Why are bands re-recording their music

There is a fascinating new trend happening in music right now, and you best understand it.  Bands are going into the studio and recording their hits all over again... to sound exactly like they did in the first place.

The reason why is both interesting, and important.  Allow me to 'splain.  This week, Rolling Stone reported that Def Lepperd was in the studio covering their hits.  Recently, Toad the Wet Sprocket did the same, as did Squeeze.  Here is the Lepperd story.   Toad did this a couple of years ago, and released this album.  It is great.

So, why are bands doing this?  Well, the bands have recently got their 'publishing' back.  It means they own the song again, but not the recording.  First things first > bands generally do not own their own songs or recordings.  Never have, unless you are Ani DiFranco.  So, now bands are getting their publishing back, but not the recordings.

So, if you are a tv or movie and you want to use a Toad song, you had to buy it from Sony.  Sony would get about $300,000 and the band would get about $300.  So, how does getting your publishing do anything about that?  Well, the bands go and re-record their hits and release them themselves.  So, now if you want that Toad song, you can buy it directly from the band.  They will charge you less, and make WAY more.  Now, you buy the song from Toad for $200,000.  You just saved $100,000, what a great deal.  The song you got sounds exactly the same.  However, the band just got $200,000 instead of $300.

Everyone wins.  Well, except the record company.  Why is everyone so eager to screw the record company.  Doesn't this hurt us all in the end?  Here is some quick math.  CD's used to cost $20 to buy.  When you bought a CD for $20, the artist got between 25 to 50 cents per CD.  Wait, it gets worse.  Way worse.  The band has to pay back the costs for their recording and publicity out of that 50 cents.

So, it costs maybe $500,000 to record a CD.  It costs another $500,000 to promote that cd.  You know: videos, adds in magazines, flying the band around the country to play Letterman and all that.  So, when a band releases that album, they are $1,000,000 in the hole.  So, if the band sells a millions albums, we are all cool with the record company, right?  Nope.  You have to pay back every penny of that million out of your 50 cents.   So, you need to sell 2 million albums JUST to be square with the record company.  So, rock stars aren't rich. 

Now, the record company made $19.50 net profit of every cd sold.  You wrote the songs, and you paid to record the songs.  Then, you paid to promote the songs.  Then, the record company made 39 million bucks before you made a penny.  This is why every artist is eager to screw their record company.  As for how much rock stars hate their record companies, think of Prince.  Prince had a very very bad break up with his record company, Warner Brothers.  He didn't want to record music for them, anymore.  They said "we have a contract.  We own you.  We own 'Prince'.  It is important to note that Prince's real name is Prince.  Prince Rogers Nelson.  Prince was so pissed he changed his name so he could keep recording.  That was the whole 'artist formally known as Prince' jive.  That was all done just to spite his record company.  Also, during that whole time, he wrote the word 'slave' on his face.

There are some ways around this, but now you understand why artists were fine with watching the record companies burn to the ground over the last ten years.

Bands who have their own means now are doing some creative alternatives.  Both Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins, for example, are recording their own albums.  Meaning, instead of being fronted by the record companies, they are paying out of pocket to record and publicize.  Then, they allow a record company to distribute the cds.  So, this way the bands own the publishing and masters and recordings.  It also means they make about 60% of the album sales instead of 5%.  So, when you see your favorite bands doing this weird move, support them.  This is their day job.

Also, if you are wondering if there is any way around this, and does everyone do this?  And surely someone has found a way to empower themselves.  You would be correct.  One person ONE PERSON has done it.  This person has stuck it to the man, and done it their way from day one with complete control - artistic and financial.  One person ever.  Ani DiFranco.  Look up her story, it is amazing.


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