Branding a book to a piece of music
May 28, 2019 2:29 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago, I asked for help getting a piece of music written. I wanted to brand it to a book I'm about to release. A composer and I worked together to create a public radio-ish sounding instrumental which we both like very much. In fact, she teaches music, and as she was practicing it, a parent dropping off his kid, heard it and said, "that sounds like something I heard on NPR".

Of course, it wasn't. It is an original composition that she is copyrighting and submitting to BMI. It uses none of the same music or combinations of any of the most popular public radio pieces. But it does have that sound. I want to tie the minute long piece to the book launch, which will be in about a month. How can I use it in conjunction with that launch to get maximum effect? I originally wanted to use the music to push the book. But the composer wants to promote the piece through her channels within her community of musicians, which she says, are more interested in the music than the book, but as a consequence, will promote the book. Does anyone have any thoughts on that and on the idea of creating something to help reinforce the brand of something else?
posted by CollectiveMind to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
Make a book trailer, a short video of stills and either text-over or voice-over, with the music as soundtrack! Check out Kickstarter for examples of people using video and multi-media to promote book publication. Maybe scale it as a few versions of similar videos, one that's more focused on the book and it's just background music, one in the middle with images and text, and one that's very music-focused with just images? It's perfectly ok to have multiple promotional directions.
posted by aimedwander at 2:36 PM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

You don’t obtain copyright or advance publication of music by “submitting it to BMI.” (Unless she already has a publisher, or is a BMI registered self-publisher, and if so has a licensing agreement in place that may well conflict with the interests of your book publisher.)

It’s unclear what the issue really is here, since there are two separate works here, and no contract in place. Your best bet would be to hire a composer on a delimited contract to produce a work for hire to which they release all rights to you or your publisher in consideration of payment if you want to control the usage of the music. But it’s hard to really imagine the context here where anyone really has as much to lose as all that anyway. So what if she separately develops the musical composition? What damage could that do to your book sales, unless the music is somehow integral to the book’s marketability (like if a rock star made an acoustic recording of her classic songs to sell alongside her book of lyrics presented as poetry, let’s say?).

The “proper” answer for a professional author or composer is that you should both be represented by lawyers with experience in IP and publishing. Minimally you should talk it out with the composer and see if you can come to a mutually agreeable restraint until the book is launched (perhaps with a more generous payment from you?) and ideally put that in writing. It’s unlikely anyone stands to lose much here, so the risks are limited too.
posted by spitbull at 3:06 PM on May 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

To your more general question, we would need to know something about the relationship between the music and the book. Co-branded multi-media releases are a big thing in the big time commercial world of course. Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and broadway show were developed together, surely. Movie and musical soundtrack albums are a thing. Boxed sets and new biographies of major pop artists are often coordinated with anniversaries of their deaths, etc. But what are you imagining here, that someone will hear the music and think “that’s a cool and wow there’s a book about it?”

You might mean something else by “brand.” Of so I am wondering what that is.
posted by spitbull at 3:12 PM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think the question is asking how best to take advantage of the "NPR sound". I don't think it's actually an IP related question. Unless I'm getting confused, which has been known.
posted by howfar at 3:13 PM on May 28, 2019

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