Monday, November 01, 2010


Normally, we talk about the tunes we listen to when we write, drives one of our scenes, etc. Then recently we at the Oasis started talking about industry terms, and trying to help make sense of the often muddy water of the publishing industry.

So today, I'm taking on music in modern literature. Maybe there's a song haunting you that you'd just love to fit in. Maybe you want to have a character to quote a line, or sing a phrase. Best advice I've gleaned and my CP Heather Howland helped dig up... Don't.

Do yourself a big a favorite and avoid the coming drama. Your editor may possibly growl, and will definitely take them out. Songs are not public domain, and therefore not legally yours to use. UNLESS they are truly public domain due to date released before 1921. I've heard news that you can use a minute percentage of the total word count per song... half a line, maybe a teeny bit more.

You can mention a title, especially if it has some impact to your character or the story. BUT using a title can seriously date a book. Say you sold your book--would the title, or band, even be relevent in a year or two when it's released? Think about how important it into use a title from a real song/real band. What about creating your own band, like Maggie Stiefvater did in LINGER?

Using lyrics?
Risky, like putting you hand in the cookie jar knowing you're going to get your patties slapped.
Using a song title?
Okay, but makes it a 2010, 11, etc book. Do you want your readers to look at it and think you're a fossil?

I say avoid the drama. You're creative enough to write a book, then you're creative enough to make up your own band, song title or lyric. Less stress, more kudos for you.

Anyone have anything to add?


  1. ooh, great advice--especially since my manuscript has several music references. I'll definitely considering making up bands like the lovely Ms. Stiefvater. :)

  2. My book is (currently) titled Blackbird (after the Beatles song). The song has a strong importance in the novel, and is my MC's codename. As "Blackbird" isn't a trademark, I can use it without trouble. It also doesn't "date" the book, because the song is a classic, not a "contemporary" song. Jill Hathaway does the same thing in SLIDE (not out yet, but get it when it does come. It's awesomesauce). Her MC likes 90's music, which is already "old" music. The fact that this makes me feel ancient aside, it's a good tactic.

    If you're going to use a song title, try to make it an old one. Classics remain classics throughout the years.

  3. these are all great points! don't date yourself -- don't run into copyright issues. but I must admit, I couldn't help dropping Joshua Radin's name in BTS -- maybe Nikki will have more sense than me and nix it. :)


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