I was working on my first draft of x0, and wanted to include some snippets of well known classic rock lyrics to give my reader something to hum in their head while they took in certain parts of the story. It turns out that a LOT of authors have this great idea. I was concerned about copyright issues, but every one that I mentioned this to assured me that I would be fine thanks so some vague notions of public domain and fair use. Only the nice people at AW said differently. Song lyrics are like poetry. You cannot safely use even a tiny bit of them. Doooooon’t do it.
I was forewarned but still determined, so I tried another approach. I took my nine songs and found out who owned all or part of them in the US and world wide and I started writing people. Can I please use this line from your song? How much will it cost? The assorted parties for seven songs just ignored me, and they kept ignoring me no matter how many times I wrote them back.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing however, has people on staff to handle just this sort of thing, and I found myself in negotiation for weeks with a Licensing Analyst named Lacey. She wanted to see context, I sent her pages from my book. We argued about how many copies I could sell for the price she decided on. I’ll never know why I persisted with this, but I think it was just that the whole process fascinated me. There are people stealing these songs left and right all over the internet, not to mention quoting the entire lyrics, and yet this very nice woman was spending time dickering with me over few words in a self-published first novel that might not sell ten copies. I think we both thought that the other person was nuts.
I will also never know why in the end I paid about $300 of my own hard earned money to secure the rights to use selected words from two of my favorite songs, in the first 5000 electronic copies of my book. But I did. No, I have not sold 5000 copies yet, and yes I am keeping track. I’m like that. And so is Sony/ATV.
I’ve included links to the two songs below, along with the placement in x0 that I paid for so dearly. What can I say ….. these two songs will now always have a special place in my heart :) . And maybe Lacey bought my book.