‘Sound Alike’ Industry Freaking Out After $400,000 Eminem Court Decision

Eminem crushes the Sound Alike!
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There’s an entire ‘sound alike’ industry that revolves around making music that sounds like something famous.  Eminem may have just ended that.

It’s a niche industry based around a clever idea.  Instead of paying millions to license a famous song, why not pay thousands to license something similar?  Welcome to the ‘sound alike’ sub-industry, a profitable business that tries to exploit copyright loopholes and extend the savings to advertisers.

Except, that loophole is starting to come under attack.  Which is why advertisers are suddenly triple-checking their campaigns for overly-similar soundtracks.

Maybe the sound alike business was asking for it.  Enter the National Party of New Zealand, which licensed an Eminem ‘sound-alike’ for a 2014 spot.

Check it out.

Chances are, the instrumental in this ad sounds strikingly familiar.

Of course, the similarity to ‘Lose Yourself’ is striking, starting with the opening guitar riff.

And the choice of song was no accident.

‘Lose Yourself’ was one of Eminem’s biggest hits.  Outside of massive radio play, it was propelled by the global major motion picture, 8 Mile.  It even won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

That makes it a highly familiar song, and a perfect choice to stir the emotions of undecided voters.

All of which is why a New Zealand judge just awarded Eminem’s publisher $600,000 in damages.  That’s actually in New Zealand dollars, which translates to about $412,000 USD in today’s exchange rates.

But here’s the thing: the National Party purchased this track from a stock music site.  They thought that using this intermediary cleared any copyright concerns.

Obviously wrong in retrospect.  But the National Party definitely knew this was an Eminem song.

Tracing this back, the National Party purchased the song — called ‘Eminem Esque’  — from Beatbox.  Previously, Beatbox licensed the track from a music library called Labrador.

Accordingly, the National Party is now seeking retribution from those players.  “We purchased the piece of production music from a reputable Australian-based music production library, who had purchased it from a US supplier,” party leader Peter Goodfellow stated.

“The music was licensed with one of New Zealand’s main industry copyright bodies, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society [AMCOS].  Being licensed and available for purchase, and having taken advice from our suppliers, the party believed the purchase was legal.”

“The party is now considering the implications of the judgment and the next steps.  We already have a claim against the suppliers and licensors of the track.”

For now, publisher Eight Mile Style will collect damages.  But regardless of how those follow-up lawsuits end, the entire ‘sound alike’ industry is probably facing some serious changes.

For starters, advertising agencies are going to be triple-checking for similarities.  That could slow deal flow, while also lowering the amount of stock music licenses.

But Eight Mile’s attorneys are also on the war path. “This is a warning to sound-alike music producers and their clients everywhere,” attorney Adam Simpson declared.

Incidentally, Labrador has an entire collection of ‘Eminem Esque’ tracks to pick from.

Those are probably ‘no bueno’ looking forward.  And for a nervous ‘sound alike’ business, the emphasis might be on music that isn’t so definably ‘esque’ in any way.

16 Responses

  1. Roland of Aragon

    Yes it is similar, but not a blatant rip off. The original guitar riff is a two bar phrase and the other one is a four bar phrase.

    There are a bit of difference’s, the tempo is pretty close. Similar yes, of course, but not an an exact duplicate.

    Weird Al Yankovic did it all the time. Got hit a bit. I see it as a badge of honor because it’s excellent branding and marketing.


    • me at DMN

      >Weird Al Yankovic did it all the time. <

      I believe parodies fall under a "fair-use" clause of copyright law. Sound a likes wouldn't be protected that way.

      • Roger Bixley

        I don’t believe he’s talking about direct song parodies but rather songs that sound like they might be written by a specific artist, i.e. “You Make Me” is a clear Oingo Boingo-type song, even though it doesn’t follow the chord structure or melody of any specific Oingo Boingo song.

    • Ricardo

      It is a blatant rip off. It was a deliberate infringement… sucks to be the small library doing this but they are cashing in on someone else IP. Name thing the track Eminem Esque and using ALL of the similarities is just not on.

      Pardon (ie for amusement and not for brand supporting) is okay. Weird Al is clearly doing ti for humour… I doubt the deliberate infringers are.

  2. Jargon Cop

    Its a FEEL A LIKE a SOUND A LIKE is a COVER, get your terminology right!

    • Ricardo

      Sound a like isn’t a cover. We use a different word for covers… can’t remember what it is 😉

  3. Tripple Shit Boy

    I’m an independent 300 percent , 250 entertainment software apps , over 100 mobile services , have hosted 25 million shoppers . I’m 14 years old now. Never had a pay check inside the digital music business. But one day I did something no indy artist ever done before ; I moved 100 Billion USD in one day. I’m the battle poet , Literati X. . .

  4. f mnm

    I believe if this was appealed a lawyer could point out the parts of the tune that is different from MnM. Most artists are not as greedy and a-holes as MnM. Probably running out of his oscar money….

    • Ricardo

      I dont think thats the point. I think this is a positive strike for composers everywhere – lose the rips off,s lose the sound a likes… start getting originality back to the fore.

  5. Loose Cannon

    I am glad to see this happen. Lame that the industry has these loopholes. Obviously, this track was created to evoke the spirit of the original. Move on to another track if you can’t afford to license the real track. For sure everyone else on the shoot got paid down to the caterers. If the spirit of the ad was to invoke the feel of the eminem song then they should have paid for it.

    • JJ

      Disagree. If courts start upholding copyright claims based on ‘feel’ and rhythm, then we’re straight back into the ridiculous Thicke/Gaye court decision (which is being appealed). In which case almost every club track ever released with a 4-to-the-floor and offbeat hihat is an infringement, as is the BBC news theme, anything featuring the Bo Diddley rhythm, or a 12-bar blues chord pattern, etc etc. Even the StarWars theme is clearly heavily influenced by/based on another piece of music. Music copyright should be based on chords and melody, nothing else. Eminem can’t ‘patent’ staccato guitar patterns and sue anyone who uses them, it’s just ridiculous.