Today’s New York Times looks at the phenomenon of older bands like Twisted Sister and Wang Chung heading back in the studio to re-record their biggest hits–and get a bigger piece of the music-licensing rewards in the process:
Under the typical record contract, money paid to license a song is split between the record label that owns the recording and the artist who performed it. But if a band remakes the song after it has ended its contract, it can retain ownership of the new version and license it itself without having to share the rewards with the record label. (Music executives typically insist on contract provisions that prohibit artists from re-recording their work for up to five years after their deal expires.)
Recently, a number of aging pop and rock stars has returned to the studio to recreate their signature tunes and pitch them to Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Attentive fans may notice remakes by bands including Twisted Sister, Foreigner and Simply Red in commercials, movie trailers and television programs.
But for some singers, recapturing the flair of their younger selves is no easy trick. “It’s 22 years on,” said Jack Hues of Wang Chung. “My voice is really quite different. You have to almost get into character, which is an interesting experience.” His partner, Mr. Feldman, wondered, “Should we just mimic and do a literal replica, or should we go for that spirited performance that reflects how we are now?”
In the case of Twisted Sister, a loose plan to recut some songs from the band’s 1984 breakthrough album “Stay Hungry” and package them with a DVD turned into a more serious affair. The band re-recorded the entire album, said the co-founder and guitarist Jay Jay French.
Since 2004 several advertisers, including 7Up and Wendy’s, have licensed the new versions, he said. In one instance, a television program paid $10,000 to use 10 seconds of a musical bridge from one of the newly recorded versions. Licenses for full Twisted Sister songs can be in the “six-figure” range, he said.
Albums that are full of re-recorded hits by the VH1 Classic set have been the domain of labels like Cleopatra and its subsidiaries for a while, with even artists like Tiffany getting in on the act. But while the idea of bands becoming cover bands of themselves seems like it may be lucrative, there are just as many incidences in which these experiments stiff–if you’ve heard any of these new/old”albums, you know that the sonic quality varies widely, thanks to differences in studio technology, budget, and “artistic visions” that the musicians have. Sometimes you get creakier, raspier versions of old-school anthems, and other times you get absolute abominations like Faster Pussycat’s foray into “electronica,” which was definitely not recorded for licensing purposes as it’s pretty much unlistenable.