Abba tribute bands told they must change their names

You might call it a case of "Thank you for the music – but now please change your name". Abba tribute acts, who have kept the memory of Sweden's most famous export alive since the band played their last concert more than 25 years ago, have been told by band's record company they can no longer use the group's name.

Lawyers for Universal Music in Sweden sent out legal notices to more than 15 acts telling them to stop trading off the name "Abba" as it was an infringement of the band's intellectual property rights. Well-established acts, including Abba Queens, Abba Mania and Swede Dreamz Abba Tribute have all been ordered to change their names immediately.

Tribute musicians say that if they comply with the request, they may have to hang up their sequins and disco shoes forever because they will lose the reputation they have worked hard to build up.

At the last count there were more than 40 Abba tribute bands in the UK, helping fuel a revival of interest in the group's music which has seen the launch of the musical Mamma Mia and the subsequent hit Hollywood film.

Anneli Stockwell, a singer in the band Abba Queens, said: "We've been established for four years with the band name, working our way up from playing in pubs to theatres.

"If we have to change the name we'll lose all that business and reputation. We've also spent a lot of money on backdrops and publicity already."

However, a spokesperson for Universal Music told The Stage: "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."

A number of bands license out their name and ask tribute acts to pay to use it, but the spokesperson said Abba do not plan to do this. However, there are concerns that other record labels may follow suit if Universal Music are successful in forcing bands to change their names.

Patrick Haveron, who started playing in an Abba tribute band in the 1990s, said it would be a "real concern" for his tribute act management company if existing acts had to change their names. "The most successful tributes take the original band name and then put a slight twist or pun on it," he said.

"We put together tribute bands so we spend every day thinking up crazy names like Kazabian or Kims of Leon. The name is essential so the audience know exactly what they're getting. It's not about trying to pass the act off as the real thing but there needs to be a connection in the name."

Since the 1960s, tribute acts have offered a way for fans to hear their favourite songs at a fraction of the price of the real thing. Today their popularity is soaring, with more than 7,000 people attending a three-day festival of tribute acts last weekend.

Glastonbudget, which boasts more than 130 tribute acts including Coldplace, Guns 2 Roses, and Oasish, is now in its sixth year.

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