We Are The Hits, Successful Cover Songs MCN, Signs Up First 'Outside' Publisher

Kate Glicksberg

Karmin performs a Tastemakers Session in New York City.

Former Sony/ATV multi-channel network gets set to go big -- or bigger -- with first deals with Kobalt and Metrolyrics.

Songs by Ryan Tedder, Dave Grohl, Maroon 5 and Skillrex, among many others, will now be available to upload, as cover versions, on the popular multichannel network We Are The Hits. We Are The Hits has signing its first big partnership deals since being spun out of Sony/ATV Music Publishing earlier this year.

The new songs come from the library of Kobalt, the network's first publisher partner outside of Sony/ATV. It has also inked a distribution deal with MetroLyrics, the lyrics website owned by CBS Interactive. 

We Are The Hits, founded by Sony/ATV in 2011, enables amateur artists to legally cover popular songs and upload their videos to the network, but to also share in revenue with the publisher which owns the songs. Though the site has been grown in popularity quickly, it has so far only had songs from the Sony/ATV catalog.

Founder Larry Mills, who started the company within Sony/ATV as an employee, says other publishers were reluctant to ink deals with a rival, prompting Sony/ATV CEO Martin Bandier to admit it made sense to sell the business to Mills.

“What became apparent was the ceiling preventing others participating,” says Mills. “You have to give up something to get something.” Mills said he has plans to sign up other publishers following Kobalt's inclusion.

We Are The Hits says it now generates more than 130 million views a month on YouTube alone, with fans watching covers by the 200 plus artists on its service. Though it had 35%-40% of popular music from the catalogs of Sony/ATV -- the largest publisher -- it is expected to grow much more quickly as it starts to add more songs from other publishers.

The partnership with MetroLyrics extends We Are The Hits' online reach, as the cover version videos will appear on the pages of the songs' lyrics. This will increase visibility of We Are The Hits' independent artists, but it also puts their videos up against the official videos of the songs from services like Vevo, which is owned by the labels. Simon Moran, general manager of music for CBS Interactive, said his site’s audience is made up of the "most dedicated music fans."

Sony/ATV’s Bandier sees We Are The Hits as the publishing business’ answer to Vevo, to some degree. However, while publishers earn something each time a song is viewed on Vevo, labels do not get paid when an unsigned artist does a cover version on We Are The Hits.