Monday, June 25, 2012

Using original songs in a spec

If you sent in a question recently I need to apologize because I've been incredibly lax in answering those.  Let's see if we can do something about that now.  This one comes from Damiano:

I have a story revolving around a soul singer. In one scene a musician on stage sings one of his songs in front of him. The song I want to use is a song I co-wrote myself with a friend of mine. How would this fly? Would this be problematic? Any thoughts or opinions you can offer me on this? 

It's a tricky spot to be in.  I know the conventional wisdom is to warn writers away from using copy written music in their scripts due to the expensive of licensing rights.  By that logic, writing original songs should be smooth sailing, right?

Well, maybe not entirely. 

The biggest problem I can see is that since your song isn't known, the reader won't have a good idea of what it would sound like.  In the grand scheme of things, that's probably not a fatal error, though.  The story and the writing of your spec are going to need to be strong enough to move up the ladder on their own.

If you were writing a full-on musical, this probably WOULD be a bigger issue - so those of you in that situation, proceed with caution.

But if I understand Damiano right, we're talking about one song in one scene.  I don't see it making or breaking your script either way under those circumstances.

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