ABBA tribute acts face their Waterloo

So read the headline of this article in The Stage on 3 June 2010. The story reported that Universal Music hasd written to fifteen UK-based ABBA tribute acts requesting they stop using the name “ABBA”, stating that use of the name was “an infringement of its intellectual property rights”.  A UM spokeswoman was quoted: “We’ve had complaints from all over the world where fans feel they’ve been misled and we feel it’s our duty to protect the ABBA brand from misuse.”

It didn’t take long for the story to morph into “greedy ABBA sues to ban tribute acts”. Firstly in this article and comments on Yahoo! Music, then in this article in The Independant.

While it’s a long-standing tradition for tribute acts to use a name that puns the original (e.g. The Beatnix, Elton Jack), there are at least 100 acts around the world that use the unadultered name ABBA, in names as unimaginative as “ABBA Duo”.

Though many commentators have observed that ABBA fans recognise the real ABBA members, it’s a fact that many tribute shows are misleadingly advertised, especially in North and South America where the individual members aren’t as recognised as elsewhere. There have been dozens of stories in ABBA forums that some of the audience did genuinely believe they were seeing the original ABBA, but surprised that members of a band from the 1970s still looked so young. Some people have even joined ABBA forums and gushed over meeting “Agnetha”, only to feel humiliated when it’s pointed out they met a member of a tribute band.

Search for ABBA images on Google and there are almost as many tribute act photos as photos of the real ABBA. It’s becoming increasingly common to see a photo of a tribute band referred to as “ABBA”.

I wrote about this a few years ago in this very blog. I’m surpised that it’s taken this long for some sort of action to be taken. In 1999 when Stockholm Records (also owned by Universal Music) created the group ABBA Teens as a “new ABBA for the kids of the 90s” Benny Andersson  intervened and requested the name be changed, citing that “ABBA was ABBA”.

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4 Responses to “ABBA tribute acts face their Waterloo”

  1. Samuel N. Inglles Says:

    I wonder why did some of these ABBA fans complained about cover bands calling themselves with names such as ‘ABBA’s Back’and so on… For me, I know that they are not exactly – ABBA – so I know the difference.

    Hopefully at some point in the future your very own websites won’t be told to change its name and take off the word, ABBA, from it and they’ll become simply as ‘World’ or ‘ The Phenomenon in Australia’?

    The comparison is a little bit similar though, isn’t it?

  2. Ian Cole Says:

    A new article today in The Stage details more communication from Universal Music to tribute acts, including a requirement for clear use of the word “tribute”.

    http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/28986/abba-tribs-must-report-sets-to-universal

  3. Samuel N. Inglles Says:

    Hi Ian

    Is the ABBAWPRLD Museum coming to Sydney next year?

  4. Ian Cole Says:

    The action is now moving to Australian tribute acts. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/cover-bands-face-abbalanche-of-litigation/story-e6frfn09-1225951366552

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