The online video sharing site YouTube is this generation’s MTV. Artists like Gotye and PSY have found mainstream success after their videos went viral. Yet the number of cover songs — from toddlers singing The Beatles to teens tackling Led Zeppelin — eclipses original work by a long shot. Between those two extremes is an alternative universe of aspiring professional musicians who use cover songs on YouTube to build fan bases of their own. What these musicians once did for love and fame is starting to pay off in cold, hard cash.
The issue is the legal rights to the song. That’s held by publishers or songwriters, and if anyone wants to make money on a recoding of a song, they have to make a deal. This can be tricky when talking about the thousands of people who upload covers to YouTube.
Enter Fullscreen and one of its rivals, Maker Studios. They’re in the business of connecting YouTube creators with possible advertisers. These companies put talent agents, producers and ad sales all under one roof.
Earlier this year, Fullscreen and Maker struck a deal with one of the largest song rights holders: Universal Music Publishing Group. This opened up Universal’s massive catalog — decades of music from Fleetwood Mac to Adele — for a revenue sharing plan. Now the musicians who work with Fullscreen and Maker can earn money on covers.
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