How to Make Money as a Songwriter: 20 Profitable Ideas

Reading Time: 14 minutes

In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, finding diverse income streams is crucial for long-term sustainability. If you’re wondering how to make money as a songwriter, you’re not alone.

The good news is that the digital age has opened up a plethora of opportunities for songwriters to not only showcase their talent but also generate income in multiple ways.

One tip that can set you on the path to financial freedom is diversification: don’t rely solely on selling your original songs. From licensing your music for films and TV shows to offering online courses, there are numerous ways to turn your lyrical prowess into a profitable venture.

In this article, we will delve into 20 ways you can earn a living as a songwriter.

Quick Takeaways:

  1. Diversification Is Key: Don’t rely solely on selling original songs; the digital age offers multiple ways to monetize your talent, from film and TV licensing to teaching and online platforms.
  2. Selling Original Songs: An upfront payment and ongoing royalties make this a steady income stream, especially if the song becomes popular.
  3. Film and TV Licensing: A lump sum payment plus performance royalties can make this a lucrative option, while also massively increasing your exposure.
  4. Self-Publishing: Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music allow you to maintain complete control and test your market while earning from streams.
  5. Commercial Jingles: A quick, highly-specialized way to earn money that can lead to long-term partnerships with brands.
  6. Royalty Collection Agencies: Join a PRO (Performance Rights Organization) to collect royalties from public performances, a significant income source as your music gains popularity.
  7. Patreon or Crowdfunding: Direct fan engagement through platforms like Patreon can offer a stable income source, letting you focus more on the creative side.

1. Sell Original Songs to Artists

Selling your original songs to artists is one of the most direct ways how to make money as a songwriter. When an artist records and releases one of your songs, you usually receive an upfront payment for the rights. In addition to this initial sum, you also earn royalties whenever the song is sold, streamed, or played on the radio.

The royalties can turn into a steady income stream, especially if the song becomes popular. Furthermore, having a well-known artist sing your song can significantly increase your reputation in the industry, making it easier to sell more songs in the future.

Actionable Strategies for Selling Your Songs:

  • Create a Portfolio: Develop a portfolio of your best work to present to artists or their representatives.
  • Network: Attend industry events, join songwriter groups, and use social media to connect with artists who might be interested in your work.
  • Pitch Your Songs: Reach out to artists, either directly or through their managers or record labels, and present them with your portfolio.

2. Film and TV Licensing

Licensing your music for film and TV can be incredibly lucrative and can also expose your work to millions of people. It’s also another way to make money as a songwriter.

Production companies pay a licensing fee to use your song in their project, which is often a lump sum payment. Additionally, every time the project is aired or streamed, you’ll receive performance royalties.

Your music could be featured in a critical scene of a blockbuster movie or popular TV show, effectively serving as a promotion for you as a songwriter.

Actionable Strategies for Film and TV Licensing:

  • Register Your Work: Ensure all your songs are copyrighted and registered with a PRO (Performance Rights Organization).
  • Seek Out Licensing Companies: Approach music licensing companies that specialize in placing songs in movies and TV shows.
  • Create Versatile Tracks: Write and produce “sync-friendly” music—songs that can easily fit various moods and scenes.

3. Self-Publish Your Work

Self-publishing has become increasingly viable thanks to digital platforms like Spotify, Music Diffusion, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

While the revenue from individual streams is small, the collective earnings can be significant, especially as you grow your audience.

You retain complete control over your work and can use these platforms to test out your market, refine your sound, and even attract the attention of record labels.

Actionable Strategies for Self-publishing:

  • Distribute Digitally: Use a digital distribution service like DistroKid or TuneCore to upload your music to various platforms.
  • Promote Your Music: Leverage social media, blogs, and music forums to drive traffic to your streaming profiles.
  • Analyze Listener Data: Use analytics tools provided by these platforms to understand your audience and refine your music accordingly.
Screenshot of musicdiffusion homepage

4. Collaborate with Artists or Producers

Collaborating with established artists or producers can be a mutually beneficial relationship. You bring your songwriting skills to the table, and they bring their performance, production expertise, and possibly even a built-in audience.

