The Songwriter Profession Explained

The Songwriter Profession Explained

A songwriter, like any other profession, requires passion, a creative mind, and a penchant for writing.

Their main priority is to create songs for artists, bands and other musicians to perform as their own, while retaining the credit for coming up with the piece in the first place.

Often, songwriters are also performers, so they will create their own material for their records and shows, as well as collaborate with other singer/songwriters.

It’s also common for songwriters to create background music and melodies for jingles and ads. A great example of this is everyone’s favorite Mini Wheats Theme song!

To call yourself a true songwriter, you must also know how to write both lyrics and melodies, as opposed to a lyricist who just writes the lyrics and leaves it up to the artist who will be performing the song to come up with the melody.

Freelancer vs. Staff Writer

Think of a songwriter as a freelancer. Basically, they can choose to work for themselves, anywhere and everywhere, making their own schedule and creating music on their own to sell to other performers.

This is a great route to take if you’re a self-starter and enjoy finding ways to become inspired and creative through your experiences. The downside is that you are your only promoter – at least in the beginning. You must find a way to get your songs in front of the right people if you want to get your music heard and make money.

If you’re able to create and sell a few number one hits, then you’ll be set for life, but getting there can be a challenge – certainly not impossible if you love what you do.

The alternative route would be to get a job as a staff writer where you would work exclusively with a publisher at set hours in their studio.

The perks of going in this direction is that you are guaranteed a steady income and the publisher will work to not only promote your songs to major performers, but promote you in a way that would be very hard to do on your own.

They have access to a very large network that you don’t have, especially when you are just starting out.

What Exactly Do You Do as a Songwriter?

What it means to be a singer-songwriterBesides writing songs, the main goal is to create hit songs that are geared toward a very specific industry, genre and audience. Getting a few chart-toppers are what will ultimately make or break your career.

Tip: Listen to music everywhere you go and study it. Look at why certain music is more popular than other music, and recognize why certain songs are hits and others aren’t.

Generally, when a writer sits down to compose a song, they will write the lyrics first. Then they will add the melody in, which is why it comes in handy to know how to play at least one musical instrument, if not more. But this process largely depends on the songwriter.

Once the song is written, a demo is created. A demo is a recording of the song that will later be used to pitch to publishers, artists, performers or producers. If a publisher likes they hear, they will purchase the rights to it, and this is where you’ll begin to make your money.

So, working for a publisher can make your life a bit easier, especially if you’re not the type of person to enjoy putting yourself out there. If you do take the freelancing route, it’s important to always be networking, because it’s through your connections that your career will begin to grow. Getting to know the movers and the shakers is key – they will make sure your songs are heard by the right people.

Personal branding is another thing that can be key to the success of your songwriting career. If you create a lifestyle around you and your music, and cultivate a following, you will have people knocking down your door to get a piece of your talent.

Basically, it comes down to showing the world that you have something different to offer, and social media is the perfect tool to showcase this.

What Do Artists Gain from Songwriting?

Whether you plan to make it as a performer, you already have, or you’re simply writing music on the side, songwriting can benefit your career in many ways, especially if you’re passionate about it.

As mentioned above, it’s a hard field to break into, but if you have a vested interest and you’re good at what you do, the industry will naturally follow.

Good songwriting gives you credibility and shows that you are a toolbox full of multiple talents instead of just a pretty face. This can be important when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other musicians in the business.

Although your income is not always guaranteed and you may have to work several side gigs to make it through until your music gets picked up, if this is what inspires you and drives you to get out of bed in the morning, then success is worth the price you pay – like in any other profession.

How Do Songwriters Make Money?

There are quite a few ways for songwriters to make money, but first publishers and producers must pick up their songs. Once royalties have been purchased, it then depends on the kind of royalties and what the publisher intends to do with your music.

For example, there are royalties for physical and digital music, both from the original and covered version of the recordings. If a publisher buys the “Public Performance Royalties” of your song, then you get a portion of the money generated from every time the song is performed on stage.

There are a ton of other royalties that can be generated from the copyright of your song. For more information on royalties, check out this post via TuneCore.


Don’t expect to be a famous songwriter right away, but if you work hard and network with the right people, your career will be well on its way before you know it!

9 Ways to Make More Money in the Music Industry

9 Ways to Make More Money in the Music Industry

Hey all, Happy Valentine’s! The following post is by Kristy Archibald. She is a contract writer for The Music Entrepreneur HQ.

In the future, you can expect to see more great content written by her.

This does not mean that you won’t hear from me too, of course. It just means we’re growing and evolving as a business and resource for music entrepreneurs.

So, let’s join Kristy for her first post!

The digital age is bittersweet.

We have accessibility, the ability to grow an audience from the comfort of our living rooms, and the potential to connect with our audiences on a personable level.

But we also live in the age of instant gratification. Generating an income in the music industry, especially when you are just starting out, can be a challenging uphill battle, and if you don’t have a long-term plan, you might end up giving up prematurely.

People are picky about what they spend their money on and will always look for ways to get what they want quicker and cheaper.

