DEF LEPPARD’S DIJITAL ONKORE
Digital downloads from online and mobile stores like iTunes are a major source of revenue for today’s performers, since the expense of physically pressing and printing CDs and album art doesn’t factor into the overall profit. Most modern contracts specifically deal with download rights from the get-go, as many artists get their start online at sites like bandcamp.
But what about older contracts and royalty agreements from the dark and dinosaur-infested days before the internet where the concept of buying an album with (and having it magically sent to) your phone was an idea as outlandish and laughable as suggesting that one day Axl Rose would be a huge fat dork? Would ownership rights back in the days of vinyl auto-magically translate into similar ownership in the digital age?
British heavy metal pioneers Def Leppard encountered this problem while butting heads with former label Universal Music Group over ownership of their back catalog. While the band retained the right to deny UMG the use of any of their tracks, that was pretty much the furthest extent of their control over their work, and if they allowed UMG to publish “best of” or similar albums from the back catalog, Def Leppard would receive only a tiny fraction of the revenue generated.
The group came up with a unique solution to the problem: re-record each and every one of their earlier songs as “forgeries,” using instruments and production as similar to the original as possible. The project has hit a few technical snags (“Where am I gonna find a 22-year-old voice?” frontman Joe Elliott asked Rolling Stone Magazine) but so far the remakes of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Rages” have turned out surprisingly accurate.