How to Cash in on Writing Songs

It's hardly a secret: making a good living writing songs is a dream for many people. That's not to say that it's easy, for there is a lot of competition. Not only does an aspiring songwriter have to create a good, salable product, they have to navigate through a sea of agents, managers, talent scouts and various other intermediaries if they hope to break through above the radar, so to speak. If you have the ability to write a good, catchy, well-crafted song–regardless of the genre–you're one step ahead of the rest. Getting to the point where you can cash in on those songs is the hard part. 

Tools and Materials:

  • Innate songwriting talent
  • Musical instrument of choice
  • Computer with an Internet connection
  • Email address

Step 1: Get Writing

This is not something you do once before moving on to the next task. Songwriting is an exercise you practice every day if you can. You might work on one song for 5 years. Experiment with new chord structures, tempos and instrumentation to find a style of music that suits your writing style. As for the lyrics, practice makes perfect. Write about what you know to sound sincere. A good, marketable song will speak to many different people, so lyrical themes should cover common experiences. 

Step 2: Record Your Song

There are many ways to go about this step. Home recording is the choice of many for those who have the tools. Paying for studio time ranges from very affordable to very expensive depending on where you go. The point is, get your song recorded. Depending on how you plan to market it, it may just be a vocal track and a single instrument, or it may involve a full band with a high production value. 

Step 3: Licensing

Music licensing is the process of signing a contract with a firm in business to find buyers for your music. They are usually non-exclusive contracts that don't involve transfer of ownership of the song, meaning you still own the rights to your music and can shop it around elsewhere. Music licensers get songwriters' tunes in movies, TV, promotional compilations, on the Internet and virtually anywhere else you hear music played. They keep a fee, and if your music is used, you typically receive a quarterly royalty check. 

Step 4: Finding an Artist to Play Your Song

A more lucrative although more challenging avenue is to put your music directly into the hands of a successful recording artist. The biggest stars usually don't have time to write their own music, so their people are always looking for songs. This is most likely accomplished going through a music publisher or record company, so it'll take a lot of work, but the payoff could be huge. 

Step 5: Self Publishing

Probably the hardest route is self publishing. This is where you write a song, record it and publish it yourself under the domain of a publishing company you start. If your song is a hit, you stand to make the most money this way, but it involves getting your name out there and convincing music fans to buy your music based on the power of your song.