Fair Use and Lyrics

I love music. That is why I want a job working with bands. Their words inspire me. And for Nanowrimo my main character is not only in a band but also has this thing almost like a nervous habit that when he has anxiety he mumbles inspiring lyrics. Well, lyrics that in whatever situation he is in he finds inspiring. Here is the issue. I can not write these lyrics in a novel that will be published unless I pay the artist’s. And their celebrates so let’s face facts it will break my bank if I did that. But here is the issue. Even this small nervous habit that my character has is a BIG BIG part of who he is. I can’t just not let him be himself. Because without inspiring music he wouldn’t be a teenaged rock star thrown into the spotlight to early, Because he has a lot of drama that happens in his life span. And when he is in his darkest days he will sing. So how do I use lyrics?

I looked into it a little more and a few lines should be considered “fair use.” But it’s not. Because songs that are made after 1933 may not be considered public domain, which is a fancy term for the public does not own them therefore can not use them.

Now don’t get me wrong I understand why they are not public domain. Because then people would be calling these amazing songs their own. But I’m curious because let’s say in real life I had a wonderful voice and could sing, made a YouTube channel and filled it with cover songs. How come these awesome singers on YouTube can make corer songs with music that isn’t public domain? Well to answer that, YouTube pays BMI which is like the boss of music, to be able to use songs over the internet without having to worry about copyright because they are paying technically the artists.

So if a nobody makes a YouTube channel and sings everybody’s song for free, why can’t I put it in my novel? And honestly I don’t even want to whole song. I just want a few lines. Ok to be honest maybe I want a whole chorus but technically that’s only four lines in a song.

What is free for us writers to use is the song title. Take for example the song I want to use, “Take Me To Church,” by Hoizer I can not use the lyrics that say “take me to church….” BUT for free I can use the song title. Which doesn’t help because it’s not the four lines I want. It’s four words in the four lines yes but I want my characters little moments to be important.

Here’s my last example. Let’s say Honey (my character) had a hard time at work and is now cooking himself dinner. Well he would be singing because he’s Honey and that’s what he does. He might be singing about the crush he has at work. So my writing might be something like;

Honey sat the pan on the stove and grabbed some oil. He mumbled “I guess it’s true I’m not good at a one night stand.”

This one sentence is a song lyric from Sam Smith’s “Stay with me.” But it gives my reader a sense that maybe honey sucks at dating which is why he’s nervous to have this crush because he doesn’t want to be crushed himself. That one song lyric opened my character up more to my reader. And sure I could have said all that in a paragraph instead of using a song lyric but Honey is a singer and that’s how he would express himself. Just like when I’m alone I sing to the radio as loud as I can when I hear a song I love. Because it inspires me and it inspired Honey.

So all in all form this long rant. BMI is good for everyone else but writers. And also I need money to pay all the celebs that songs I will be using in my draft of my novel during nanowrimo. Thanks for reading. đŸ˜€

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