Ever wondered how much you could be earning, as a songwriter?
Is it possible to earn a sustainable income from writing music?
That’s why we’re here… Let’s find out!
When you think about someone who writes songs for the pop-culture icons (Rihanna, Katy Perry… etc), you might think they’re a league above everybody else, as a songwriter, because they’re earning megabucks…
This isn’t necessarily the case.
According to Jason Blume, in his article for BMI, many of the big-name stars don’t tend to record songs that either themselves or their producers didn’t have a hand in writing.
This isn’t to say it’s impossible to write for them but you would need to get in with the right crowds, fight to be heard, progress up the ladder by working with the right people at any stage in your journey to the top.
Honestly, if you put your mind to it and dig deep, you could certainly achieve this role in the industry. Writing music for pop-icons is an extremely small branch in songwriting and for most of us, it’s not even one that we would consider pursuing. For good reasons too…
- That lifestyle may not be for you.
- You may prefer to steer your songs away from pop culture.
- You may already have a niche/genre which doesn’t fit what the masses are looking for.
- You may, like me, despise the charts with a burning passion… just figured I’d throw that out there 👼🏻
If you are aiming for that, then keep your sites set but try to live in the moment! You’ll need to be constantly addressing new opportunities to get your name to reach the stars!
Remember, songwriting is an art form and a hobby and even when it’s a career, it should still be enjoyed.
If you don’t enjoy what you do in the industry, simply move on to something you do enjoy! There’s always money to be earned… as you’re about to find!
So if you are not writing for the stars, what are your options?
The truth is, writing music for others is just a portion of the songwriting industry. Writing for popular artists is a tiny portion… of that portion!!
Below is a complete list of possible avenues to be explored in the industry of Songwriting:
Songwriting, Recording & Performing & Artist
They’ll receive all of the songwriter’s income, all of the artist’s cut of the record sales and a cut of ticket sales (depending on how many performers there are and if the venue is owed a cut). Not to mention PRS or MCPS (Performance Rights Society & Mechanical Copyright Protection Society income – See their full descriptions here). There is an amazing article on this topic by Kelsey McKinney, for Splinter, which details NeYo’s issue with songwriter earnings. With the ability to write, record and perform, there are basically no limits to your options or income in the songwriting industry.
Sometimes, artists cut out a lot of the leg work by joining sites such as CD Baby. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re extremely handy to have by your side in your music career but I would always recommend that you commit to some research to figure out how you could possibly do that work instead. After all, it’s your money they would be taking a cut from. In fact, I listen to their podcast quite regularly. As much as they highly recommend their services, they also fight the good fight and offer DIY musician tips. Really nice guys too.
Composer for Television & Film
Fairly self-explanatory although these songwriters often write to a brief and, of course, to a visual. The rights to the music are often bought, as a one-time payment, by whoever the music was written for,. There are some cases in which the two parties agree to take suitable percentages of all profits or income but this is rare.
Songwriter for Other Artists (As mentioned in the introduction)
This is someone who writes songs for other people to perform. The income for this line of work is based primarily on percentages of sales. Let’s say for example, you wrote a song for Adele and the song reaches number 1. It earns millions… You would receive a prior-agreed percentage of however much that song makes. On a much smaller scale, there are websites such as SongBay which, among many other options, offers you the chance to sell the copyright of your music to other artists for a fee that you determine as the seller. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Song Bay does not take a cut. Some other similar sites may charge you for using their platform.
Composer for Games
This is similar to writing for TV & Film in the sense that you may need to write to a brief or a visual. When you’re starting out, you’ll probably just like to write any old style of music that comes to you, but try to imagine what potential clients would be looking for. The production needs to be top-notch!
When selling, both parties may agree on percentages of the game sales although, as is most often the case, the creator simply sells the music to the designers of the game for a set fee.
Fun fact: This is actually a niche that I want to eventually journey into.
Tips from my research: Stick to one niche. If that’s “relaxation – sleeping” music then stick to that. Market the sh*t out of yourself in that specific niche and you’ll find your name will gather more followers that way. Basically, avoid becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. I’ve set up my own YouTube playlist of inspiration in my niche. You could do the same thing with yours.
This means that you are capable of dabbling in some, or all, of the above. Although be aware, any one of the above roles will require a large amount of your time, socialising and connection-making. If you’re wanting to dabble in more than one of them, I would highly recommend starting with one before taking baby steps into another sub-industry of songwriting. The only two sub-industries that can easily go hand in hand are “Writing For TV and Film” and “Writing For Games”. This is only because you could might be able to use all of the same equipment and social platforms. I could be wrong! So I would play it safe.
To be a songwriter is to be constantly sociable. You will be forgotten rapidly if you do not remain a prominent feature in your chosen industry. You could do this via social media or search engines. As some of you may know, if you’ve read a few of these blogs, I’m a big fan of Pinterest. You can find out why by visiting this blog or downloading our eBook on Pinterest For Musicians from our archives. You can actually access our entire archives using the signup form at the bottom of this blog!
So how much can be earned then?
As far as exact earnings are concerned, you could earn anything from pennies (relying on streaming plays on YouTube or iTunes etc) to 5 or 6 figure earnings in a year depending on your work ethic.
You need to be smart, think intelligently and carefully about how you connect with others in the industry, how you portray yourself as a professional and how you market yourself and your work.
For anyone who simply needs to see some numerical figures, here’s an article based on an average yearly income of someone who writes songs for other artists. It states that songwriting for other artists can earn you approximately $40k Per Year, although I would reiterate that it takes time, effort, dedication and creative intelligence to make it as an entrepreneur and as a songwriter of any kind. You’re reading this blog… research is good, so you’re definitely on the right path.
Keep Playing & Good Luck
Founder | Jam Tavern
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