Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song lyrics

Ask and answer questions about Leonard Cohen, his work, this forum and the websites!
User avatar
panjandrum
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 3:56 pm

Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song lyrics

Postby panjandrum » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:23 am

I'm hoping someone here might have an "inside track" on how to accomplish such a thing.

To keep the long-story short for now: a singer-songwriter-recording-artist friend of mine, at my request, set a poem from Book of Longing to music for my daughter to sing. This has been recorded and it went well. He's working on his latest album for a December and has decided that he would like to include the work if we can get permission quickly enough. Unfortunately, he has always written and recorded his own music, so has never had to go through this process and is currently very short on time.

I believe (I have been told, anyway) if this was simply a "cover song" the process would be fairly easy, but I have no idea how to go about this outside of trying to contact Leonard 's literary agent (if he has one) or Harper Collins (publishers of Book of Longing) directly.

Any thoughts?

(I don't want to tell you any more specifics at this point. Hopefully, if it works out, it will be a nice little treat for the Leonard community.)
HelenOE
Posts: 1008
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:06 am

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby HelenOE » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:08 am

As I understand, it all goes through Robert Kory's office:

RK Management, LLC
9300 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 200
Beverly Hills,CA 90212
USA
User avatar
panjandrum
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 3:56 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby panjandrum » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:51 pm

Just a quick update on this. What we've discovered is that this process is indeed very straight-forward if you wish to cover a song. In fact, there is a specific legal process in place which essentially guarantees that a person can get legal permission to cover and record another artist's SONG, but we've been utterly unable to figure out what to do when the work is not yet a song, but a poem. The song has been recorded in-studio and the final studio polish is on it. It has also been performed live to excellent response. While I realize I'm biased, I believe the musicians have turned this into a truly beautiful song. What's holding us up at this point is no communications to Leonard's legal contacts have resulted in a reply. Pretty much everyone involved with the project feels it will be no problem releasing the track (we expect that we are simply "too small a fish" for Leonard's people to even bother replying to), but have decided to wait it out a bit longer and possibly try going through a system like http://www.easysonglicensing.com and see if we can put the process through even though it is a cover-poem-into-song instead of the usual...

Hopefully we will have an update soon as I'm sure Leonard fans will enjoy a listen.
alb123
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 7:04 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby alb123 » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:15 pm

Normally, if you'd like to cover an artist's song you'd have to contact the publishing company (after first figuring out who owns the publishing rights) and request permission. Publishing can be tricky business. I'm sure we would all agree that someone like Leonard Cohen probably wouldn't care about someone covering one of his songs/poems as long as he was properly credited. Especially considering your friend is probably a unknown musician, I'm sure Leonard would probably be flattered! However, whomever is responsible for Leonard's publishing probably would NOT be so kind and flattered. After all, their job is to make sure royalties are collected and they take a percentage of those royalties. So, make sure you follow proper protocol here. You'd be surprised how often an artist doesn't even own ANY percentage of their own publishing rights. Sometimes artists have to sell their back catalog for financial reasons.

Here is a fine example of what can happen when an artist even just SAMPLES another artists work without permission. Again, unless your friends career explodes and he starts making serious money from it, I'm sure nothing would happen legally. But, you certainly do not want to take that chance. Legally, they could force him/her to stop selling the CDs, pay fines, etc...

A quick Google search also turned up this information:

http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2011/01/h ... ver-songs/

http://suebasko.blogspot.com/2010/12/co ... ng_19.html

I understand that you've been asking about his poem and not a song, but I would think the process would be the same.. Good luck!

-Chris
Waterbury, CT - May 14, 2009
Las Vegas, NV - Dec 11, 2010 (Final Show of Leonard's 3 year World Tour) INCREDIBLE!
Boston, MA - Dec 15, 2012 (Best L.C. concert I've been to!)
User avatar
panjandrum
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 3:56 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby panjandrum » Tue Apr 14, 2015 3:19 am

So, after no-less-than half-a-dozen attempts to contact various persons (some at the suggestion of Jarkko, who graciously replied to my emails, thank you!) we have received zero responses of any kind. My daughter decided to release a pre-finalize version of "Other Writers" as a noncommercial "fan recording" but to get a mechanical license for the other two songs she recorded in studio, even though that was not the original intent:

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=35931

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJOHuF ... rX-OkenhUA

Hope you enjoy! It was a blast helping her make these.
User avatar
lizzytysh
Posts: 25377
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2002 8:57 pm
Location: Florida, U.S.A.

