As with fan fiction, sometimes a song can inspire others to cover or remix it. That is what has happened to the song "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke. I am sure you have heard one version or another recently--I was subjected to repeat performances on a recent trip. Or, maybe you have heard one of the many homages to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Similar to fan fiction, the evolution from albums to compact discs to downloadable music to YouTube has spawned a plethora of music lovers who cover their favorite songs and create videos. I am sure you remember this one covering Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" which made the rounds on Facebook.
Again, as with fan fiction, this creates a conundrum for the copyright owners of the songs. Do the owners shut down these cover videos, or do they encourage them? In some cases, the covers can reach audiences that the original song may not have reached. For example, Vampire Weekend's cover of "Blurred Lines" introduced R&B singer, Robin Thicke, to the indie-rock crowd. For Mr. Thicke, he may want to encourage such covers in order to facilitate his ability to "crossover," and therefore, broaden his fan base (and hopefully, leading to more sold songs). Others may want to hold dear their copyright rights and shut down every one of these cover videos unless there is some compensation paid to the artist. Each artist will have a different take on how they want to handle the situation.
Universal Music Publishing Group ("UMPG") has decided to help fuel this wave of covers by giving these web video musicians access to their catalog. In exchange, UMPG shares any ad revenue generated by the video with the web artist. Record labels may try to recruit these online stars to cover one of their artist's songs in order to expand the song's life cycle.
It appears that instead of fighting the technology evolution, the record labels and publishers have decided to use the evolution to their advantage. Something they did not do when Napster came about which I believe was a mistake (both at the time and now) because now they are still trying to catch up.