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June 9, 2012 / Nick

‘Poundshop pop’

“I’ll name that tune in 46”

Next time you’re out shopping, listen carefully to the music playing in store. There’s a chance that what you may be hearing is not what it seems.
A few years back, I was in WH Smith and suddenly found myself wondering what had happened to Jamelia’s voice on the version of ‘Thank You’ that was playing. Then I noticed that the backing track was all wrong too. It was the auditory equivalent of looking in a fairground mirror.
I gradually discovered that similar rip-offs of chart hits were also being played in B&Q, Peacocks and JJB Sports. What was going on?

The Manic Street Preachers are on tour

Well, it’s all down to a very sneaky way of cost-cutting for cheapo retailers. If you’re a shop or a café or pretty much any public place the sound of silence can be a bit grim for your customers, which is why some places have in-store radio (like the wonderfully uplifting ASDA FM Live).
Others may choose to play normal FM radio, but that option runs the risk of your customers hearing competitors’ deals advertised in your shop.
Third option is to just play CDs over a sound system.
The problem with all these options, including just playing CDs, is that shops have to pay a licence fee to PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) in order to play music on the premises as it counts as a ‘public performance’. PPL collects the dosh and pays it to the performers of the songs as royalties.

The cost of paying the PPL licence for a chain of big stores can reach into the hundreds of thousands, which is where ‘poundshop pop’ is designed to come to the rescue. The companies that make these ‘sound-alike’ pop songs use unsigned singers and musicians, meaning that the tracks are exempt from receiving PPL money.

Copies are hard get right.

This means that the likes of Millets and Allied Carpets need only to buy the fake songs from the company that made them without worrying about a PPL licence.

In an ideal world, nobody would notice whether they were hearing Soundgarden or their sound-alikes. However, making a song sound identical to its original without the budgets of a major label is where the whole thing falls down.
As if the experience of being bombarded with oversized fashions in Matalan is not unpleasant enough, customers must also face renditions of hit pop songs that sound like they came from ‘Phoning It In Week’ on The X Factor.

Now That’s What I Call Musak – 25 poundshop pop monstrosities

These knock-off pop hits have now found another space to annoy – in the endless library of Spotify. A search for almost any popular piece of music ever made will bring up a small choice of strange results from ‘artists’ with names like ‘Studio Allstars’, ‘Future Hitmakers’ and ‘Tribute Mega Stars’.

This is one example where imitation is most certainly not the sincerest form of flattery. If the composers and performers of the original tracks heard some of the rushed cover versions being pissed out by Studio Allstars, they’d probably think a Glee special ‘wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all’.

You can’t beat The Original

I dread to think what depths they’ve had to barrel-scrape to find the musicians who make these songs. I imagine an alarming recording studio set-up where singers desperate to climb the ladder are made to churn out covers of Chas & Dave’s ‘Rabbit’, that will be heard by, at the most, half a dozen people in the Lisburn branch of JJB Sports.

From the ‘drunken karaoke singer called up between vomits’ version of David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’, to the wholly redundant cover of ‘Bed Intruder Song’ (a song that isn’t even a real song) you’ll find a disturbing compilation CD’s worth of horror in my specially created Spotify playlist below.

[spotify spotify:user:nickw84:playlist:4Tl6nHvErFl2YsotVPQXVN]

Hopefully this compilation demonstrates the 5 common failures of poundshop pop:

  1. Doing covers of songs that are so obscure, you have to wonder how there could be any demand for a sound-alike version
  2. Same as above but for songs that are just terrible
  3. Remaking songs that have some unique instrumental technique or vocal flair that cannot be replicated by a cheap singer and a Casio VL-1.
  4. Failure to replicate the basic tempo, melody or even lyrical content of the original
  5. Rapping

It’s enough to make you never want to step foot in a shop ever again.

Review: Stop them. I think I’ve heard that one before.


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