Musicians doing other people’s songs is morally equivalent to joke theft.

If a comedian performs someone else’s jokes, they are called out and shamed. However, musicians regularly perform other people’s music.

How is one bad, and the other OK?

There are discussions about this topic online (for example, here and here). The answers comes down to: music is different than comedy. “We understand that musicians might be doing someone else’s music, so that’s acceptable.”

DSC_0612That is, of course, the equivalent of saying, “We understand that comedians might be doing someone else’s jokes, so that’s acceptable.” It’s not an answer to the question, it’s an obfuscation. Saying, “we expect immoral behavior out of them” does not render that behavior moral.

When I say, “other people’s music/jokes,” I am, of course, excluding music/jokes written by someone other than a particular performer, but specifically for that performer. Hiring others to write music/jokes is a time-honored tradition, and if you explicitly buy the rights to someone else’s creation, then it’s yours. It may be lazy, but it is exempt from the moral trouble I am speaking about herein.

Am I, in fact, saying that musicians doing other people’s music is immoral? Yes, I am saying exactly that. Yes, cover bands are immoral. Calling yourself a “cover band” is the equivalent of calling yourself a “thief comic.” It may be honest, but it’s not morally acceptable.

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