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Alternate Career Titles:

Composer, Lyricist, Writer

Career Overview: The songwriter writes lyrics, melodies, music, or complete songs. He can sell this written material or pitch it to established musical groups or performers.

Salary: $500 to $1,000,000+

Become A Songwriter

About This Music Career

Songwriter is one of the most desired jobs in the music industry. Song writing includes penning lyrics, coming up with the melody, or both. Two or more songwriters can collaborate on a project, though different songwriters can go about their work in different ways. Some sound songwriters work out a routine with their schedule, and will sit down at the same time every day in an attempt to write a winning song. Others will wait for inspiration before they write. There are even those who may write the music first and then try to find the perfect lyrics to match; still others may do the opposite. When a songwriter finishes a song, they have to find a way to get it picked up by an artist. The main goal of the songwriter is not only getting the song recorded, but having it recorded by someone who can turn the record into a hit.

In order to find someone to record the song, the songwriter uses any contacts he has, reaching out to anyone who might be interested. This list of people includes publishers, musical acts, record producers, A&R reps (A&R contacts list found here), and managers. The songwriter can then send demos to anyone who is interested. If the songwriter is lucky enough to have their demo selected by a publisher or A&R person, he can sell them the song outright, or he can sell the rights to the song. Either way, the songwriter will need advice from their entertainment attorney (purchase an entertainment attorneys contacts list here) before moving forward. And, even though the songwriter is the creator of the song, he does not receive much further recognition after the point of sale.

In terms of work hours, the songwriter might work long and hard, or he might get inspired by something at an odd time which will require him to sit down and start writing.


Songwriters salaries are somewhat unpredictable. There are more variables affecting their incomes than there are in many other music careers. These include the number of songs published or sold, how often those songs are played, what types of agreements are made, and even which portions of songs were written by the songwriter himself. Also, if a songwriter collaborates on a project, he will have to split his income with his partner.

While many people can write songs, it is tough to sell and publish them. Songs can be written for studio albums, live performances, radio or TV jingles, and more. Songwriters can write full time or part time, and they might even be musicians who enjoy writing their own music.

The main way for a songwriter to advance their career is to write songs that turn into hits. This can happen at any point in the songwriter's career.

Education and Training

Songwriters don't need to be formally educated, but they might study music theory, orchestration, harmony, or music business, and learn instruments as well. There are courses they can take in lyric writing, but again, this is not a requirement.

Experience, Skills, and Personality
Songwriters need to be creative and talented, with knowledge of the music business to help them market and sell songs. Playing an instrument can also be helpful in song writing. Due to the unpredictable nature of the profession, songwriters need to be persistent and patient.

Unions and Associations
Organizations open to songwriters include the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC. Songwriters might also be members of the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), the association that represents composers and lyricists. In addition, there are the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Country Music Association (CMA), the Gospel Music Association (GMA), and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Write as much material as you can because it helps develop skills.
  • Enroll in song writing workshops for tips and inspiration.
  • Be sure to protect the songs you write by filing them with your governments copyright office.
  • Learn as much as you can about the music business because it will help you sell, publish, and market your songs more effectively.
  • Use your contacts to get your songs listened to by as many people as possible. Get opinions and advice on how to improve your writing.
  • Be patient and persistent.