The difference between a cover song and a copy

Songs serve as a kind of national literature, chronicling the current situation in the country. However, the many copied songs passed off as new material by the Cambodian music industry nowadays show that the craft of original songwriting continues to be degraded and devalued.

The Bopea Music Festival was conceived with the purpose of promoting original songs created by Cambodians. Tin Kolmen, the founder of the festival, believes that the large number of copied songs is affecting the development of original songwriting in the country. He said the writing of original songs should be encouraged and more of them produced. As more original songs are written, competition is created and the younger generation is encouraged to make something new, he said.

“Creating original songs is a way of promoting our own culture. When we have a lot of original songs, we can spread our culture and lifestyle through the songs. But if we copy too many songs from other countries we are just bringing foreign culture to be spread in our own country,” Mr. Kolmen said.

However, he admits that so far the local music industry is working hard to improve original songwriting. The next step should be to reduce the number of copied songs, he said.

Ma Chanpanha, a singer and songwriter, has produced more than 30 songs since he first gained recognition as a singer in 2011. He said that a copied song is quite different from a cover song.

He explained that a copy likely involves stealing the copyright from the original creator. It is an illegal practice within the music industry. The singer or producer usually takes a song and uses only the melody. They change the lyrics and don’t give any credit to the songwriter or copyright owner.

“As we know, in Cambodia, for more than 10 years now, some producers are picking up others’ songs and making money from it. And those copied songs have been making money [for production houses] without any copyright agreement,” he said. He added that music producers believe that picking unpopular songs and making changes to them is the right way to make money from the music business in Cambodia.

In contrast, when covering a song, a singer uses the original lyrics or makes only minor changes. However, cover songs are performed or recorded because the singer likes the song, not solely to make money.

If they want to record the cover song for commercial release, they ask for permission from the copyright owner. “If someone covered one of my songs, I would be happy. Some people have approached me about covering my songs and some have asked if they can make little changes to my lyrics. And I’m okay with it as long as they come and talk to me first,” he said.

“But if they are using or copying my song or use my song in a drama or film without asking permission from me, I have the right to file a lawsuit against them,” he added.

Echoing Mr. Chanpanha, Man Vanda, a young singer and songwriter, said that he would be happy to see some of his songs covered as long it’s not a case of someone secretly using his melody and putting new lyric over it.

“I don’t see any problem if people want to cover my song. The more they do, the more popular my song will become. I would be happy to see that,” he said.

“Even if a cover version is more popular than my original version, I still don’t feel there’s a problem because in the end the audience still wants to find out who the original singer is,” he said.

Source: Khmer Times / Va Sonyka, Tuesday, 10 January 2017

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Bopea Music Festival Back in Town

Bopea, a music festival established in 2015, will return to Phnom Penh in February. According to Bopea founder Tin Kolmen, the latest festival will be held under the theme of “Original songs, bands and electronic dance music (EDM)” as a response to the heat these issues have generated with the music industry of late. More than just a festival, Bopea is becoming a platform for the younger generation to learn about various music subcultures.

“I can see there is confusion in the music industry. This time, we will talk about original songs, bands and EDM,” he said. As the number of singers and songwriters in Cambodia rises, the issue of original songwriting has sparked controversy–and some confusion–within the local music industry. But Mr. Kolmen believes many people are confused about what an original song actually is, as opposed to a new song, copy or cover version.

Part of the problem, he said, stems from the behavior of the artists who perform and compose original songs. He described a pattern in which some new artists find sudden popularity with a hit original song, handle the fame poorly and engage in bad behavior, and then suffer personal attacks in an audience backlash.

He said original song-writers need good advice when they’re getting started. In line with Bopea’s themes, part of the audition process for all new talent is to undergo behavior training and other types of instruction to allow them to better manage their ascent to stardom.

“The idea behind Bopea is to give a chance to young original song-makers to perform on stage; but they will need to go through our audition process,” he said.

The audition process has reached the semifinal stage, which involves online voting.

Six solo singers and six bands are required to produce short music videos with the help of a producer, for use in online voting. The idea is that they learn the ropes of working with producers, and other types of teamwork. The live auditions will be staged by the beginning of January in order to bring more quality original song-makers and singers to the music industry.

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Music Bands Back With Supports And Challenges

As the era of the solo vocal artist dawned a decade or so ago, rock bands and other music groups quickly fell out of favor among Cambodian pop fans. But it seems the ensemble format is making something of a comeback. Part of the credit for this must go to the organizers of the upcoming Bopea Music Festival, whose stage will be littered with all sorts of instruments come February.

But according to Chhay Sopheak, leader of the group P-Sand, if a fan culture centered around bands is to be revived and sustained, the fans will first need to get to grips with what a band actually is.
A young vocalist working with two session musicians does not a band make, Mr. Sopheak insisted. At least three member musicians, typically playing drums, bass guitar and lead guitar, are required for to achieve “band” status, he explained.

P-Sand, which formed five years ago, has five members. All are multi-instrumentalists.

“Many duos erroneously refer to themselves as ‘bands.’ But bands they are not, because they lack full instrumentation; they would more accurately be referred to as ‘one-man bands,’ or something similar,” Mr. Sopheak said.

P-Sand has a guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and the founder of the group Mr.P-Sand takes a role as songwriter and singer. They collaborate to produce original music and lyrics.

“When a band doesn’t have enough members to play the essential musical instruments, the quality of the music suffers.

The performance is missing something; there is a lack of connection with the audience,” he added.
Bands generally perform alone on stage without help from supporting artists.

Kosal Panhareach, 20, and his band 21st Flasher topped the auditions ranking for Bopea Music Festival and will take the stage at the event later next month.

21st Flasher is a four-piece band, with each member skilled in at least one instrument.

“There are four of us in the band: a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, and me. I and one of the others handle singing duties and all guitar solos,” he said.

Drums and bass are the two indispensible instruments for a band, Mr. Panhareach said. He plans to recruit more members to 21st Flasher once it starts to attract a fan base.

Bands still face many challenges just surviving in the music industry, though they are not a new phenomenon here. Most local music fans these days prefer solo vocal artists over instrumental groups.

While Mr. Sopheak admits that competing with solo vocalists is a challenge for a new band, he insists it can be done. “I understand that it will be challenging, but it doesn’t faze me. I love going to see bands in concert, and I will always make music as part of a team,” he said.

Most of P-Sand’s songs are motivational, with lyrics that aim to inspire the listener to strive for a better life.

Him Sopheakvirakboth, guitarist and vocalist in Gammie, said his band’s five members base their sound on the same three main instruments. Putting a band together from scratch is really hard, he complained.

“We’ve been working together as a band for over a year. Communication was hard at first. We didn’t have time to play together as much as we should have, and internal conflicts arose,” he said. But ultimately the members’ shared passion for music always pushes them to keep Gammie going.

The band enjoyed brief popularity about 10 years ago, but its timing was poor; it seemed that almost as soon as they got their break in the music industry, support for bands began to wane.

Other groups that became popular the last time bands were in vogue included EV, formed by the late EaVaddhana, and The Coconut Band. Mr. Vaddhana passed away in mid-January.

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