You have almost finished editing your first full-length novel and are belatedly beginning to think about how to get people to buy it. The book will be self-published, but how do you promote a self-published book? A friend suggests creating a “book trailer” that you could post on YouTube and Vimeo and use in online social media. A “book trailer” is a short video advertisement for a book similar to a “movie trailer” that is used to promote a motion picture.
Your novel is about a young woman who has graduated from high school but is still living with her parents while holding down a job as a waitress. She works during the day and parties at night. Her parents are dismayed that their daughter seems completely satisfied with her lifestyle. There is a dark side however to their daughter’s seemingly hedonistic pursuits about which her parents are very much unaware.
It occurs to you that the perfect music for your book trailer would be Cyndi Lauper’s recording of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” You know from being a writer that copyright law protects original works of authorship, but you’re not sure how that translates into using Ms. Lauper’s song in your book trailer. You decide to consult an entertainment lawyer for advice.
Your lawyer explains that there are two copyrights in a recorded song: first, the copyright in the musical composition which includes the lyrics and melody, and second, the copyright in the sound recording. In order to use Cyndi Lauper’s recorded version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” you will need permission from the songwriters (who usually will have turned over their rights in the song to a publishing company) and permission from the record company that owns the rights to Cyndi Lauper’s recording of the song. Neither party is required to grant permission. It is up to you to convince them to grant you the rights on terms that are acceptable to both of you.
Obtaining the permissions needed to use Cyndi Lauper’s recording of the song is called “clearing” the music for your book trailer. A grant of rights from the music publisher is called a “synchronization” or “sync” license. The right to use a particular recording of a song comes from the recording company and is called a “master use license.” Your lawyer suggests that locating the rights holders may be difficult and negotiating deals with each of them for realistic licensing fees is likely to be impossible, but you decide to give it a try. After all, the trailer is only going to be 30 seconds in length.
The place to start to find out the names of the songwriter(s) and their publishing company or companies is usually BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. These are all performing rights organizations, and they cannot grant a synch or master use license, but they often have music publishing information available in their online databases. ASCAP’s “ACE Repertory” indicates that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was composed by Robert Hazard, and that the music publisher is Sony/ATV Tunes LLC in Nashville. To find that a song was composed by a single songwriter with a single publisher is fortunate and somewhat unusual. It is not at all uncommon for the ASCAP, BMI or SESAC database to show a song being written by several composers all affiliated with different music publishing companies. Synch licenses would have to be negotiated with each of them.
Your next step would be to contact Sony publishing and present your request to use their song in your trailer usually on a form that the publisher will provide for you. It is important to be very professional, use letterhead and be specific about how the song will be used. Remember that the publisher gets lots of requests for sync licenses, and that in order to maintain the value of each song, the company must be careful in granting any licenses. Since you are not known to Sony publishing, they will want information upon which they can evaluate the credibility of your project. They will ask how much of the song will be used, what will be on-screen while the song is being played, and the nature of the novel particularly the dark side of the daughter’s nightlife with which they may not want their song to be associated. You should be open in your responses because you do not want to be granted a license and then have the publishing company find that the song is being used in a way not contemplated by the license. After submitting your request, the publisher will get back to you, usually in 30 to 90 days, with a quote and proposed deal points. At that time, you can either continue to negotiate the terms of a license yourself or turn it over to your lawyer to finalize the agreement.
While you are in touch with Sony publishing, you also will want to be negotiating with the record company that owns the rights to Cyndi Lauper’s version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” She released her first solo album “She’s So Unusual” on the Portrait label in 1983. The album featured several hits including “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Portrait dissolved in 2002, and “She’s So Unusual” was re-released on its 30th anniversary in 2014, on the Sony Legacy label. You find that Sony Legacy is a division of Sony Music, and that licensing master recording rights from a Sony Music artist goes through its website at sonymusiclicensing.com. Sony Music will also want information about how Ms. Lauper’s song will be used, who wants the license, the nature of the novel and other facts about the trailer. Again, they do not have to grant a license and will be protective of the property that they own.
If you have any questions about music clearance for your films, book trailers, or otherwise, please contact Frank Morgan at 410-783-3524. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.