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Using songs as inspiration for your writing

(11 Posts)
4amwriter Fri 29-Sep-17 12:28:10

How explicitly is this allowed?
I was inspired by a song that was in the charts a couple of years ago, and have an idea for a novel.

Whilst I'm writing for my own pleasure, I don't want to write something that's impossible to publish (the dream that keeps me going when I feel like I've had enough). Can I reference the song lyrics? Quote directly? Give the novel the same title as the song?

SapphireSeptember Fri 29-Sep-17 22:27:41

I have no idea of the legalities of this. I've been writing a book based very loosely on a song for quite a long time now, but I think only I'd know about it (and I used two of the names of members of the band who did the song as character names, although I think they're common enough for me to get away with it.)

Depends on what the song title is, Whisper vs The Poet and the Pendulum, one wouldn't be obvious, one is.

WooWooWitchetyWoo Fri 29-Sep-17 22:28:58

You can't quote without permission and it can be very costly.

GetAHaircutCarl Sat 30-Sep-17 07:18:05

Publishers would always prefer you not to quote lyrics as you need proper permissions to do so.

You can cite songs and artists though.

4amwriter Sat 30-Sep-17 08:27:31

Thanks for the replies.

It's the Sia song Elastic Heart, although my idea for a story is very different to the song, I'd love to use the same title. I hadn't planned to use any of the lyrics, I just thought it might be fun to try and incorporate them.

Lalalandfill Sat 30-Sep-17 16:07:21

You can give your novel the same title, there's no copyright on that but you'd have to fork out a fortune to quote anything but the briefest chunk of lyric

WhyisEveryoneSoGrumpy Sat 30-Sep-17 16:49:29

Hi my partner works in music publishing.

He says you would have to clear rights with their publishers, not record producers etc as it's not the recording you would need, just the lyrics.

He says there is no set fee, and it could be tiny to huge.

Advice is, best thing to do is write the novel and then try to clear. If the novel looks lucrative you could potentially get an agent to clear it on negotiation regarding royalties. And it may not get published, so rights may never be an issue.

But until you write it you have no bargaining power or will know whether the artists would agree for you to use their lyrics. Particularly if your artistic vision doesn't align with theirs.

schmalex Sat 30-Sep-17 21:04:34

As people have said, there's no copyright on titles, but it's not straightforward to quote lyrics. I'd use it as inspiration and maybe use the title but no more than that.
In fact it's a great idea to take a song and use it as a jumping off point for a story. I might use it!

4amwriter Sun 01-Oct-17 08:17:22

Great info, thanks WhyisEveryone

schmalex I've heard people using songs as a writing exercise, although I didn't do it intentionally. I was listening to the song one day and my mind just wandered off, and I found myself thinking 'imagine if....' and suddenly a whole story appeared!

I'm trying to develop the idea into something more defined in time for nanowrimo...

WriterByTheSea Mon 16-Oct-17 06:52:15

So in my novel now, song titles are the titles to my chapters.

It's a lot of fun.

Pollaidh Thu 19-Oct-17 15:40:47

I've read too that the song titles can be used with no issue, but the lyrics themselves are copyrighted.

As long as you don't go all fanfic and open each chapter with a quote then I think it's fine to be inspired by a song. I have a spotify play list of songs and music that fit my novel, and play them whilst I write sometimes to get into the zone.

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