How to Avoid Music Plagiarism

Music plagiarism is something that up-and-coming artists need to watch out for, as it could seriously land you in trouble. Sometimes, even small slip-ups could drive your career into the ground, so it’s crucial to know what preventative steps to take.

Most music plagiarism truly is accidental when it comes to composing or writing songs, but there are some helpful tips to remember the next time you get back to the drawing board with the band.

Luckily, chord progressions are not protected by copyright, so those basic beats from different songs can legally sound the same. The melody, however, is another story. Chord progressions that sound similar to other ones from other songs increase the risk of the melody being plagiarized.

It is particularly important to note that two different songs from the same genre may have different chord progressions but a very similar melody intertwined, especially since that genre may often involve the same instruments.

You don’t want to get tangled up in a Sam Smith/Tom Petty copyrights fiasco. We have a few tips to help you avoid music plagiarism.

  • Play your song for friends or family members. Let them know you’re worried it could sound too similar to something else and see what their thoughts are. It will help you get a fresh perspective on the tune.
  • Try playing the song in either a higher or lower key. This can drastically change a tune from plagiarized to original.
  • Identify and perhaps change up even a chord or two that you’re worried about. If the melody still presents a problem, hum or sing it without the lyrics and pay attention to any sounds that may wind up in a lawsuit.
  • The tempo, background beat or time signature could also be changed slightly.
  • If possible, play the tune for someone in the music industry with an ear for those nuances and who has a broader knowledge of the genre.

Music plagiarism is something that could cost you a fortune and it could’ve been all by accident. Be sure to change up what you can in the song, such as the melody, to give it a unique sound.

Check out our SongCast blog for more tips for success in the music industry!

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