Unless you’ve been completely avoiding the radio for the past couple of months, you’ve heard English singer and songwriter Ella Mai’s hit song ‘Boo’d Up’ hundreds of times by now.
Also quickly making waves in the media is her song ‘Trip’ which gained even more buzz when Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Jacquees dropped his own rendition of the song. Fans seemed to be here for the remix as YouTube and Soundcloud numbers skyrocketed.
Ella Mai’s label, however, was not. 10 Summers Records, founded by DJ Mustard, shut all of it down with a cease and desist letter, forcing the song to be pulled from all platforms.
Meanwhile, Ella Mai, who had been silent as all of this was going down, was getting ripped to shreds on social media by angry listeners accusing her of “hating” and forcing the song down out of jealously because it was doing better than her original.
Regardless of how she felt about the remix, it doesn’t quite work like that. Whether you’re a fan of the original or the remix, there’s a lot more legal business behind the song getting pulled than people seem to know.
First things first: the issue here is not the cover of the song; artists cover songs every day with no problem. In fact, Jacquees is popularly known for his covers. So what was the problem this time?
When a song is covered by an artist, they are required to have what is called a mechanical license. The license legally grants the covering artist the rights to reproduce and distribute the song with no problem.
If you cover a song without having been granting the mechanical license, you’re going to run into some problems which is likely where Jacquees went wrong.
Another fact about mechanical licenses is that they do not legally cover the use of the song in a video. To combine the audio with a visual or music video requires a synchronization license which can only be granted by the original song publisher.
This may have been where things really went left for Jacquees. Ella Mai didn’t even get to release her own music video for ‘Trip’ before Jacquees released his visual. Now, we have an artist covering a song which he didn’t seem to have been given the legal rights to record and he released a visual for it before the original artist.
Given that the necessary synchronization license would have had to have been granted by Ella Mai’s team, I highly doubt they were going to go for that.
The Final Result
As we all know, Jacquee’s remix was ultimately pulled from all platforms. However, that didn’t stop fans from sharing it. You can still find user-uploaded versions of the song on YouTube and other platforms in attempts to keep the track alive.
DJ Mustard stepped in to Ella Mai’s defense on Twitter and made it very clear that not only was this not her choice or decision, but that as the artist, she had zero say in the matter. In other words, “get up off her.”
To whom it may concern . pic.twitter.com/w3lzuU5tqM
— Mustard (@mustard) September 26, 2018
Jacquees also claims that he never had any ill intent and that he loves Ella.
Nigga no I didn’t lol hell you talm bout my brother I put it on SoundCloud and YouTube you know my game ain’t cap I love Ella https://t.co/2DNx0Wt3SC
— Jacquees (@Jacquees) September 26, 2018
In the end, it seems like it’s all love but as we know, business is business.
Another question that has been raised throughout all of this mess was why Jacquees’ song had to be taken down, yet there are millions of covers on YouTube that remain untouched. There’s no way all of these YouTubers are getting mechanical licenses for these songs, right?
Shay M. Lawson, Esq., an attorney and diversity professional from Advocate Law Group PC, a boutique law firm serving entertainment professionals and social influencers answers this question on her blog.
Just because you can legally do something does not mean a Music Label or Publisher will waste the time or money on having lawyers pull down a song that will get at best a few thousand streams or views.
(Keep in mind it takes about 1 Million views to make $1,000 on YouTube)
Where the enforcement become worthwhile is when an individual stands to generate significant revenue at the expense of the copyright owners which in this case at the point it was taken down Jacquees version he generated millions of streams and views.
Another determining factor which will be another post at another time is the impact to the brand by having a “knock-off” or “cover” in the market at the same time you are trying to establish your brand.
As a new artist Ella Mai’s team may have felt that the impact to her brand by having a cover compete in the same genre with a similar fan base was worth the enforcement.
You can read more about Ms. Lawson and her practice on her website.
The Legal Lesson
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in all of this, it’s to always have a good lawyer on your team! If you’re in the music industry, especially if you cover songs, it’s absolutely essential to make sure that all of your legal bases are covered and that you’re going about everything the right way. If you’re not sure about something, ask! It’s always better to be safe than sorry. After all, one legal misstep could cost you your reputation and if you ask me, that price tag is too high.
What do you think about the ‘Trip’ situation and outcome? For the listeners, which version of the song did you like better? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!