Songwriting is an art form that has been around for centuries. It is a way for people to express their emotions and tell stories through musical composition. As a result, songwriting has become an increasingly popular and necessary career path for many individuals. Songwriting jobs can range from composing music for movies, commercials, and video games, to writing lyrics for pop songs and musical theater productions. Regardless of the specific job, songwriters must be passionate about the craft of songwriting and have a knack for creating catchy melodies and meaningful lyrics.
For those considering a career in songwriting, there are several things to consider. A successful songwriter must have extensive knowledge of music theory, be able to create melodies and lyrics that capture the essence of the story they’re telling, and also have an understanding of the music industry and the business side of songwriting. It’s also important to have an understanding of the different types of songwriting jobs and how to land them.
13 top songwriting jobs
When beginning a career as a songwriter, take into account these 13 positions:
1. Top-line songwriter
A top-line songwriter is a skilled vocalist and melody writer. This position is occasionally referred to as a top-liner in the music industry. Top-liners are employed by musicians, producers, and record labels to compose or perform vocal harmonies and melodies that are then mixed with or added to beats and recorded music. Sometimes a top-line songwriter creates the song’s “hook,” which is a catchy line or phrase that can be repeated. Top-liners must therefore be well-versed in both popular culture and musical theory.
2. Performing songwriter
A performing artist or singer who composes the music or lyrics for the songs they record and perform is known as a performing songwriter. They connect with their target audience or fan base by expressing themselves creatively through songwriting and musical composition. This person may work alone or in collaboration with other musicians, writers, producers, or top-liners to write songs and lyrics. These kinds of partnerships are typical in today’s music business.
The main responsibility of a music producer, who is also a creative director, is to oversee the teamwork needed to record music singles, albums, and other creative music projects. They work to develop and perfect the song and record structures, as well as the sounds, beats, and melodies required to create cohesive and enjoyable music. They frequently work with artists, writers, sound engineers, and technicians while also mentoring musicians and singers. They also regularly help write songs, hooks and bridges.
Those who write the lyrics to songs or records are known as lyricists. Sometimes, this person will create entire songs that contain all of those elements, as well as melodies, harmonies, hooks, and bridges.
A lyricist may work for a record label or studio to produce lyrics or other artists, or they may write songs that they or another band member performs. A lyricist’s income comes from music royalties when they compose music for other artists.
A composer is a trained musician who writes and produces a song’s or album’s instrumental version. To produce a seamless and enjoyable listening experience, they strategically place notes, beats, and sound bites. To make sure that the music expresses particular emotions and feelings, they also work together with songwriters, sound engineers, technicians, and artists.
6. Film and television composer
A music expert who creates and records the music for creative works like movies and TV shows is known as a film and television composer. Theoretical understanding of music, conducting, and consumer interest are essential for composers. They frequently work together with musicians, sound designers, music editors, and other creators to create music for films and television programs.
7. Music director in theater
The director of music is another name for the music director in theater. They work in musical theater productions, operas, orchestras and plays. They oversee and direct each musical element of a live performance. Music directors work with and direct songwriters, performers, instrumentalists, choir or orchestra members, sound engineers, and lighting designers. To perfect stage music and songs, they frequently write the music and lyrics or collaborate with musical songwriters and composers.
8. Musical songwriter
A musical songwriter is a person who creates music and lyrics for plays and musicals. They create the lyrics and the sheet music for actors and musicians to perform on stage while working under the direction of a musical director. Their work must entertain the audience and tell a coherent story, particularly when writing music and lyrics for musicals.
9. Band songwriter
A band member who writes songs and lyrics for the group is known as a songwriter. This person may also play in the group, or they may only write lyrics or sheet music. Songwriters for bands must be well-versed in music theory and fully comprehend the target audience and the band’s target market.
