Using Music in Writing: Just the Basics


Music is unquestionably very powerful. It can remind us of past times, contributes to mood, and even helps build our characters (the old show vs tell). However, using other’s work can be iffy at best, and for most of us, buying the rights isn’t a financial option. Editors, so I have read, also get pretty nervous around using published songs in writing (even legal aspects), so that’s something to keep in mind when sending your manuscript out!

So what are your options?

  • Using song titles with artists does not follow copyright law: as long as you don’t include lyrics, you should be within legal boundaries.
  • Use songs under public domain
  • Write your own lyrics: It worked for Anne Rice, after all!

For more specific information on Fair Use, Copyright Law, and Writing, here are some helpful links:

The Book Designer: What Every Writer Ought to Know about Fair Use and Copyright

Writer’s Digest: Can I use Song Lyrics in my Manuscript?

PD Info: List of Public Domain Music

Other great resources? List them in the comments!


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