Becoming a professional songwriter is the dream of many people who enjoy creating music. Unfortunately, most people don't get to the point where they are actually getting paid for it as a full-time job.
With the help of some out-of-the-box thinking, natural-born talents, consistency, and a marketing mindset, I found myself making my dream of being a successful songwriter a reality over the last few years!
As a writer who has worked with over 300 clients and hundreds more non-paid musical opportunities, I've realized several standout important decisions I made in my musical journey that led me to real success.
While most of my songwriting projects are for bands, rappers, singers, producers, and instrumentalists, I also dedicate some time in my career to creating jingles for small businesses that are in need of a great musical advertisement.
I want to share a few key tips that I think everyone out there who is looking to write songs in any genre or style can benefit from.
Finding songwriting lessons can be a bit harder than finding a voice or instrument teacher. Many people like to focus on singing and piano lessons, but learning how to write music is a challenging yet rewarding skill to have under your belt.
You can always learn the basics if you need to start from scratch as a writer. You could also start a little further, depending on your past journey as a songwriter.
Finding songwriting lessons can be much easier when you know where to look. There are four main things you want to consider for your search. Once you figure out these things, you can find what's the best fit for your individual needs.
You can find a local songwriting teacher through a service like TakeLessons. Sites like these sites allow you to find professionals online that are currently available for new clients.
Finding a local or online school that offers songwriting courses is optimal for those looking to learn how to write music as an adult. It's my top recommendation for getting effective results and being able to use the completion of these courses to your advantage.
You can find music classes at schools like Berklee College of Music and Fullsail University. Places like these also have online courses available for students who are not able to travel to campus.
Finding a private songwriting teacher that offers in-person or virtual lessons is a great choice for those who are also learning to write music. A private virtual teacher can get to know you personally and work with your individual needs.
A virtual teacher is also a good idea for someone who can consistently meet with their teacher every week to work on their musical skill, but you can be a little less strict with your meeting times.
This is the best option for those who are living in an area that has limited access to teachers and classes that they can choose.
Finding a virtual songwriting teacher to provide you with a prerecorded training program is a solid choice for those who are also learning to write music. It's a great choice if you find yourself unable to afford a private teacher or local class to go to.
You can find a good songwriting lesson program through a service like Singorama Songwriter. Programs like this allow you to find professionals online that are currently available for anyone.
Studying the best songwriters online is a good idea, but they won't be able to tell you the technical must-haves when it comes to music theory and education. Learning the building blocks of your career is always a great idea.
Ear training and notation can get very complex, so I'm sure there are new things for you to uncover in the theory side of it all. Learning music theory concepts can help take your writing style to the next level and help you gain a unique edge in the industry.
While many people learn and utilize music theory concepts like 1 4 5 1 in a chord progression, you could be having complex progressions in your head that can be catchy and never-before-heard in your genre.
Related Post: The Best Music Theory Books For Beginners
Once you get the hang of songwriting consistently, you should consider using several songwriting tools to make your process more exciting, productive, and easy at the same time.
Many digital and physical tools can take your songs to the next level in terms of creativity and talent if you're willing to try some new things and depending on your style of music.
When writing songs, one major thing you should have accurate pitches to play with for melody and chords.
This can be done with a live instrument or a digital music workstation app like Garageband. I use my piano at home and my Garageband app when I'm out on the go.
I have a few rhyme dictionaries lying around the house, but I mainly use Rhyme Zone for my songwriting needs.
Rhyme Zone has a lot of rhymes, similar-sounding words, and other word tools that really have an unmatched amount of results. It has tons of obscure words that many other rhyming tools miss out on.
Sibelius First is a great free tool that offers songwriters and composers a tool to create their songs visually and by ear at the same time. It's pretty easy to use if you know your way around sheet music, and it allows you to plug in song lyrics as well.
If you're in a popular city, you may be able to find local workshops that have hundreds or thousands of songwriters that gather to learn from each other and network.
This is a great choice for intermediate and advanced songwriters who are looking for motivation and great learning experiences.
A workshop is also a good idea for someone who can't consistently meet with a teacher every week and can only dedicate a few weeks to a few months total.
It's also a wise choice for those who don't have a large budget set aside to do songwriting lessons over a long period of time. You can network with other creatives that are interested in writing music.
You can find beneficial songwriting workshops through companies like ASCAP and schools like NYU. Programs like these are often welcoming to almost anyone of age who has the money to cover the fees.
It's always a good idea to write with other songwriters in your area or with a virtual collaboration to get new ideas and perspectives that you would have never been able to see on your own.
Writing with friends can be a very fun process, in addition to giving you a chance to make your song as appealing as possible! It's also obviously an amazing way to gain experience over time.
Writing collaboratively can also help your networking and career opportunities in general. If you're a singer that's used to writing on your own, step out of your shell and try something new.
