Today, I want to tackle a question I got from a Songwriting Pro reader…
“Is it a good idea to put brand names (Nike, Snapchat, Wal-Mart, Chevy, etc.) in my song lyrics? Do I need permission? Can I get in trouble?”
The short answer is that it’s okay, but it may or may not be a good idea. Let’s dive in.
Let me start off my saying that I’m NOT a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice. Do your own research.
With that out of the way, let me say that I’ve never heard of needing permission to put brand names in a song. I’ve turned in several songs with brand names to my publishers, and they have NEVER said anything about it, pro or con. So between that and actually hearing brand names in songs on the radio, you should be good to go.
Now, if you decide to namedrop brands in your lyrics, I want you to do it wisely. So here’s some advice:
Endorsement deals and deal breakers.
Most major-label and major indie artists have endorsement deals of some sort. I don’t worry about them too much when I’m sitting down to write. However, if you’re writing a song specifically for a particular artist, do your research.
For example, if your target artist has a Chevy endorsement, there’s no point writing and pitching him a song about how great Fords are or how terrible Chevy’s are. On the flip side, a song with a line like “her love pulls me through the hard times like a Chevy pulls a trailer” might make your song more appealing to the artist- or at least his manager.
It’s usually better to use classic brands than trendy ones. Why? Because it usually takes a while to get a song cut, and you generally want to avoid references which may sound dated in a year or two.
For example, Jack Daniels is a classic brand that’s been used in songs for decades and will be used for years to come. It’s a “safe” brand to mention. Other brands, especially in social media or technology are a lot more risky. Anybody singing about their iPods, flip phones or Myspace pages these days? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Negative isn’t a positive.
It’d try to avoid making a negative statement about a brand. An artist may not want to risk offending fans of… I don’t know… American Airlines, Toyota, or McDonald’s. It might be funny to say, “her dress left her more uncovered than a BlueCross BlueShield patient” or that she’s “blowing up my phone like a Samsung battery” – yeah, it may be funny… but it might also scare away an artist.
What about you? Have you name dropped brands in your songs? Have you gotten any feedback it? Leave a comment!
And if YOU have a question you’d like me to address in a future blog post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (I can’t get to them all, but I’ll answer your question here on the blog if I think it’ll help the Songwriting Pro community. Oh, and I’ll leave your name out, so you’ll keep your privacy.)
If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE. I want to help you on your songwriting journey. I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises. CLICK HERE TO START HERE.
God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.