Adaptation and Biography Rights for Musical Theatre Writers

I seem to have been answering a lot of questions lately about rights.  Having let on to the BML Librettists Workshop that I had been a literary agent in my past life, writers without agents have been turning to me to answer questions about rights.  Many of them don't have an agent, and without one, it is difficult to see your way through the rights forest.  Even with one, you begin to realise nothing is clear cut.  It is hazy, there are no set answers about how much options cost or how you go about securing them for an adaptation or a bio-pic musical.   Musical theatre writers often use films or novels as the basis for a musical, but most of them don't know where to start to get the ball rolling.  When I was an agent this was never something I had much to do with but as a writer I have been involved with two projects where I have had to navigate the  adaptation rights wilderness and it continues.

One thing I learned yesterday -  if there's only one book about a historical character and this is your source material you have to go to the agents representing the book writer for permission.  If you use any quotes from the biography you will have to negotiate a deal with the agents for permission to use those quotes.  You will have to submit your libretto and lyrics to the agent so that they can check it for quotes.  But there is no real answer as to how much that will cost you - a lot depends on how well known both the author and the subject of the book are and how many quotes you use.

In November I am hoping to answer some more important questions about rights and also about getting an agent at MMD, along with agents Nick Quinn from The Agency and Mel Kenyon from Casarotto Ramsay.  It promises to be a very interesting evening.

If anyone reading this blog has any pressing questions about right please forward them to me as a comment and I will put them on my list to ask the agents in November.


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