You may still prefer to write on your own after the experience, but you will appreciate the process and learning about a whole new set of pros and cons when doing a group project.
Sign up for Freelance sites like Fiverr, Airgigs, and Vocalizr once you feel like you are ready to take things to a professional level and work on other people's projects.
Start your pricing on the low side to gain experience on these platforms and build up a lot of positive ratings from clients.
When it comes to getting leads and potential clients in the freelance music world, you will want to learn how to talk to people in a way that's appropriate for a B2B type of relationship, which means you'll need to also put your marketing and customer service hat on!
A cool way to gain some professionalism, build your brand, and make money in songwriting is to simply enter your songs into songwriting contests.
If you're amazingly gifted, you have an advantage over the thousands of submissions that get sent to popular recurring contests like The John Lennon Songwriting Contest and The International Songwriting Competition.
These contests have first-prize awards as high as $50,000 with trusted business coordinators that have been paying songwriters for decades.
Take a chance and enter your best work to see if you can win a cash prize. Just make sure your songs are really great songs!
PROs for songwriters, or Performance Rights Organizations, are societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters when a song is performed for public broadcast.
This means they collect money on your behalf for the music you’ve written when it’s played or performed.
This includes things like getting played on the radio, being featured in a commercial, or any live broadcasted event. PROs literally track down companies for you to make sure you get paid for your hard work and creations.
Current Songwriter PROs you can sign up with (you only need one):
ASCAP.com/join ($50 fee)
SongTrust.com/join (handles almost all types of royalties for you without the headache of $100!)
Now, although joining a PRO is a very exciting thing to do as a new songwriter in the professional music world, don't expect that it will make you a ton of money at the beginning of your journey.
While songwriters that work on major label and celebrity projects will be bringing home big bucks in the form of royalties, most songs won't make you more than ten bucks, if that. I don't want to burst your bubble, but I don't want to fill your head with lies, either.
If you're a songwriter that also releases your own music and writes for other's projects, you've probably already considered signing up with a music distributor like Distrokid or Tunecore.
In order to get your songs placed on streaming sites like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music, you will need to sign up with a music distributor. Payments from music distributors will include mechanical and performance royalties.
I recommend using Distrokid since it's very user friendly and the most affordable option. Distrokid also will allow you to split the royalties among the performers, writers, producers, and any other parties involved.
According to sources like Indeed and Zip Recruiter, writers can make, on average, between $40k and 60K a year if they get enough requests to write a song. These types of music players don't often get paid by salary; they get paid per project and with royalties.
In some instances, songwriters don't get paid per project and solely rely on royalty share once their song gets picked up by the music industry.
On many occasions, these music writers will do projects that are work-for-hire, absolving them of any rights to a royalty share. On rare occasions, songwriters may charge a flat fee per hour for their work.
The value of a song can be seen differently depending on the project's style, length, and budget.
As a songwriter myself, I have seen anywhere between $200 and $1000 payments for writing a song for independent/local artists or producers.
These types of songwriting projects were mostly for small-time releases and small businesses that had a need for writing in a situation where the song was not likely to blow up and gain a lot of royalties.
If you, for example, were a songwriter who wrote three tracks a week for $300 each, you would be making $4,800 per month, or $57,000 per year, which is pretty decent for making a living in many areas.
This is why Many songwriters also have other day jobs or side hustles to pay the bills.
Songwriters' percentage from royalties will depend on their involvement in the song and the success of the song.
Very popular songwriters get paid per track, but they also get the benefits of mechanical synchronization for each song.
Total royalties owed to a music producer can account for up to $.09 per reproduction or sale of a song and up to .02 per stream of a song.
Mechanical royalties are owed to the composers (including the songwriters) and publisher of a musical work each time a song is sold (50% for the composer and 50% for the publisher).
When songs are used in TV, film, radio, and the like, royalties are owed to the composer (including the songwriters) of the song and the publishing company as well (again, 50% for the composer and 50% for the publisher).
Estimating royalties can be a much harder process since most songs don't generate much, if any, at all.
But if you, for example, were a songwriter who got $4,800 per month by making three songs a week, and those songs were also doing fairly well in the music industry, you could be looking at an extra few thousand dollars a month.
As shown above, from my Distrokid dashboard, I was the songwriter for a track that got a half million players through streaming sites. I collected 20% of the royalties since I wrote most of the lyrics and melody, and there was a separate creator for the beat.
One of my favorite things about Distrokid is the options they give you for royalty splits with other creators. As a hired singer and songwriter, I have way more song releases that are collaborations than I have for my own personal catalog.
My 20% of the royalty share allowed me to earn around $630 from royalties, thanks to that one song. The bulk of the plays came in over a six-month period.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page. As an Amazon Associate, Yona Marie earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon and other affiliate products are recommended to genuinely help readers and keep this site up and running as well.