10. Childrens songwriter
A children’s songwriter is a person who writes lyrics and creates music with the express purpose of entertaining or educating children. Children’s songwriters occasionally release albums, perform live, or compose music for other artists. They require in-depth knowledge of both child development and music theory.
11. Jingle writer
A musician who writes lyrics and music for commercials is known as a jingle writer. Their work is incorporated into radio, television, and online advertisements. A talented jingle writer can produce tunes that are memorable, catchy, and increase sales. Jingle writers must have a thorough understanding of music composition, marketing, and advertising for these or other reasons.
Someone who composes music notation and lyrics for another performer or musician is known as a ghostwriter. Occasionally, ghostwriters are employed to work as independent contractors or freelancers for specific artists, producers, or production companies. While ghostwriters are acknowledged for their contributions to a song or album, the performing musician is given writing credit instead. Ghostwriters must possess exceptional writing abilities as well as a thorough knowledge of musical theory and composition.
13. Freelance or work-for-hire songwriter
Freelance songwriters produce lyrics or sheet music for a variety of companies and customers. For use in computer programs, video games, and other software and machines, they frequently produce sounds, sound effects, instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics. Additionally, independent songwriters create music and lyrics for composers, producers, and performers. They perform contract or work-for-hire work, and depending on the contract’s terms, they might be paid a one-time fee or ongoing royalties.
What are songwriting jobs?
The multifaceted field of songwriting can lead to positions in marketing, advertising, performing arts, television, and film. Musicians who write lyrics or music for songs across a wide range of genres are known as songwriters. Songwriters occasionally create music for their own performances as well as for other artists or entertainment endeavors.
Many songwriters pursue studies in music theory or production and graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree in music performance, music technology, or music production or a two-year associate’s degree in music business. Success in this industry is heavily reliant on a person’s skills, abilities, and network connections, and becoming a songwriter does not necessarily require a formal degree.
5 tips for starting a career as a songwriter
Here are five pointers for beginning a career in music composition and songwriting:
Study music theory
The study of music’s ideas, sounds, and physical elements is known as music theory. A person who wants to pursue a career as a songwriter can pursue formal education in music by enrolling in a college or university, or they can pursue informal education by doing research, reading books, listening to music, and conversing with others. Studying music theory can help songwriters hone their musical skills and creativity as well as develop an ear for pleasing sounds and sound combinations.
Carry a journal or notepad
It’s crucial to always have a journal or notepad with you when attempting to launch or advance your career as a songwriter so that you can jot down concepts for tunes, melodies, hooks, and bridges. Carrying a notepad can help you remember important vocabulary and brilliant ideas. When writing music or lyrics, you can also consult your journal or notepad.
Watch live music
It is essential for aspiring songwriters to listen to a variety of musical genres. Watching live performances can help people learn about the additional elements of entertainment and music, as well as assist songwriters in understanding pop culture demands. Attending live performances can be both a place to find musical inspiration and a networking opportunity.
Attend networking events
Musicians can interact with one another at networking events, which can take place in person or online, and include vocalists, songwriters, producers, agents, and representatives from record labels. Attending these kinds of events is essential for networking with other professionals and getting your music or ideas heard, whether you want to be a performing songwriter, a ghostwriter, a lyricist, or a composer. Be sure to have your resume, music demo, and professional pitch prepared when getting ready for an in-person or online event. It might also be a good idea to get your business card and personal website or portfolio ready in advance.
Dedicate time for practice and development
Spending a lot of time honing your craft and developing your abilities is crucial for aspiring or budding songwriters. You could go to networking events, listen to music, watch live performances, play an instrument, or watch right music during this time. If possible, give this training and improvement a full day’s worth of work. Most full-time employees work about 40 hours per week. You’re more likely to advance your career as a songwriter if you work full-time to learn, make connections, and improve your skills and abilities.
How to Get a Job as a Songwriter | Songwriting Jobs in the Music Industry
How much money does a songwriter make per song?
