Def Leppard cuts off Universal Music, re-records "forgeries" of its own hits

Def Leppard got screwed over by Universal Music on compensation for its digital downloads and refuses to have anything to do with them until they pay the band a fair share of the money from iTunes, the Amazon MP3 store, and other digital distribution systems. In order to cut the label out of its earnings, the band has gone back to the studio to re-record its most popular tunes, producing what it calls "forgeries" — note for note reproductions of the original studio cuts. The band can do this because of "compulsory licensing," which allows anyone to record and sell any song, on payment of a set royalty. But it's surprisingly hard to reproduce decades-old recordings, as Gary Graff writes for Billboard:

"When you're at loggerheads with an ex-record label who…is not prepared to pay you a fair amount of money and we have the right to say, 'Well, you're not doing it,' that's the way it's going to be," Elliott tells "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. We'll just replace our back catalog with brand new, exact same versions of what we did."

While the business side seems cut and dried, Elliott says the creative part of recreating songs that date back 25 years or more is not. "You just don't go in and say, 'Hey guys, let's record it,' and it's done in three minutes," Elliott notes. "We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them. Time-wise it probably took as long to do as the originals, but because of the technology it actually got done quicker as we got going. But trying to find all those sounds…like where am I gonna find a 22-year-old voice? I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again. It was really hard work, but it was challenging, and we did have a good laugh over it here and there."

Def Leppard Recording 'Forgeries' of Old Hits To Spite Label

(Image: def leppard rules, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from sashafatcat's photostream)