Such collaborations can lead to paid opportunities, and a share of the royalties, and can open doors to other industry connections.

Actionable Strategies for Collab Activities;

  • Identify Potential Collaborators: Make a list of artists or producers whose style complements your own.
  • Reach Out: Contact them with a well-crafted proposal and samples of your work.
  • Be Professional: Treat the collaboration like a business partnership, complete with contracts to protect both parties.

5. Songwriting Contests

Entering songwriting contests can provide more than just prize money; they offer exposure and the opportunity to be heard by industry professionals.

Winning or even just placing in a reputable competition can make a meaningful addition to your resume, potentially leading to more opportunities down the line, such as publishing deals or collaborations.

Actionable Strategies for Songwriting Contests:

  • Research Reputable Contests: Look for contests that are well-known and have a history of launching careers.
  • Submit Your Best Work: Choose your most compelling songs for submission, and make sure they are well-produced.
  • Promote Your Participation: Use social media to inform your network about the contest, as some competitions involve public voting or sharing.

6. Commercial Jingles

Writing commercial jingles is a specialized skill that has its own unique set of rewards. Companies are often willing to pay a premium for a short, catchy jingle that captures the essence of their brand and sticks in the minds of consumers and will help you to make money as a songwriter.

Given the short format, a jingle project won’t consume too much of your time, allowing you to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

It’s a great way to diversify your income while still utilizing your musical and lyrical talent, and success in this space can lead to long-term partnerships with brands or advertising agencies.

Actionable Strategies for Commercial Jingles:

  • Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio specifically aimed at commercial jingles. This could include small projects you’ve done for local businesses or mock jingles for well-known brands.
  • Approach Advertising Agencies: Cold-email your portfolio to advertising agencies, or try to set up in-person meetings to discuss potential collaborations.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with current advertising trends to ensure your jingles align with what companies are looking for.

7. Teaching and Workshops

If you’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in songwriting, teaching can be an excellent source of income. Offering workshops or one-on-one lessons allows you to monetize this expertise.

The experience is not only financially rewarding but can also be fulfilling on a personal level as you help aspiring songwriters hone their craft.

As you gain a reputation, you could scale this into larger workshops, online courses, or even a teaching position at a music institution.

Actionable Strategies for Teachings and Workshops:

  • Identify Your Niche: Are you an expert at lyric writing, melody creation, or the full package? Know your strengths and tailor your teaching around them.
  • Advertise Your Services: Use social media platforms and local bulletin boards to advertise your workshops and classes.
  • Start Small: Begin with shorter workshops or one-on-one lessons to build up testimonials and word-of-mouth recommendations.
screenshot of sample songwriter courses at udemy

8. Royalty Collection Agencies

Joining a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC is crucial for any serious songwriter.

These agencies collect royalties generated from the public performance of your music, whether it’s radio airplay, live concerts, or even music being played in a public space like a restaurant. This can become a significant income stream as your music gains popularity.

Actionable Strategies for Royalty Collection:

  • Register Your Music: Once you’re a member of a PRO, make sure to register each song you release.
  • Keep Records: Maintain accurate and up-to-date records of where your music is being played.
  • Monitor Payouts: Regularly check your PRO account to ensure that you’re receiving the royalties you’re due.

9. YouTube Channel

Creating a YouTube channel can serve multiple purposes: It’s a platform to showcase your work, build an audience, and earn money through ad revenue.

While the initial earnings can be modest, they can grow significantly as your subscriber base increases.

Moreover, having a strong YouTube presence can attract other money-making opportunities like sponsorships and collaborations.

Actionable Strategies for YouTube:

  • Quality Over Quantity: Invest in good recording equipment and video editing software to make your channel look professional.
  • Regular Updates: Consistency is key. Make sure to upload new content regularly to keep your audience engaged.
  • Engage With Your Audience: Respond to comments and consider your viewers’ feedback for future content.