Today, the current rate is 9. 1 cents (typically split with co-writers and publishers). A songwriter is paid a performance royalty when their song is played live on stage, on terrestrial broadcast radio, or online through streaming services.
How do I get a job as a songwriter?
How To Get A Songwriting Staff Writing Deal
- Get to know music publishers organically. …
- Co-write with signed writers. …
- Do your homework. …
- Use everything you do well to your advantage. …
- Writing excellent songs is the quickest route to landing a songwriting staff writing deal.
Is songwriting a good career?
Contrary to what your parents might think, being a songwriter can be a successful profession. Some songwriting careers have a high entry barrier, like being a movie composer, while others aren’t what most people imagine, like being a jingle writer or a children’s performer.
Can I make money from song writing?
Songwriters can make hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars from one song. Every time your original song is played or performed, you will be paid royalties for writing the song.
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How do I become a paid songwriter? ›
For a songwriter or publisher to get paid by a PRO, they must sign an agreement that allows the PRO to license their musical works (or musical work share) and collect and distribute that share of musical work performance royalties.Do songwriters still make money? ›
If you go to a site like Glassdoor, you'll see the estimate that a songwriter makes $68,000 per year as an average annual salary.How do you make a living as a songwriter? ›
- Earn Song Placements (Sync Licensing)
- Earn Performance Royalties.
- Earn Mechanical Royalties.
- Earn Digital Album/Song Sales.
- Get Your Songs Placed With “Major” Artists.
- Get a Publishing Deal (Label Advance)
- Get Paid For “Demoing” Songs.
- Write Songs for Upcoming Artists.
- You Need to Niche Down and Dominate It. Before we get started on the tips to market yourself, there is something very important you need to know about. ...
- You Need to Go Digital. ...
- You Need to Embrace Social Media. ...
- Get Out There and Network. ...
- Pick Someone and Develop Them.
Songwriting Income Streams From Performances
On a big hit single, the performance money can easily be in the 6-7 figure range. So when asking the question “how do songwriters get paid?” this is often the most lucrative piece of the business pie.
With mechanical royalties, the fee paid per song is currently 9.1 cents. This is often split between Co-Writers and Publishers. Performance royalties have no standard rate. The rate is negotiated between the Songwriter and their Performing Rights Organization.Does a songwriter need a pro? ›
Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) collect all royalties for songwriters — both for the writer and the publisher — so to get the publisher's share of the royalties, you have to register with a PRO.Can songwriting be a job? ›
Songwriting is a career that is multifaceted, and it may lead to jobs in film, television, performing arts, marketing and advertising. Songwriters are musicians who either compose music or write lyrics for songs within a wide variety of genres.Do songwriters make millions? ›
These are collected and paid by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs). Performance royalties for huge hits receiving heavy radio play can earn $500M per year. Ringtones and ringbacks also generate performance royalties (but there's no set rate.) Not every songwriter performs, but many do.Is songwriting a skill or a talent? ›
Moreover, songwriting is considered an innate talent that some people are able to tap into. It is seen as a highly personal process of how someone interprets an idea or situation and harmoniously turns it into lyrics and melody that other people can relate to.
Is it too late to become a songwriter? ›
It's Never Too Late When It Comes To Your Songwriting Dreams
In my case, I was in my mid-thirties when I started trying to write professionally. I got a much later start than some others who pursued their songwriting passion right out of high school. But, as it turned out, it didn't really matter WHEN I started.
