Home / Van Halen and Led Zepplin Sue Nightclub Over Cover Songs

Van Halen and Led Zepplin Sue Nightclub Over Cover Songs

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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. 

This law suit is akin to charging your little brother before you give him advice on how to pick up girls. Rock and Roll is supposed to be a brotherhood of sorts and a look back at the history of these bands show they played plenty of covers in their early days.

Playing covers is a right of passage and there is no physical exchange of goods involved. This boils down to one thing, greed. Have these musicians’ vices gotten so out of hand that they have to stoop to this level. If you are a music fan, and especially a musician, I strongly urge you to consider what is going on here. Next, these guys will be trying to charge you for sharing oxygen with them at concerts.

Seriously, I wonder did Zeppelin pay royalties on all the blues tunes they “borrowed” from and did Van Halen pay for all the performances of “Pretty Woman” they churned out while they were playing shitholes on the Sunset Strip. I am willing to bet my left nut they didn’t.

Now, I already thought, despite the great music they have made, that Eddie Van Halen is a drunken cad and Jimmy Page is a lazy addict but that's forgivable. It goes with the musical territory. But this lawsuit is the equivalent of these guys pissing on their fans while pouring sugar in their gas tanks. This is a great violation of the sanctity of rock and roll and proves that money is truly the root of all evil.

I hope this story turns out to be false or has more reasoning behind it than it appears to have right now, but it looks like the Vail Daily did their research. If it is true, I can tell you neither of these bands and any other bands that do the same, will ever see another dime from me.

I was saving my money for the rumored Van Halen tour but I think I’ll buy Police tickets instead.  In light of this, that pompous ass Sting seems like Mother Teresa compared to Eddie Van Halen and his merry band of co-plaintiffs.

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About bdaviet

  • This is important because people shouldnt be using van halens and Zepelins songs with out proper licincing

  • just me

    People should know that this isn’t just a case of the musicians lawyers being overbearing without them knowing. Before the lawsuits were filed in court these guitar gods were made aware of this and signed off on it allowing their lawyers to go forward with the suit. Greedy is too polite a word for these old pricks.

  • Pinko

    “capitalistic greed” Here we go again with you losers thinking everthing should be free.

  • you know, i understand that legally they are bound to pay for the right to use another persons song however; i find it assnine for these bands to lay the hammer on cover bands. If we’re talking about a “Tibute Band” that’s one thing but I wonder how many times Ray Davies of the Kinks got a check from the Eddie Mister for each rendition of “You Really Got Me” he did before they got signed?

  • Spandex Mama

    If had actually read the original article, it was in fact, nothing more than the nightclub actually failing to obtain the proper legal ASCAP license you yourself mention. The bands themselves have absolutely nothing to do with this at all. It is the big corporation to blame.

    Hunter should hunt you down and berate you for falling prey to such an old trick of using big names to attract attention to themselves. 8150 should be fined just like any other club would be…without the fanfare.

  • Mohjho

    Thank god for trial lawyers. I wonder how much money these bands paid out to the owners of the music they played when they were starting out?

  • Boy oh boy, what a load of ka-ka. Bands can perform what ever they want, how ever they want. Infringement does not come into play until the song is recorded and published for sale. It is up to the venue to pay it’s ASCAP and BMI fees. A cover band is no different than a juke box.

    How desperate is the music industry now? They are trying to figure out how to make the money since CD sales, etc are way down. So they sue the people playing/advertising it? Shoot themselves in the foot…..

    The best way to activate the industry again is to sign bands that are actually saying something. The public will get involved again with the power of music.

  • this lawsuit has nothing to do with greed and everything to do with the venue not setting up licensing through ascap.


  • Eddie Van Halen is an asshat. Van Halen re-broke up again earlier in the week, so there won’t be a tour. Also, he fired life long band mate Michael Anthony because he played with Sammy. That is stupid because Van Halen doesn’t tour or record… so what the hell is a bass player supposed to do?

    I think this lawsuit is strange and petty. I didn’t know bars had to pay licensing. However, if they are making a profit off others people’s work… then they should have to kick in to the pot. Between this and the law that I can’t watch the NFL on a TV bigger than 52″ without paying royalties is making me afraid to even have a party.

    There is much more to this lawsuit than a single bar and cover tunes. Problem is, the RIAA has such a history of being monster assholes regarding everything… that I assume the worst.

  • By the way, Brandon… this is really good reporting. This is a HUGE issue that would probably have gone under the radar. heck, I live in Denver and read the newspaper every single day and didn’t even know about this.

    This piece starts what will be an important dialogue about these issues. I wonder why it isn’t already a bigger story? Great work finding this!

  • James

    People hated Metallica for standing up to Napster too. They survived.
    Here is the most relevent information, at end of article I found online:

    “The defendants failed to obtain a license agreement from the plaintiffs or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, according to the lawsuit.”

    If you are a nightclub w/ live music or dj/jukebox etc you need to pay ASCAP & BMI.
    If you are a sports bar and show games on tv you have to pay for that as well.
    It’s cost of doing business that 8150 owner ignored or didn’t realize.

    It appears the law was broken and owner is being made an example of. Do I think they should pay huge fines? No. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.

  • Reisa L. Gerber

    It was so unreal when I had my little rendezvous with the group/ I am just a smalltown white sock and I just derive, you know…I came into this lovely world…that some one from the band’s administration had offered me a possibility of employment, however little it might have been.

    I wrote the band a poem before this whole thing started, and that’s where it began….like… unc, ya’ know? well, anyway whether or not-

    I’m sorry.

    I wish all involved the best.

  • It all comes down to ASCAP/BMI fees. Even if you are small specialty shoppe or something, if you play recorded music you gotta pay the fee so royalties can be distributed to the songwriters and publishers.

    OK, funny story. I remember the Chinese owner of the Gorilla Room (classic punk/grunge institution) of Seattle came up with a good one. When a BMI rep came around to collect licensing fees, Mr. Chu responded “Oh, we only play news on the radio”. Well, he put off paying for a little while….This was about 1980.

  • reisa

    If I had focussed on a similar subject with the same idea it would been better. Here’s a paper with the same ideas.
    1. Van Halen: See the man with his back to the record machine? Do you know what I mean? Do you know what I mean? JUMP!!!
    2. Led Zeppelin: A dream Reisa had one night with a small ball “of me” rollin’ down the aisle…I don’t mean to put anyone out of a job or hurt an image…but “no, reisa” IS.

  • RD Scott

    So many of you agree then that a “tribute band” should pay $30,000 a night to perform a musical tribute to an artist?

    There will be NO live music in the future then. It’ll all be electronic hip-hop crunk forever then I guess.

    Bands cut their teeth on playing cover music. If you charge a garage band $100 every time they practice a song (it takes alot of practice sometimes) they can run up thousands of dollars in fines in just practice fees???

    This is insanity.