Nearly everything in the music industry nowadays spins around the written song. Just look at how the mainstream artists like Drake or Lil Wayne came to kickstart their music careers. And guess what, they all started as either singers or songwriters.
With the competitive landscape that musicians operate in currently, many end up chasing empty dreams. That’s because every songwriter gets caught up in the cutthroat pursuit of landing gloried placements with a Drake or a Coldplay. The stack reality however is that not everyone gets to write songs for such mainstream artists.
As opposed to what you see on social media, the independent songwriting job is quite involving. From the emotional, financial constraints, and family to relationships, there is a lot one has to sacrifice to grow into a successfully paid and professional songwriter. Unlike in the past few decades where artists could only sell CDs, perform or stream music to make it in the industry, today’s musical economic landscape is totally different. However, the biggest questions are, what does it take to become a professional songwriter? How do you make money as a songwriter? And how much can you make in songwriting? In this post, we shall explore the tips for becoming a songwriter and earn money from your grind.
How Much Can You Make as A Songwriter?
Are you looking to convert that backlog of songs you have into actual income? Songwriting is an art and a business that rewards handsomely. According to a 2019 report by Glassdoor, a professional songwriter can accrue an income of $66,000 annually. While this figure is achievable if you hit the road running and are getting corporate gigs or commercial deals and placements, the grassroots independent songwriting hustle has a couple of turns and twists.
Either way, a songwriter’s biggest income avenue is the sync licensing game (which we shall discuss later in this post). Regardless, many artists the world over are making a fortune by recording and playing their songs or getting songwriting gigs from other artists. The Glassdoor report also indicated that writing a single hit song can earn you ten times the annual salary of a professional songwriter.
How to Become A Professional Songwriter
Like everything else, songwriting has a starting point. Most successful songwriters I have read about started by offering their songwriting services for free. By doing this, you have the raw opportunity to help upcoming artists and grow your skills as well. You can also have access to free recording studios where you can record and refine your vocals. Generally, songwriters in their early stages should focus on developing their profile as opposed to optimizing their careers around short-term financial gains. If you want to land major gig placements in the future as a songwriter, engage in building connections to enhance your stock price.
Getting paid as a songwriter will depend on your experience and career level. But at the earliest, successful songwriters start by engaging in the following activities:
- Offer free songwriting services to upcoming artists.
- Visit upcoming artists in their recording studios and help them polish their songs.
- If you engage in the two above, you will have access to their recording studios and improve your vocals on your budget, which becomes a win-win situation.
As a paid songwriter, having access to a recording studio is vital. That’s because you can maximize the value of the songs you write, and as well become more proven to do work for hire, which is a good step to becoming a professional songwriter. Overall, the following tips are key on the roadmap to become a professional songwriter or lyricist.
Partner with Music Producers
A song is composed of two main aspects, namely:
- The music beats (worked on by the producers)
- The lyrics (composed by songwriters and lyricists)
All music producers around the world are looking to partners with top-notch songwriters, singers, and lyricists. A producer without the above-mentioned three can only afford to produce beats and sell them online, which isn’t always the case as they often seek to go a notch higher and produce original songs. And this is where songwriters, singers, and lyricists come in.
This kind of mutualism comes in handy to benefit both sides of the equation. That is, a lyricist would need a producer’s instrumentals to write to, while the producer will need the services of a songwriter and lyricist to transform their instrumentals into complete songs.
That said, aspiring songwriters should strategically build alliances with music producers from the onset to have a smooth ride in their music careers. And as already stated, the key aspects of a song come from two parties, the songwriter and the producer. Therefore, creating a long-lasting partnership with producers is a good starting point to become a successful songwriter.
If Money Permits, Get A Home Studio
The main avenue songwriters use to generate revenue is via sync licensing. And if you want to make use of this opportunity from the outset, then a home studio is vital to help you produce songs fully. That’s because sync and placement opportunities require submission of complete, original, and radio-ready songs.
But if the budget doesn’t permit a home studio, don’t get worked out thinking that not having one will limit your success as a songwriter. All that will matter in the early stages is to focus on sharpening your skills and developing your craft. This means you can get your career on track even by recording directly with your phone.
Help Upcoming Artists
The songwriting career, as you have probably heard, involves playing the long game. You will need to master a couple of things and probably do it for over five years before you land that coveted placement. Meanwhile, before getting to that level to win placements, you can up your stock price by helping out local and upcoming artists with your songwriting skills. And it doesn’t have to be much. A songwriter can help upcoming artists with the following:
- Help out with song arrangements.
- Help them construct catchy lyrics and hooks.