The richest songwriter of all time is Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber is an English composer and impresario of musical theatre. He's composed songs for the most loved musicals, such as Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.Are songwriters underpaid? ›
Despite being the creative genius behind everyone's favorite hits, songwriters are severely underpaid.Where is the best place to become a songwriter? ›
The “college campus for songwriters,” Nashville is the default #1. For writers, there is grand opportunity here for co-writing, sync placements, and publishing deals. If you're looking to write songs for other artists, this is the place.How many years does it take to become a good songwriter? ›
Songwriters might spend 5-10 years attending piano, guitar, singing lessons, practicing each day to become proficient to express themselves musically. Developing these skills costs money, takes time and persistent effort. These skills can be learnt through lessons and classes.Why is it so hard to be a songwriter? ›
They have to be able to imagine themselves singing it without making too many changes. It's like the difference between buying a turn-key house or a fixer-upper: Most people don't want to take something they're going to have to make a lot of changes to, so every word needs to be just right before you send the song out.How do I get my song heard? ›
- Your website. Post your music using embedded video or audio players. ...
- Social media. Post new songs, content, entertainment, and info on your social media profiles and ask people to share it. ...
- Your audio content sites. ...
- Social media influencers. ...
- Remix sites. ...
- Recorded and live music archive sites.
- Work on digital marketing. ...
- Create an electronic press kit. ...
- Create a website. ...
- Host your music on streaming platforms. ...
- Use email marketing. ...
- Pitch yourself to music blogs. ...
- Reach out to playlist curators.
There are no real requirements for entering the field of songwriting. All songwriters, however, will benefit from musical training, including musical theory and musical notation. Learning to play one or more instruments, such as the piano or guitar, will be especially helpful in writing songs.
The length of ownership for a song copyright depends on whether the song was copyrighted before or after 1978. If a song was copyrighted in or after 1978, the copyright is valid for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Do artists get paid every time their song is played on Spotify? ›
Contrary to what you might have heard, Spotify does not pay artist royalties according to a per-play or per-stream rate; the royalty payments that artists receive might vary according to differences in how their music is streamed or the agreements they have with labels or distributors.How hard is it to write a song? ›
Because let's be honest here… Writing a song isn't THAT difficult! You just need four chords, a basic melody, and some simple lyrical phrases to do that. But if you want to write a truly memorable song, that takes rare, hard-won talent.How often should a songwriter write? ›
Many songwriters said they try to write at least one day per week. Pro songwriters write more often than that, usually every day. Even if you don't have gobs of time to spend on your songs, you can do something related to your songwriting every couple of days.How many songs should a songwriter Write a year? ›
If you can stick to a song every week or so, you'll end up having written 40 to 50 songs in a year, and of those, you'll definitely have some good ones. Even if it's only 30 songs every year, in every 30 songs you'll probably have five to 10 that end up being good.Do songwriters work from home? ›
Songwriters generally possess a strong love for music and, regardless of the level of their success, usually find fulfillment in their careers because they are doing what they love to do. As freelancers, they will control how they spend their day. They will work out of their own home or office.Do publishers pay songwriters? ›
All music publishing income is split 50/50 between the songwriter and the publisher. This is typically referred to as the “writer share” and “publisher share” of income. No matter how many writers and publishers, the publishing royalties are split in this way.
Songwriting might just be for you. All kinds of different songwriters have successful careers creating original lyrics and melodies for record studios, artists, or even themselves. Regardless of whether you're a seasoned songwriter or just starting out, it is possible to build a career creating music and lyrics.Are songwriters born or made? ›
The simple truth is no one is a natural born songwriter. And songwriting is a learnable skill anyone can master given the right tools, strategies and learning. There are hit songwriters such as Harriet Schrock, Jason Blume, Ralph Murphy who are songwriting teachers that are helping budding songwriters.How do you know if you're a good songwriter? ›
- You like your song no matter what anyone else says. This one is much easier said than done when you're starting out as a songwriter. ...
- Your song gets a strong reaction – positive OR negative. ...
- You've achieved the goal you set out when you sat down to write.
Songwriting specifically provides benefits both in the activation of the brain associated with emotion processing and regulation and also has the ability to uncover difficult memories and emotions. Additionally, writing and song completion can increase clients' self-esteem and self-expression.
