The details of this are just starting to come to light but it seems that the members of Led Zeppelin and Van Halen have reached a new low in both human behavior and base capitalistic greed.
Colorado’s Vail Daily is reporting that Van Halen and Led Zeppelin are suing the Vail nightclub 8150, and its owner Steven Kovacik, for allowing bands to perform cover versions of the bands' collective songs. The plaintiffs are suing for ten counts of copyright infringement and, according to court documents, are asking for as much as $30,000 per song in damages.
For the record, I’ve been to 8150 and, besides being in a popular ski-town, it is the same as any other live music club in the country. I’m not sure at this point why 8150 is being singled out but I’ve met the club's owner and he seems like a nice guy. I hope his life and business isn’t ruined because of this. If the great Hunter S. Thompson were still alive I’d be exploring every available avenue to get word of this to him. He would be appalled.
That said, any music fan knows that any serious gigging band cuts their teeth on cover songs and playing them in a live setting is par for the course. I can’t even begin to express my anger over this move. You know what, fuck it, I’m going to try.
First, I don’t condone stealing music. I completely understand that a band's songs are their livelihood and represent countless hours of hard work. I'm also aware that you are supposed to obtain a license to play covers in your live set.
In fact, rules requires you apply for permission from either BMI or ASCAP to perform covers. Now, this makes perfect sense if you are a tribute band like Helles Belles, the well respected, all female AC/DC tribute band, or a similar band making their living off performing music they didn't have a hand in writing. Yet, suing a young band that writes their own songs for covering one, or even two, of your songs is just pointless. Again the common theme here has to be greed and it tarnishes everything the rock and roll ethic ever stood for.
But consider the fact that if you hear a cover song at a club you might like it enough to go out and buy the album. I think playing a cover is a tribute, much like a toast, and suing a band for doing it is like shooting yourself in the foot.