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Def Leppard 'Forging' Its Own Hits to Get Around Digital Sales Dispute

A band is covering Def Leppard's most popular songs to create "forgery" recordings it can sell, but Def Leppard doesn't mind at all -- because it is Def Leppard itself that is creating the new recordings.

Joe Elliott, Def Leppard's lead singer, is now 52 years old. In 1979, a teenage Elliott and his bandmates signed a recording deal with Universal Records that still governs the terms of how the band is compensated for the sales of its music. The sales of digital music, which did not exist at the time, were not covered by the deal, however, and the company and the band have disagreed on what a fair price is for such sales. Billboard reports that this has led Def Leppard to refuse to allow Universal to sell digital versions of its hits. According to Elliott, "our contract is such that they can't do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying, 'No matter what you want, you are going to get "no" as an answer, so don't ask.' That's the way we've left it."

The dispute has also led Def Leppard to undertake something that has proven to be a great challenge: re-recording many of its back catalog of songs "with brand new, exact same versions of what we did." Elliott told NPR that once the songs are re-recorded, the band owns them and do whatever it likes with them. "We can license them, we can box them, we can sell them, we can sit on them, but they're ours. I think artists need to wrestle back their careers and the ownership of their stuff," he said.

Elliott said that the band had to carefully study the original recordings so that the new versions would match as closely as possible. After decades of singing the songs differently live every night, he said, "it just drifts away from the original. ... To go back in and recreate what's in everybody's DNA is near on impossible. It's a challenge if nothing else and, like I said, it's a business decision." To accomplish this, the band "had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them." Elliott said he had to sing himself into a "certain throat shape" to recapture his 22-year-old voice for the new recordings.

Posted by Bruce Carton on July 16, 2012 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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