Nightclub Fined $40,000 After Booking an All-Girl Led Zeppelin Tribute Band…

If Led Zeppelin rips off your music, then it’s all part of the creative process.  If you rip off Led Zeppelin, then it’s the beginning of a legal process.

Yesterday, court documents unearthed numerous instances in which Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant admitted to stealing and plagiarizing earlier works.  In the late 1980s, Zeppelin settled copyright infringement claims involving legendary bluesman Willie Dixon, who accused the band of ripping off substantial portions of his catalog, specifically in songs ‘Bring It on Home’ and ‘You Need Love’.

“…the origins of these songs was translucent and eternal.”

In an interview with NPR in 2004, Plant was asked about the Dixon lawsuit, the dirty implications of theft and racism, and what the band was thinking at the time.  “We had an idea, throughout the time in the band, that we were in part of some flow… the whole idea of the origins of these songs was translucent and eternal,” Plant stated.

I just thought it was part of the game, I know that might sound naive and irresponsible,” Plant continued.  “But there’s so much about it; ‘Crossroads’ by Robert Johnson has got so many different writers depending on which version you’re looking at, on the record label.  That at the time, the conjecture was, ‘[‘You Need Love’] is another one of those songs.'”

Fast-forward three years, and Zeppelin’s sentiments on ‘translucence and eternity’ had shifted a bit.  According to court paperwork unearthed by Digital Music News from 2007, lawyers for Zeppelin sued a small club in Vail, Colorado, for failing to properly pay licenses on a number of Led Zeppelin covers.  Caught in the middle was an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band, appropriately called ‘Lez Zeppelin,’ which played a night at the club in mid-January of that year.

The lawsuit, filed against the now-shuttered 8150 and its owner, Steven Kovacik, was initiated by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and heir Patricia Bonham, as well as the Van Halen Music Company.  Both groups alleged that 8150 had permitted covers of their music without securing proper performance royalties from ASCAP, specifically on the nights of January 15th and 16th, 2007.  Members of the bands initforhim and Lez Zeppelin were cited as playing songs “Heartbreaker,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll,”  and “Black Dog,” while “Hot for Teacher” was cited on Van Halen’s end.

The suit, filed in US District Court in Colorado, pegged infringement charges at between $750 and $30,000 per song, on top of attorneys’ fees.  “Bands cover famous songs all the time,” Anthony Juarez, a representative for initforhim told Vail Daily at the time. “We cover songs sometimes.”

8150 was ultimately forced to pay $40,000, while Kovacik claimed he was unaware of the ASCAP license.  8150 eventually shut down, and the structure was bulldozed.

19 Responses

  1. Carl Bunch

    “…Kovacik claimed he was unaware of the ASCAP license.”

    That’s the type of venue owner (and there are a LOT of them) that does wayyyyy more damage to the creative arts copyright monetization system than Plant/Page.

  2. Versus

    The club owner should pay, and Led Zeppelin should pay all the writers and artists they owe.

  3. MartolFart

    Yeah, Lez Zeppelin (and any other little cover band out there for that matter ) was seriously undermining their cash flow!! Give us a freaking break! This is just plain petty and totally ironic considering all the other claims of artistic theft surrounding these guys.

    • james

      it’s not the band they are after. It’s the club for not having he ASCAP license. The band, however, should not perform songs, in public, when they don’t own them, if the venue doesn’t hold the proper license. nearly all clubs pay their license fees. It’s just a few hundred a year. The ones that don’t deserve to be sued.

  4. Aleister Crowley

    I think this is right because so many club owners pay “tribute” bands to play the music that was written by other people. Meanwhile, it’s all about the club and bar making money. Don’t support cover or tribute bands as they are one and the same thing. As an original musician, I support the artists suing the club. Fuck that guy.


      What is right is that the club operator was either unbelievably ignorant, or bullshitting the system, and yes, he should pay.

      What is not right is thinking copy music playing is unworthy. How many songs did Frank Sinatra write?

