iTunes Will Now Block Sound-A-Like Cover Songs

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For a long time artists and labels have found ways to game iTunes. And fool the public. Apparently, iTunes customers have accidentally downloaded “tribute” versions of songs they thought to be the original. Some of these “tributes” sound awfully close to the originals and come with confusing titles.

iTunes most recent Style Guide states that for cover or “tribute” songs, they will no longer accept any song title or artist name with the original artist name listed. Like “Problem (Originally performed by Ariana Grande)” or Artist: The Billy Joel Tribute Band. And the cover song cannot sound too similar to the original recording or it will be blocked. So all you YouTubers out there, you’re going to have to get a bit more creative with the production of your covers.

iTunes states for track titles: “Do not use phrases such as “Originally Performed By,” “In the Style of,” “Tribute to,” or “Cover of.”

Don’t expect to see this album to be visible on iTunes for much longer:

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For Karaoke tracks, they make a slight exception and will allow the original artist name in the track title only if it is clarified as “Originally performed by… (original artist name).” And “Karaoke” may not be used as the artist name unless it is the legal entity like “The Karaoke Kangaroos.” However, the song must clearly be marked (in the song or album title) that it is a karaoke version. “Karaoke” or “Instrumental version” may be used. And “Karaoke” must be the primary genre.

iTunes has already hidden most karaoke versions in search results. Unless you explicitly type the word “karaoke” along with the song you’re searching for, those versions will not be displayed.

The only exception iTunes makes for cover songs is to include the artist name in the album title. But, the album title cannot START with the artist name.

Acceptable: A Tribute To Bob Seger

Unacceptable: Bob Seger Tribute

They will not accept popular song lyrics as titles like:

Artist Name: Because You Know

Album Title: I’m All About That Bass

Track Title: No Treble

iTunes is actively starting to “clean-up” their store. So, even if your songs are currently showing up, they may not very soon.

Worth noting that Spotify and YouTube accept virtually any song, artist or album title. They have very little restrictions. Anyone can just skip a song on a streaming service. No harm no foul. iTunes must have been getting hit with complaints and returns from customers. In a time when their revenue has been dropping significantly and consistently for the past couple years, iTunes is looking for any edge to slow down the sales decline and hold onto their (legacy) customers.

12 Responses

  1. Anon

    Funny how guidelines tighten up when sales are noise diving.

    Not sure if tribute/karaoke songs is the big issue with iTunes…..

    ‘Storage Capacity is almost full’

  2. Me

    The style guide specifications have been in place for years, actually.

  3. Moogoo

    They already have been pulling these. Especially since the soundalike of Maroon 5 ‘telephone’ made to UKs top 10 -before the actual real bands album was even released a few years ago.

  4. Me2

    I think iTunes is going to make a big hit next. That new patent is interesting and I like that they are attempting to clean things up. Where most of the current space has low balled itself into a gutter market of advertising and noise, rife with cheap knock offs, a breath of fresh air and quality control could excel.

  5. Versus

    Even worse are the listing of re-recordings of songs by the same artist, without any warning or differentiation to the buyer.

  6. JTVDigital

    These guidelines have been there for a while.

    What has changed recently is that iTunes is making sure these are being applied with an increased control of the cover and karaoke releases.
    Instead of a very random and permissive control, it’s now much more systematic, making it harder for people to game the system (and fool the public).

    Some distributors (like us) have also processes in place for controlling the releases upstream (before it is delivered), we systematically reject anything going against the iTunes guidelines before it even hits the store.
    It helps to reduce copyright infringement claims and takedowns.

    Ari, FYI, Spotify and other stores like GooglePlay also have control procedures for copyright infringing content.

    On YouTube it is correct people can upload anything, however ContentID will match most cover songs with the original ones. Even if it’s not caught by ContentID, it is very common that videos containing unauthorized copyrighted material are blocked / taken down by right holders afterwards.
    But due to the ContentID process allowing monetization + some agreements in place with some publishers who authorize cover songs on YouTube (in exchange of sharing the revenues), there is more flexibility for cover songs on this platform, this is correct.

  7. H. Grumby

    All of this is already contained in “iTunes Store Music Data Standards and Style Guide v7” from October 2013, which is kind of funny since they’ve been accepting and selling songs that obviously violate the Style Guide all along. Are you saying they’re on some sort of ‘Seek and Destroy’ mission to enforce it now?

    • Yep

      Ha, yes

      Like any retailer and any business they will sell whatever they want, wherever they want. They ‘will block’ some content sometimes, and sometimes they won’t. They might hide some content and sometimes they won’t.

      The tribute guidelines have been on the guide for over 5 years, by the way.

  8. Leslie

    I totally hope they take down re-records! Yippy.