- Guide them in selecting appropriate instrumentals.
- Encourage and offer them positive feedback.
- Help them develop the right melodies and flow.
Must You Be A Top Talent to Succeed in Songwriting?
Becoming a great songwriter does not require the greatest of God-given talents or work ethic. You don’t even have to understand all the cord progressions or music theory from the past to the present. Your career as a songwriter can easily get on track as long as you understand song structures, how to connect and elicit a strong emotional response from your audience. You don’t even have to be a great singer or vocalist, although that combination can give you an edge. But overall, as long as you have a good grasp of the trends in your music markets and you have a deep understanding of the target audience, and of course, with a little bit of luck, you are primed to become a professional songwriter. However;
How Do You Make Money from Songwriting?
Music careers are started from songwriting. However, regardless of how talented you are, most clients look for your value, not talent. Today’s music market is so volatile and fragmented that if you can’t seek value for the songs you write, you might end up in an endless chase of empty dreams.
Writing too many songs too doesn’t correspond to the amount of money that comes in. But value does. Writing one hit song can generate ten times more than an average song. And as mentioned above, the long game played by songwriters will start generating life-changing income once you land a major deal.
How Songwriters Get Paid
Songwriters can earn royalties and revenue from all the songs they write. Whether it is downloads, public live performances, or live streams, a songwriter can popularize their song and beef up revenue streams. The key is to collect all the royalties that you are entitled to for every song you create. Such royalties include:
- Placements – movie and TV companies, although rare, can make a one-time payout to use your song in movies.
- Public royalties – you are entitled to these kinds of royalties every time your song is played in public.
- Mechanical royalties – a songwriter earns this for all song downloads, streams, or physical sales.
Other common revenue streams for songwriters include but are not limited to:
- Brand partnerships
- Sponsorship deals
Becoming a successful songwriter through income streams depends on your experience, career level, and how well you position yourself to be primed for large corporate placements. In this section, we shall look into some of the ways a songwriter can make money through music: read on.
Pitch Directly to Mainstream Artists
Through the various online platforms, there are multiple avenues that a songwriter can pitch to an artist. You can DM them or directly reach out to them after their concerts. What to bear in mind, however, is to handle your pitch as professionally as possible to improve your chances of being accepted. For amateur songwriters, your best bet would be to choose and reach out to an upcoming artist and ask them if they would like to check out your songs or lyrics.
Earn Through Public Performance Royalties
This can be achieved if artists perform your written music in PRS licensed venues. Public performance earns you royalties for every song performance. And licensed venues are entitled to pay these royalties to the songwriter.
Record and Stream on Streaming Services
Songwriters are giving music streaming platforms a go to generate income. Such platforms like Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube are excellent music streaming services. They not only stream revenues but also offer maximum exposure to your music.
Sign Music Publishing Deals with Companies
Signing a publishing deal with a company will earn you either a monthly or an advance salary to enable you to write songs and pitch them. Moreover, the royalties or the payout system for signed songwriters versus independent songwriters is quite different. Most songwriters opt for the publisher because:
- The publisher will ensure that the revenues generated from commercial uses of music reach the pocket of the songwriter or composer.
- With a publisher, a songwriter has confidence in the people who synchronize royalties and can manage their music copyrights.
- The legwork involved in publishing is reduced significantly on the part of the songwriter.
- The publisher has a better chance of fast-tacking and staying with you for the majority of your music career.
Submit Your Lyrics Online for Money
While sending a direct pitch to artists is popular with many songwriters, an alternative way would be to submit your songs or lyrics to lyric-selling websites. All you have to do is sign up and sell your lyrics online. This strategy can land you major contracts where you get paid to write songs for other artists.
Alternatively, you can pitch to major TV companies to obtain a sync license and allow them to use your music in shows and movies. All the royalties generated from these strategies add up to a healthy income stream.
The Bottom Line
Becoming a professional songwriter and building that into a fulfilling career, as illustrated in this post, takes the long game player. The industry requires vision, consistency, and patience. In this competitive and fragmented music industry, songwriters should brace themselves for the long game by strategically working on their craft, writing and co-writing songs, learning how to create and record their songs, all while building long-lasting and professional relationships with music producers.
The reason the music landscape can be described as fragmented is that on one hand, one songwriter may need more than five years to expand horizons and jumpstart their career, while on the other hand, one can create a single hit song and make a satisfying career out of it. This makes the ground to becoming a professional songwriter quite shaky. However, with the right vision, commitment, and proper channels to build connections. A songwriter can start from amateur to pro with everything considered.