A songwriter writes the songs that singers, bands and other performers will sing. You could find yourself writing the melody and lyrics of songs or you may also be asked to come up with the tracks that back the music, whether it is for the keyboards, guitars or drums.
You are also expected to know how to play these musical instruments. Since your income will hinge largely on your capacity to produce music that will top the charts, the songs you will create must be patronized commercially. This entails knowing the tunes and lyrics that will be loved by the public.
As a songwriter, you will also be spending a good part of your time recording demos. You will be submitting these demos to music producers and/or singers who might want to buy your material and record it, usually as part of their album. If you are a singer songwriter, you will not only be writing your own songs but recording and performing them as well. Whether you work solely as a songwriter or as a singer songwriter, meeting with music producers and other executives of the music industry is part and parcel of your job.
Like many songwriters, your earnings will come mainly from the royalties derived when people buy the song that a music producer or publisher bought from you for another performer to sing. You are essentially a freelancer. If you happen to work in cities like Nashville where the staff writer culture for songwriters is the norm, you will be working a 9 to 5 job in the office of a song publisher. That means you will be paid monthly for writing songs.
Although it may sound like a regular salary, this monthly payment is actually drawn against the future royalties that will be earned by your song. Once the song you’ve written starts to earn, the producer will first get back his investment before allowing you to earn more royalties. The good thing about songwriters who sign a staff writing deal with a music publisher is that they don’t have to worry about how to pay the bills and can concentrate solely on their craft as a songwriter.
To succeed as a songwriter, you need to be genuinely interested in music. You should also have the technical knowledge needed to write lyrics and put melodies to it. You should also be able to work long hours and be dedicated to the craft. Business savvy is also a must since you need to be able to market your songs effectively to music industry executives so you can earn money.
Why Become A Songwriter
A career as a songwriter is for those who are really dedicated to writing songs. This is well-suited for those who are willing to work hard and persist in marketing their songs to music producers and singers in this highly-competitive industry.
Although establishing a reputation as a songwriter can be difficult at first, it only takes a single hit to earn the big bucks and propel one’s name to the top of the charts and become a sought-after professional in the field.
Songwriter Work Environment
Songwriters who are hired as staff writers for a music publisher report to work in their offices just like any 9-to-5 job. They write songs or collaborate with other songwriters in writing the songs. Songwriters who aren’t connected to any music label but work as freelancers decide when and where they will work.
They may do their recordings in their own studios at home or they may be found in the studio of a music publisher after their song has been bought. Freelance songwriters may have to do more legwork in terms of meeting with singers, producers and publishers in the music industry who might be interested in their music.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have data specifically for songwriters. Data from private research firms peg their average earnings in the vicinity of $40,000 a year. However, those who are new to the industry may not earn a lot and may even have to find another job to support themselves while they are honing their craft.
For songwriters who are fortunate enough to have their songs turn out to become hits, earning a million dollars including royalties is very possible.
Songwriter Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have career projections specifically for songwriters. However, it does forecast that the job outlook for musicians and singers in general, the category which includes songwriters, is good. The employment rate for this occupational category for the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022 is pegged at five percent, a rate that is slower than the national average for all job types. Songwriters will continue to be in demand to produce chart-topping hits that will earn money for music producers.
There are no strict postsecondary degree requirements for a career as a songwriter. However, songwriters can hone their songwriting skills by taking songwriting programs that lead to degrees or by attending workshops or classes. While not mandatory, these also serve as avenues for songwriters to know teachers and other professionals who could help them get their foot in the industry later on.