstood aspect of the music industry through our blog post. So, without any further delay, let’s reveal the difficulties and ramifications for copyright holders as well as artists!

What Exactly Defines Cover Bands: Grasping the Fundamentals

Before diving deep into the concept, let’s first understand what the cover bands are. A cover band is a group of musicians or performers who specialize in playing and presenting songs that were composed and recorded by other artists in the past.

cover bands

Usually, these groups of musicians cover famous songs from a variety of genres, including pop, jazz, classic rock, and beyond. When a cover band plays a song that is the original work of another artist, they are effectively duplicating the original artist’s work. Here, the role of copyright laws comes into play.

Copyright gives the original producers the only authority to manage how and where their original works are used. It composes words, recordings, and musical compositions, all of which are covered by intellectual property regulations.

Performing Right Organizations (PROs): Guardian of Intellectual Property Laws

In the complicated world of music licensing and royalties, performing rights organizations play an important role. These associations serve as a middleman between copyright holders and music users. There are mainly three performing rights organizations, including ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers.)

To perform the copyrighted songs lawfully in public, cover bands usually need to secure a license from the applicable PROs. In exchange for a certain fee, the band is granted the ability to perform a wide range of songs that are represented by the PRO through these licenses, which are also known as blanket licenses. 

The relevant copyright holders, such as songwriters, composers, and music publishers, get these licensing fees from the PROs as royalties.

When cover songs are performed live, most of the time, performers do not pay the royalties to the original songwriter because establishments like pubs, clubs, and small music venues where cover bands frequently perform are in charge of securing essential licenses and paying the required fees to organizations like PROs, which subsequently pay royalties to the relevant right holders.

Recording and Selling Cover Songs: A Different Situation

Well, we have covered all about live performances, singing shows, and all, but what if the cover band wants to record and sell the cover songs?

recording a cover song

It’s worth noting that the debate over royalties and cover bands becomes more complicated when it comes to recording and selling cover songs. A cover band needs a mechanical license from the original songwriter to lawfully record and release an album of cover songs. With this agreement, the original songwriter is guaranteed a share of the album’s sales royalties, while the cover band is free to record and perform the cover songs.

The reason the mechanical license is called that is that it is “mechanical,” meaning that the original songwriter does need you to grant permission to obtain one. One thing that you should keep in mind is that although you can obtain a mechanical license by asking and paying for it, the original artist cannot prevent another artist from releasing the song’s initial recording; in some cases, the artist can even prevent their own record company from doing so!

The Economic Point of View and The Benefits of Paying Royalties

Now let’s see this topic from an economic point of view. For cover bands, paying royalties could seem like one more financial hardship. However, the economic justification behind royalties becomes clear when one considers them as an investment rather than an expanse. Here are some of the benefits of paying royalties:

  1. Cover bands can access a large song collection by paying royalties, which broadens their collection of songs and increases audience appeal.

This wider appeal may bring more bookings, more people attending shows, and more sales or products, which would eventually offset the original cost of royalties.

  1. For cover bands, staying within the parameters of copyright law and paying royalties reduces the possibility of legal ramifications. 

The possible consequences of copyright infringement, including penalties and legal bills, surpass the cost of acquiring the necessary license. 

  1. In the music business, cover bands that pay royalties are seen as having integrity and professionalism, which helps build their reputation. 

Promoters, venues, and event planners are more likely to partner with morally and legally operating bands because they understand the value of upholding the creator’s rights and following industry norms.

  1. Cover bands help to sustain the livelihood of artists and creators by paying songwriters, composers, and music publishers for their creative work.

Because of this support, there is a thriving and sustainable music industry where artists can make a living off of their craft, and creativity is valued.

  1. Cover bands can set themselves apart from the competition by paying royalties in a market that is becoming more and more competitive. Such cover bands have separate fan bases due to their morality and honesty.

So, these were some of the benefits of paying royalties to the original songwriter, music producer, or artist.

The Bottom line

It’s always a shivering moment when you are going to perform a favorite song from your playlist in front of an audience. But if the song is copyrighted, then you must ensure that the event holder has that special license so that there is no issue like a penalty or fine in the future. We hope this blog post has cleared up all of your queries related to cover bands and royalties.


Q1. Do cover songs get copyright strikes?

Yes, there can be copyright infringement if you do not have the necessary permissions and licenses to perform that original song.

Q2. How do cover bands get licenses for performing copyrighted music?

Cover bands can get licenses through PROs (performing rights organizations).

Q3. Are there any exemptions for cover bands when it comes to paying royalties?

Yes, some venues may exempt cover bands from paying royalties because they do this licensing work by themselves.

Q4. How much do cover bands typically pay for royalties?

Well, the amount paid by cover bands depends on factors such as the size of the venue, the number of songs performed, and the licensing agreement in place.


John Doe

John Doe

I am John, a tech enthusiast with a knack for breaking down complex camera, audio, and video technology. My expertise extends to social media and electronic gadgets, and I thrive on making the latest tech trends understandable and exciting for everyone. Sharing my knowledge through engaging content, I aim to connect with fellow tech lovers and novices alike, bringing the fascinating world of technology to life.

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