Monday, September 16, 2013

Tarot Cards Using Music Quotes

Dear Rich: I want to publish a classic rock-themed tarot deck and book set. This tarot product will break new ground in that it will be based on a “Behind the Music”-like backstory of a fictional band. (The only real thing being used are song lyrics, not the names or likenesses of real rock musicians.) For each of the 78 cards to be created a 2-6 line lyric excerpt has been chosen for the tarot card image, as part of a 2-3 page “treatment” of the card in the book. NO LYRICS WILL BE PRINTED ON THE CARDS; only in the book. The treatment includes reproduction of the card image, a description of the card imagery, its keywords and meanings in a reading, a fictional band storyline vignette associated with the card, associated spiritual/metaphysical concepts, and other items like classic rock trivia, quotes, music concept definitions, etc. The pairing of known lyrics with new imagery could be considered transformative, as those words paired with a metaphoric image may yield a new perspective on the lyric. I’m thinking this won’t exempt me from needing permission, right? The boon to the copyright holders is that my use will not compete with, nor ever take revenue away from them, but rather, my quoting of the lyrics and pairing them with my tarot card images, will expose more consumers to the complete work (song) and perhaps be inspired to purchase it! Thank you in advance for your guidance in this matter! 
  1. For this project, how best to first approach publishers with permission requests: email, form? How much detail on planned usage do you state in the email? 
  2.  How much detail should I provide on exactly how I plan to use each lyric? The Permissions form has no place for it—where do you specify what portion you plan to use and how? Would it help my case to include an overview of the project and mockup sample like I did for you? 
  3. Will it help to mention the above selling points (wider audience, more sales) above to entice publishers to grant permission? 
  4.  Do I have only one shot to convince them? Can I try a different tactic if they say no? 
  5.  Your Permissions form has a section for book publisher info and I don’t have that; I’m doing this “pre-authorization” to help sell the book proposal; I assume it’s ok to skip that? 
  6. Based on your knowledge of the music industry, just generally, of these 3 scenarios, does any one give me a better chance of getting approvals and/or reducing/eliminating fees: 1) I am planning to self-publish this set; 2) I am seeking a mass publisher; 3) I have a signed contract with a mass publisher. IOW, I am not averse to playing up “it’s just poor little ol’ me who doesn’t have loads of $$ looking to produce a tribute to rock musicians” if it would help my case! Or maybe they don’t want to deal with some “no one” who doesn’t have the backing of a major publisher? 
  7. Since most rock band names are trademarked, do I also need to get permission to cite the names for lyric excerpts and in a complete list of songs/lyrics used in an appendix? 
  8. I assume I should group multiple requests to the same publishing rep. in the same letter or email? 
  9. If 3 publishers are listed for a single song (like 3 band members), do I need to contact all 3 AND get ‘Yes’ from all 3 to be ok? 
  10. How long can I expect it take on average to hear back?
Yours may be the longest question(s) we've ever received. Sorry we had to edit it down to its current state, but like our friends, The Residents, used to say, "Editing is no sin." In general, we viewed your question like the Great Coral Reef, impressive for its overall size.
Right, you had a question(s). We believe that using three or four lines of lyrics probably qualifies as a fair use and may not merit all of the effort that you're considering especially if you self-publish. That will change if the book is licensed by a publisher and you have to indemnify. At that point, you can seek permission (and hopefully you can pay for it with your advance). Until then, it may be an unnecessary effort.
Dealing with music publishers. The form and method of communicating with publishers probably doesn't matter much -- email should work fine. Provide as much detail is necessary; "short-and-to-the-point" works best. Don't try to convince the publishers of the benefits to them. They probably don't care. They also probably won't care whether you're self-published or with a publisher because their licenses are usually geared to quotas (under 1,000 copies, etc.). Mostly, they want to know when they will get your money. Usually, they respond within a few days.
The songwriters and the band name. Hopefully, it won't matter how many songwriter/publishers there are. One publisher is usually designated as the administrator and that's the party from whom you would get permission. Also, you don't need permission for the use of the band's name in connection with the lyrics (but avoid putting any band names in the advertising). 

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