As result, music sales have decreased over the past couple of years. Gone are the days when launching a new album could support your entire musical career.

The good news is that no one has stopped listening to music – they have just found other ways of satisfying their listening needs.

Consequentially, as a music entrepreneur you must go the extra mile to ensure that your audience is hearing your music and you are giving them a reason to spend money on your product – like any other business venture.

Here are nine different ways you can make a living working in the music industry:

1. Music Sales

While music sales alone may not support your career, this does not mean you shouldn’t tap into it. It can be one of your most lucrative revenue streams if you’re strategic in your approach.

Here are several potential income sources:

  • CD’s: For the most part these are a thing of the past – most new computers don’t even have a CD port anymore. However, discs can make for great merchandise to sell at shows and an even better item for personalized autographs. If your fans love you enough, they will buy – it’s as simple as that.
  • Vinyl records: Ironically enough, CD sales are more a thing of the past than vinyl. Records are the new up and coming trend, and music lovers enjoy collecting their favorite band’s music on vinyl. Having these on your merch table can be a great way of making some extra income, especially after a live show. If you don’t have much of a fan base, however, do not rush into printing records.
  • Digital sales: This is the new default for music sales, and it is almost crucial for the success of your band. The most profitable way to sell music online is through your own website, but in order to make those sales you need to have an active and engaged audience. Having your music on iTunes and Amazon is great for your exposure and may result in more sales. But don’t forget that these digital distributors usually take a percentage on each sale, so be weary of which sites you are using and what the ROI will be for your band.

2. Become a Social Media Influencer

This, like any other marketing strategy, requires you to create a flawless personal brand that gives your music a unique identity.

Curating a following on social media is a relatively cheap and great way to get the attention of major record labels, while extending the reach of your music, which should automatically translate into sales.

It also opens you up to opportunities to participate in ads, do sponsored posts, attend influencer events, do product endorsements, and work on collaborations with different companies and local brands. You’d be amazed at how much can be made simply from having a strong social media presence.

3. Live Shows

Aside from making your music available for sale online, the best way to expand your fan base and sell your music is to get in front of your audience and play shows.

Ticket sales are a great revenue generator, and if it’s your own show, then you have the option of preparing a merch table to sell branded items, including CDs and records.

Playing local venues is a good way to get to know your audience, versus larger venues or local events, where you can reach people who don’t necessarily know of you or your music yet.

Lastly, there are cover gigs. Oftentimes, musicians find these to be more profitable than standard original shows at cafés, bars, pubs, and clubs. This largely depends on your market.

In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, we have a yearly event called the Calgary Stampede, which is a rodeo, exhibition, and festival, complete with parades, concerts, stage shows, and more. As result, both cover bands and country bands tend to do very well in this locality.

Whether to play cover shows is entirely up to you – some musicians love it, but others find that it doesn’t contribute to their overall goal of making music they love and making a living from it.

4. Music Lessons

This one is simple. There will always be people interested in learning how to learn how to sing or how to play an instrument.

This can be a great income source to get on the side while you’re establishing yourself in the music industry. Plus, you are technically being paid to do what you love to do. It’s a win-win!

5. Songwriting & Composing

Various revenue strategies for musiciansThis can be an efficient way to get your name out there and establish yourself as a talented songwriter. It also pays well, depending on whom you’re writing for.

We’ll be taking a closer look at becoming a songwriter in the future, but you can also listen to our interview with Helen Austin to learn more.

6. YouTube

It’s crucial to have your music on YouTube for many reasons. The main one is that YouTube is the top search engine for music fans, and the preferred medium to listen to music on, in some cases replacing the radio and even Spotify.

This is because it is convenient, being free for users to listen to anything and everything whenever they please. It also works as a powerful promotional tool for sharing, as it allows you to share your music on multiple platforms and reach thousands of people.

Lastly, there is a ton of ad revenue generated by YouTube. When your music is used in an ad or video, you will get a portion of the pie from that campaign since you own the rights to the song.

7. Licensing

Licensing can be hugely lucrative if you get your music in a film or commercial with a large licensing budget.  This is also good for the exposure of your music, as if it catches someone’s attention long enough, there is a good chance you have just gained a fan.

Getting placed is another topic we covered with Helen Austin.

8. Sell Merch & Exclusive Content

This is all part of your branding, because ultimately your music and personal brand are what make up your business.

If done well, fans will always love a good band tee. You can even look at partnering with local brands to create a merch line exclusive to those who have bought your music.

Fans will do anything to support their favorite bands and they also love to be the first to get that one-of-a-kind item.

You can also send the merch to bloggers and influencers in hopes that they will promote your music and brand, which in the end turns into more sales. Exposure is everything when it comes to the ROI of your music!

9. TV Appearances

This is just one more way to get in front of your audience and tap into a new fan base. It allows your audience to get to know you and it humanizes the music, allowing people to relate to you, which makes them want to buy your tunes.

When you can get someone to connect with your music on a personal level, you have scored yourself a fan, which is a revenue stream.