Def Leppard is ripping itself off to get a better deal on digital downloads (AP image)
The 80’s rock band Def Leppard is experiencing something of a resurgence these days, thanks in part to the popular Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” and this summer’s Tom Cruise movie version of that musical.
Now they’re capitalizing on their new-found popularity by ripping themselves off.
Def Leppard has sold over 100-million albums and had more than a dozen hit singles in its heyday. But until this summer you couldn’t buy a single one of them on iTunes. Why not? Because the band won’t let their label release their stuff digitally.
Put simply, the band thinks they’re getting screwed by their label. The average per-download cut gives bands only 9 cents to a label’s 63 cents. Even though a source tells The Hollywood Reporter that a legacy group like Def Leppard would be getting more like 30 cents per download, the band still doesn’t like that deal and is refusing to let Universal Music post any digital versions.
Instead, it’s re-recording its catalog. The members of Def Leppard, now in their 50’s, are recording their hard-rocking hits made when they were in their 20’s. They’ve meticulously recreated every note, every scream, every drumbeat as best they could. And that’s with one of the members having died and the drummer having lost an arm.
The new tunes are painstaking reproductions. Even the legendary producer of their originals (Mutt Lange) has called the forgeries “brilliant”.
The band has so far only completed two songs – Rock of Ages and Pour Some Sugar on Me. They’re both available on iTunes at $1.29 each, 70 percent of which now goes to to Def Leppard. Since they were posted in June, those two songs alone have sold 46,000 tracks and earned the band $40,000. Selling these re-recorded songs to movies and ads can garner a lot more than that – a couple hundred grand a pop.
More songs are on the way unless, the band says, Universal Music agrees to better terms. Sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that the label is working on a deal to appease the band. If a deal can’t be reached, there’s always the possibility the label could take the band to court, arguing these re-recordings represent unfair competition.
By TOM TANGNEY, JOSH KERNS