© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Old Capital Square Dance Club makes lemonade out of lemons after copyright infringement

Old Capital Square Dance Club aims to release two singles per month for the next year.
Drew Lance
Old Capital Square Dance Club aims to release two singles per month for the next year.

Drummer Drew Lance was listening to the catalog of the St. Louis band he recently joined when he came across an album on Spotify by someone identified as Marico Charlotte. The tracks on the album were sped up, the vocal pitch was lowered, and the songs had slightly different titles, but the songs were otherwise identical to those on Old Capital Square Dance Club’s 2019 Americana rock album, “Old Capital.”

“I was shocked, and I wanted to know what the situation was because I knew it sounded weird — it sounded off,” Lance said.

Lance brought his discovery to his Old Capital Square Dance Club bandmates. They, alongside their fans and a local music producer, were able to determine that someone — perhaps, something — stole their music and altered it just enough to avoid being caught by Spotify’s plagiarism risk detector tool.

Old Capital Square Dance Club members from left to right: Tim Sullivan, Jesse McClary, Scott Pease (front),
Drew Lance
Old Capital Square Dance Club members from left: Tim Sullivan, Jesse McClary, Scott Pease (front), Drew Lance (back), Zach Anderson and Dan Sullivan.

Spotify pays artists $0.003 to $0.005 per stream, so the plagiarist is likely making money off Old Capital’s music as well.

St. Louis musician and recording engineer Ryan Wasoba found a clue about the mysterious “Marico Charlotte” behind the album: a playlist called “Comfortable” by Nathaniel Yee with 19 hours of music on it. All of the songs are stolen from other musicians, pitch shifted and time stretched.

“I feel like it's a combo of a person, people, company, plus some technology — some bots,” said Old Capital co-founder Jesse McClary. “If you go to Marico Charlotte's page, every song has around the same exact number of plays, which is very, very weird. If you go to any artist’s [page,] they have the top song and the second song, [and] there's a major discrepancy between those two numbers.”

Otherwise, the band doesn’t have much information on what happened. McClary plans to file a report with Spotify, but he is waiting to do so. He said he wants to draw attention to the issue by allowing people to listen to and compare the original and altered tracks. With enough attention, he added, their story could help improve the streaming landscape for other independent artists.

“I would hope at some point at the very least, [Spotify] can somehow improve their copyright protection algorithms to detect things like this,” McClary said.

The increased attention from their ordeal comes as the band is headed back to the recording studio for the first time since 2019. They plan to release two singles a month for a full year.

Zach Anderson, who co-founded the band in 2006 alongside McClary in their hometown of Vandalia, Illinois, said he is excited to experiment with new genres and sounds.

“We're doing punk rock songs, new wave songs, country songs, you name it … like mixing country and Neil Young’s ‘Down By the River,’ but also put Sonic Youth in it,” Anderson said. “We did one last night in the studio that was like ‘Wow, this is completely different — this is one of the best things I've ever done.’ I'm like, ‘Well, cool, that makes me want to get weird.’”

Many of the upcoming songs will be originals McClary wrote just before the band discovered the plagiarism of the 2019 album. The theft has inspired him to incorporate synthesizers in their songs.

“We can't really sue robots,” McClary said, “but we can collaborate with them.”

For more on Old Capital Square Dance Club’s music and their experience as independent musicians in an age of streaming services and copyright theft, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

St. Louis band calls attention to copyright theft on Spotify

Related Event
What: Old Capital Square Dance Club performance
When: 9 p.m. May 25
Where: Broadway Oyster Bar (736 S. Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Stay Connected
Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.