When it comes to songwriting, imitation can be a controversial (and expensive) form of flattery
Most melodies in modern American popular music are built from either the major or minor scale, and each of those sequences contains just seven notes. Seven. So it’s understandable that some compositions would overlap a little. And in music law, “a little” can be a tricky and somewhat nebulous term.
But really, how bad is a nick here and there? Most music fans (who weren’t given high-school wedgies by dudes wearing Led Zeppelin T-shirts) will tell you Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest rock bands ever. Yet, Zep’s 1968 self-titled, nine-song debut only contains three cuts that don’t obviously “borrow” from pre-existing material.
But some “borrowing” raises more eyebrows than others. And payback can be a bitch.—Matt Wake, Special to Metromix