      As an original musician one has the right to try to become well enough known that people will want to cover one’s songs. Not many manage to accomplish that.

    • BZ1

      “I support the artists suing the club. Fuck that guy” — ha ha .. you have the right to your opinion – but if “that guy” also hired acts playing only original music – then bands playing their own stuff now have fewer places to play it.

      • Aleister Crowley

        So be it. I would rather see less clubs with higher quality, original music then more clubs with watered down bullshit cover bands. See, quality is always better than quantity. And yes, musicians should only be playing original music. The world is better off without frank sinatra anyway. Who said musicians want their songs covered? Playing only covers means you are lowering your standards to make a buck. Fuck that. The future of music needs a kick in it’s ass. Stop settling for mediocre crap and embrace music with guts that actually says something about the world. Cover bands should be paid zero because they wrote zero.

    • Dan

      I get it….I toured with an original band for a decade…..but let’s not kid ourselves. The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Zeppelin…..they all played LOADS of covers early on. The Beatles cut their teeth playing literally hundreds of shows doing all the standards of the day. That’s why they were so damn tight and musically versed by the time they began to leave their own mark. That shit didn’t come from novice kids. It came from playing every variety and style of popular music before they ever cut Meet The Beatles.

  5. anon

    If you think the members of Led Zeppelin instituted this lawsuit then you have no idea how PROs work

  6. Dread Zeppelin

    The main problem here is that ASCAP and BMI present this to a venue as ‘You have to pay us for a license to play music.’ A license, such as a liquor license comes from a Governmental entity. BMI and ASCAP do NOT collect playlists from venues and there is no tracking of ANY music performed on any given night at a venue by BMI or ASCAP. As I’ve been told by my writing rep at BMI, ‘those venue fees only go to pay the top 300 writers’. If Jimmy Page and Robert Plant thought they’d see any of that money from that venue, they are deeply mistaken. Currently, recipients of money collected at a venue would likely go to pay Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars and other current chart-toppers. This is a tax by the 1% of the music industry to make the rich, more rich. Until they are tracking spins through playlist reporting nightly to ensure that the appropriate BMI or ASCAP writer is compensated directly, then these fees are simply a middle-man shakedown. I’m sure RICO charges would apply if the FEDS pursued them against BMI and ASCAP.

    • BZ1

      Good points. The richest among us (no matter what industries they profit from) always seem to find ways to make themselves even richer – at the expense of the little people. Perhaps its because they can afford to pay for the most blood thirsty lawyers ?

    • Wilton

      Up here in the colds of Toronto Canada, we have Socan as our Performing Rights Association. My band is an original band where I’ve written the majority of the songs and we throw in the odd cover or two. After we play a show, I submit our show info and set list to Socan and providing the venue has a Socan license, I’ve gotten paid for the use of my songs at the venue. I know it seems a little weird as an original band, but the same thing would happen if I was in a cover band. I’d submit the info and song list and the writers of the songs which we performed, would get paid.

  7. Wooly

    I smell BS here. The club books a cover band and the end result is closed doors? Cmon, get real. There’s more to this story.

    • Vail resident

      Wooly, you are correct. This lawsuit and fine have nothing to do with 8150 closing. 8150 was located in a part of Vail Village that area was completely renovated and dozens of businesses were displaced and demolished by “The Solaris” redevelopent. The throwaway paragraph at the end of the article, while true, is in no way a cause-effect situation.

  8. Chris

    Funny how this is happening as Page and Plant are now in the lawyer hot seat too.

  9. Cat

    Not to defend or condemn Zeppelin – I’m a big fan actually, and have been for years – but every time I read something about this lawsuit, two questions immediately pop into my head. A) Why the loooooong wait to file?, and B) with “Randy California” long dead, who exactly is going to get the big payday if Zeppelin loses? Somebody’s pockets are going to get lined, but it sure won’t be the long-dead songwriter’s. My guess is some seedy lawyer smelled big money and decided to go for broke.