You know how most shops play in-store music? Well, in Britain at least, they have to pay a licence fee to the Performing Rights Society to do so. The PRS takes this money and distributes it to the songwriters, performers, and music publishers.
(Mini trivia update: If you remember the Beautiful South’s hit “Song for whoever” from 1989, you may remember the lyric: “I love you because you put me in my rightful place / And I love the PRS cheques that you bring”.)
I don’t know the exact ins and outs of the system, because the PRS doesn’t include a full price list on their web site. You have to contact them personally to get a quote for your specific situation. I can therefore only assume that you can get a much cheaper license if you play music that is performed by unknown artists. What else could explain Scotmid supermarkets playing a non-stop soul-destroying loop of “The Worst Cover Versions In The World–Ever! (Vol 28)”?
I love pop music. Generally, I don’t even mind when someone, usually a manufactured boy band, covers a song whose original I particularly liked. But these…things, these abomominations that Scotmid uses to assault its customers with are truly unforgiveable.
The instruments are all synthesised. Badly.
There is only one female vocalist, and one male vocalist, although it’s sometimes hard to tell their fractured, screeching falsetto voices apart.
The song tempos are subtly wrong. Some are a little too fast, some are a little too slow, but none are just right. Yet the speeds are sufficiently close to the original to make you wonder if it’s your brain running at the wrong speed, and not the song.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the artists are still trying to make their songs sound like the originals. This is the most painfully embarrassing part of it all. In most (commercial) cover versions, the artists attempts to add something “new” to the song, to give it their own unique twist. But these musicians seem to think they sound just like David Bowie or Celine Dion. No-one has told them that actually, no, they’re crap.
In some cruel joke of fate, every time I have been in a Scotmid this month, I have been clubbed over the head by the tattered and bleeding zombie remnants of kd lang’s “Constant Craving”. I used to love that song. It used to remind me of sitting out in the grass of the Cathedral at St. Andrews in springtime, studying for my exams, and listening to Radio 1 on my walkman. It spoke to me of wistful love and beautiful harmonies.
Now it just crashes my brain with images of minced beef and frozen peas.