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby lizzytysh » Wed Apr 15, 2015 5:27 pm

Didn't know which of the categories to find it in, so just started on the far left, which brought me to Who By Fire and Chelsea Hotel No 2. She sings them both in a lovely, understated way. Hope she's able to get permission for the poem from Book of Longing, even if recording it without it.
What a beautiful woman! Love every aspect of Kyra's face 8) .

On Leonard's poem, love her own vocal accompaniment to herself, and her softly spoken words at the end.
Her comments about the poem at the YouTube site are very true.
Well done, Kyra.

Enjoyed your a capella VERY much, Kyra. Your presence and voice are both very sweet.
I enjoyed her My Funny Valentine... not such an easy song to do a capella.

She deserves respect for wanting and TRYING to do the right thing with permissions.
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
AlexandraLaughing
Posts: 104
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2014 8:45 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby AlexandraLaughing » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:44 pm

I much enjoyed the setting of 'Other Writers', which I thought brought out well a certain tenderness and innocence in the poem that I hadn't actually noticed when I read it. Worth pursuing this further, I would have thought.

Not so impressed by the two straightforward covers- 'Who by fire' was sweet and tuneful, but lost LC's incantatory urgency and didn't really replace it with anything, as far as I could see, and Chelsea Hotel also didn't seem to replace Cohen's distinctive voice with any kind of interpretation of her own.

Maybe she could try some different LC songs, some of the more wistful ones- like 'The Window' or some of the others from Recent Songs or Various Positions.
User avatar
panjandrum
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 3:56 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby panjandrum » Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:59 am

Thanks for your kind words. There is a bit more information in the "Covers" thread. In the case of the Who By Fire and Chelsea Hotel No. 2, they were just "a little extra time playing around in the studio". Other Writers was possibly a "to be released" track, but that's never moved forward and the version released on YouTube is not the final-version intended (but I agree that is the best, or at least is my favorite, of the three). This was also the very first time performed or was recorded in a studio setting (she was in honors and advanced choirs, in musicals, etc.), and nerves were high. Really hoping to work through her on that one... But time will tell....
Squidgy
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2005 9:25 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song ly

Postby Squidgy » Sun Jun 21, 2015 1:38 am

In your post, you say **a** poem of Leonard's has been set to music and recorded already; in your thread title, you reference **poems** plural. Either way, sounds like you're planning to distribute and sell your recording(s) which would be a definite no-no without a contractual agreement with Leonard --and payment--IMO. I know that Henning Franz (a moderator here) set "A Kite Is A Victim" to music years ago; he sang it at the 2004 Event in NYC. It was great! But that was intended as a loving tribute, a gift to Leonard's fans. I'm pretty sure Henning wasn't motivated by profit. I'm not sure if he recorded it. You could ask him, he'd have some insight on that score. Seems to me Leonard was more casual and forgiving re: the money aspect, in years past--before the Kelley Lynch kerfuffle. Now, not so much. And who can blame him, after what he's been through? I'd definitely contact his management before doing anything else.
User avatar
panjandrum
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 3:56 pm

Re: Need to get permission to use Leonard's poems as song lyrics

Postby panjandrum » Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:36 am

The original concept was an entire album of Cohen's poems turned into song. Hence the original topic title. Thank goodness we didn't attempt that, as over a half-dozen attempts to contact met with absolutely zero response. If you read a couple posts above, you can see that we got a mechanical license for a couple other things we did in the studio that day (not initially intended to be released, but what the heck, why not?) and released "Other Writers" as purely a fan-project, even though that's the project we were most interested in at the start. No profit intended (never was *any* profit intended, but my daughter did end up getting a check for a little over $10 for Who By Fire and Chelsea Hotel #2, so that really excited her). Turns out, once you get a mechanical license for a cover-song, you might as well go ahead and put it up for sale digitally, as there is essentially zero extra work in doing so (we went through CDBaby for those two tracks, and were pretty happy with the process).

Return to “Comments & Questions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests