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Translating song lyrics
Thread poster: Britaly

Britaly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
Oct 26, 2007

I have recently been asked to translate some song lyrics by someone who fancies themselves with a top ten in the English speaking world. I have two dilemmas! As the source language is French I doubt whether much of the original text will be successful in English (French lyrics being as a rule far more poetic than ours) and the other one is how to charge for this. Are translated lyrics which are not a literal translation, but which retain the idea of the song, new lyrics? In which case should I insist on some kind of author's rights? If anyone has already had any experience in this field I would be really grateful for their input!

Britaly


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:23
English to Dutch
+ ...
Creative work Oct 26, 2007

Translating song lyrics is creative work, so make sure you settle something on authorship's rights! This kind of translation is much more difficult then technical stuff, so charge accordingly. Make an estimate of how many hours you will put in, and apply your hourly rate.

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
Italian to English
+ ...
I've got no experience in this field... Oct 26, 2007

... but I'd say you should be entitled to a percentage of the writer's royalties. After all, if it's a hit people will be going around singing something that you wrote!

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Svetlana Deribasko

Local time: 19:23
Russian to French
+ ...
ask for autor's rights!!! Oct 26, 2007

hi,

see http://www.atlf.org/.

and maybe you can contact Mme Catherine Weinzorn (nous contacter > audiovisuel) for you particuler question.

my bests, Svetlana


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:23
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Creative work Oct 26, 2007

You definitely have more work here than, say, translating the regulations on paying for parking permits at the local parking agency. Some things to discuss with your potential client:

a) Has he/she/it obtained permission to do a translation? If the translation rights have been given to someone else, you don't want to be sued for copyright infringement.

b) Your lyrics need to scan, so they need to be modified accordingly.

c) Apparently your client intends to perform the song. Performance rights are separate from the rights to reproduce the lyrics.

If your client hasn't raised these things with you, it's entirely possible that he/she/it hasn't thought about them. I strongly recommend the involvement of an intellectual property lawyer.


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Nemo Phan
Vietnam
Local time: 00:23
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
How about voluntary music translation for better understanding between culture? Oct 26, 2007

Hi,

I like the ideas to translate song lyrics into other languages. I do not mention the commercial ones, because they themselves have a strong power to promote the modern culture of their original countryship, but the traditional or folklore ones that help foreigners understand more the traditional values and culture of that country.

However, after all we should think of a suitable method to share translatorship's right with authorship's right. That is really important for your work to be the official version in other language.

By the way, I do have interest in doing a similar project as mentioned above. Who are interested in Vietnamese are welcome to join.

Check for brief information at 360.yahoo.com/eurekakids

Cheers,


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Sibylle Ferner
Local time: 06:23
English to German
+ ...
Copyrights / Translation rights Oct 26, 2007

Also make sure that there is not copyright infringement, ie. that the person asking you to do the translation actually has the translation rights. They are part of the copyright laws for intellectual property.

If the lyrics are to be sung in the end, that makes it all much more difficult again than "just" translating poetry.

But it's great fun and very rewarding from a creative, if not financial point of view.

Good luck.
Sibylle


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Britaly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
I agree Oct 27, 2007

[quote]Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:

Translating song lyrics is creative work, so make sure you settle something on authorship's rights! This kind of translation is much more difficult then technical stuff, so charge accordingly. Make an estimate of how many hours you will put in, and apply your hourly rate. My! that's a pretty impressive clarinet you have there ... is it a basse? thanks for your input, I have informed this person that I would not be prepared to work for a flat fee alone and his initial reaction was surprise ... either he had not already thought about this side of it - or he had and was hoping that I hadn't!


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Britaly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
My feelings exactly! thanks for confirming them Oct 27, 2007

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

... but I'd say you should be entitled to a percentage of the writer's royalties. After all, if it's a hit people will be going around singing something that you wrote!


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Britaly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
I have now Oct 27, 2007

Svetlana Deribasko wrote:

hi,

see http://www.atlf.org/.

and maybe you can contact Mme Catherine Weinzorn (nous contacter > audiovisuel) for you particuler question.

my bests, Svetlana


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Britaly  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Its a bit more complicated than that actually ... Oct 27, 2007

Paul Merriam wrote:

You definitely have more work here than, say, translating the regulations on paying for parking permits at the local parking agency. Some things to discuss with your potential client:

a) Has he/she/it obtained permission to do a translation? If the translation rights have been given to someone else, you don't want to be sued for copyright infringement.

b) Your lyrics need to scan, so they need to be modified accordingly.

c) Apparently your client intends to perform the song. Performance rights are separate from the rights to reproduce the lyrics.

If your client hasn't raised these things with you, it's entirely possible that he/she/it hasn't thought about them. I strongly recommend the involvement of an intellectual property lawyer.

He has already published these songs on a web site and has been approached by an artist who wishes to perform them in English - he is looking to get his lyrics translated for this particular project. I have told him I would expect to get 50% of the author's rights on anything I translated for him as well as payment for the work but I suspect that he is trying to get this done as a straight translation. You are right about it needing an IPL but I would not consider investing my own money in this project (if I wanted to write a hit then I would prefer to colaborate directly with a composer - my hubby for example!) and I don't think this guy wants to spend any more money than he has too! Thanks for your input


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xxxsavaria
Hungary
Local time: 19:23
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Please consider this question also to be my own Aug 29, 2008

I have already been asked such a thing in the past,by a friend of mine,who would still like to publish such translations on a website which has the daily total visitors of about 12,000.

So,please let me ask from all of you in Proz.com ,what shall I do?


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Nemo Phan
Vietnam
Local time: 00:23
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
A site for Vietnamese songlations Sep 18, 2012

It's been almost 4 years back to this topic.

I am curious to know how xxxsavaria's friend did with the translated songs. For me, you are all welcome to check a collection of Vietnamese songlations (in the means that every songlation has at least a Vietnamese translation) in which they are divided into 5 main themes: world songs, community songs, folk songs, popular songs and friendship songs,

And here is the site: http://baihatdich.blogspot.com

Sorry if you can not read Vietnamese but what's Google Translate for. And, yes, it had already more than 20000 pageviews.


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Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:23
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
So... what would be the fair rate? Oct 2, 2012

I am enormously interested in this subject. As a matter of fact, I was about to post a new question on the similar topic, but luckily I came across this thread.

Few days ago I was approached by an agency representing a singer-song writer. They liked samples of my past work and wanted to place a translation order, however they acted shocked when I explained I do not charge per word or per page when it comes to such sensitive and untangible matter as poetry, but would rather quote an all-inclusive lump sum (rather modest, in my opinion), for which they'd be a getting a well-rhymed, precisely- rhythmed target-language text conveying the original message with all or most of metaphors and nuances. They went like: "Oh... you mean to say it is going to cost more that 120 words x 12 cents per word?"

I refused the job, feeling both upset (with the fact that they do not seem to make any difference between straightforward translation and literary adaptation) and somewhat guilty (since I did not meet their expectations, appearing a huckster rather than a skiey poetic creature they believed me to be).

How do you normally charge for similar projects? Thank you.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:23
Russian to English
+ ...
Poetry and lyrics are usually only translated by songwriters and poets Oct 3, 2012

It is not regular translation, but rather recreating the pieces in another language -- sometimes altogether. The lyrics have to go with the music, if they are meant to be performed, not just put on the cover.

In such cases, the authors are usually entitled to Royalties. They may get something in advance, but mostly Royalties.


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