How old is the youngest songwriter? ›
Brandon Bailey Johnson is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger. Oh yes, and as of Aug. 12, a world record holder. Brandon, 13, is in the book of Guinness World Records for the "World's Youngest Professional Music Producer."Why are songwriters paid so little? ›
Most reputable labels only give around 20% of the revenues from royalties to the artist. The percentage is lower for the songwriters, as they also get paid depending on how successful the song is. Also, if there are multiple songwriters, the small percentage they receive is divided among the other writers.What age is too late for music career? ›
In short, there is no age that is too early or too late to start a career in music. If you love music and want to start doing it professionally, don't let anything stop you!What is the number 1 selling song of all time? ›
According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.Who is America's greatest songwriter? ›
Bob Dylan: America's Greatest Songwriter - LIFE.Do songwriters sell their songs? ›
Songwriters rarely “sell” their songs. When you make a deal with a publisher, record label, or artist to record your song, it's usually in the form of a contract or license. Sometimes a publisher will use the words “work for hire.” This means that they will own your song copyright.How much does Spotify pay songwriter? ›
Spotify pays artists between $0.003 - $0.005 per stream on average. That works out as an approx revenue split of 70/30 - so that's 70% to the artist/rights holders and 30% to Spotify.Do singers get royalties if they didn't write the song? ›
Those members of the band who do not write the songs tend to get paid only a portion of money that is generated from live shows, and (if they're signed to the label) revenue from the sale of the record or download. Remember, labels pay two royalties: 1.How do I start a career as a singer songwriter? ›
- Step 1: To become a full-time singer-songwriter, Get Clear On What You Want! ...
- Step 2: Get An Instrument And Learn It. ...
- Step 3: Write Awesome Songs & Record Them. ...
- Step 4: Get A Website. ...
- Step 5: Get Social. ...
- Step 6: Book Paying Gigs. ...
- Step 7: Build A Loyal Fan Base.
With mechanical royalties, the fee paid per song is currently 9.1 cents. This is often split between Co-Writers and Publishers. Performance royalties have no standard rate. The rate is negotiated between the Songwriter and their Performing Rights Organization.
How can I sell my songs as a songwriter? ›
Pitch your song to a music publisher. Artists will get songs from a wide range of sources, including their record label, manager, producer, studio musicians, friends, loyal fans, and family. But to pitch your song to established artists, your best bet is to go through a music publisher.Is a songwriter a career? ›
Songwriting is a career that is multifaceted, and it may lead to jobs in film, television, performing arts, marketing and advertising. Songwriters are musicians who either compose music or write lyrics for songs within a wide variety of genres.How do I start a music career from nothing? ›
- Figure Out Your Place in the Music Industry. ...
- Set Specific Goals.
- Invest in Your Growth. ...
- Continue to Develop Your Skills. ...
- Create an Outstanding Online Presence.
- Networking Is the Key.
- Make Your Team Early On. ...
- Understand How to Distribute Your Music on the Internet.
It seems too good to be true, but in reality is absolutely 100% possible. As we are about to demonstrate, writing one hit song can make you extremely rich for life. A few years back we interviewed Gary Portnoy, the guy who wrote and sang the theme song for the television show Cheers.How long do song royalties last? ›
As per the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the current term of copyright is 70 years for sound recordings released in 1963 or later. Recordings released prior to 1963 are now in the public domain and do not attract royalties.How do songwriters get rich? ›
Songwriters are paid via 3 royalty streams:
Today, the current rate is 9.1 cents (typically split with co-writers and publishers). Performance Royalty – A songwriter receives a performance royalty when their song is performed on terrestrial broadcast radio, in a live performance venue, or via online streaming services.
- Find a trustworthy funding source. First and foremost, you'll need to find where your funding will come from. ...
- Know how to approach. ...
- Decide how much you need. ...
- Spend it wisely. ...
- Start-up loans. ...
- Arts grants. ...
- Private investors & sponsors. ...