10. Sponsorships and Brand Partnerships

As your reputation grows, you might attract the attention of brands interested in reaching your audience. Sponsorships and brand partnerships can be lucrative, especially if the brand aligns well with your musical style or the themes you frequently explore in your songs.

You could get paid for social media posts, inclusion of products in your videos, or even writing a song for the brand.

Actionable Strategies for Sponsorships and Brand Partnerships:

  • Build a Media Kit: Create a professional media kit to send to potential sponsors, showcasing your audience metrics and past successes.
  • Target the Right Brands: Make a list of brands that align with your music and aesthetic, and pitch to them directly.
  • Negotiate Contracts Carefully: When you do land a sponsorship, make sure the terms are clear, fair, and beneficial for both parties.

11. Patreon or Crowdfunding

For micro-influencers looking to understand how to make money as a songwriter, leveraging a dedicated following can offer a stable income source. Platforms like Patreon enable you to roll out exclusive content, early access to your latest songs, and other special perks for subscribers who chip in a monthly fee.

This arrangement creates a win-win situation: Your most enthusiastic followers get more of the content they crave, while you enjoy a steadier income stream that lets you focus on the creative side of things.

Unlike other revenue models that involve third parties, Patreon allows direct interaction with your fans, further solidifying your financial stability.

Actionable Strategies for Crowdfunding and Patreon Initiatives:

  • Plan Exclusive Content: Outline a content calendar specifically for your Patreon subscribers to keep them engaged.
  • Promote on Other Platforms: Utilize your other social media channels to funnel followers to your Patreon account.
  • Offer Tiers: Create different subscription tiers with varying levels of perks to cater to different budgets.

12. Merchandise

Selling merchandise like t-shirts, hoodies, or lyric books can provide another income stream while also serving as promotional material.

Your dedicated followers will love the chance to own something tangible related to your music, and each item they buy and wear becomes a walking advertisement for your brand.

Actionable Strategies for Merchandising:

  • Quality Over Quantity: Focus on creating high-quality merchandise that reflects the quality of your brand and music.
  • Online Store: Set up an easy-to-use online store and promote it across all your social media channels.
  • Limited Editions: Create limited edition merchandise for special events or milestones to create urgency and exclusivity.

13. Custom Songs

Offering to write custom songs for personal occasions like weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays can fetch a premium price. It’s a unique service that not only generates income but can also result in deeply meaningful work.

Furthermore, these special projects often come through word-of-mouth, expanding your network and potentially leading to additional opportunities.

Actionable Strategies for Custom Songs:

  • Advertise Your Service: Create a section on your website dedicated to your custom songwriting services.
  • Set Clear Terms: Provide a clear outline of what the service entails, including pricing, revisions, and delivery timelines.
  • Request Testimonials: After delivering a custom song, ask for testimonials to use in your marketing materials.
fiverr account of Douglas Halnes - how to make money as a songwriter

14. Sync Licensing for Independent Creators

With the growing number of podcasts, indie games, and YouTube creators, there’s an increasing demand for original, affordable music.

The competition in this space may not be as fierce as traditional sync licensing, making it an accessible option for micro-influencers in the music space.

This is an excellent way to get your music heard while also earning money.

Actionable Strategies for Sync Licensing:

  • Create a Catalog: Develop a catalog of licensable music, and make it easily accessible for potential clients to listen to.
  • Network with Indie Creators: Join online forums and communities where independent creators congregate and present their services.
  • Offer Packages: Create various licensing packages to make it easier for independent creators with smaller budgets to work with you.

15. Session Work

Many songwriters double as skilled musicians, which opens the door to session work as a profitable side hustle. Whether you’re adding guitar riffs, keyboard sections, or background vocals, your multifaceted skills can be an asset in a studio environment.

This is more than just a way to make ends meet; it’s also a pathway on how to make money as a songwriter. Plus, these gigs offer an excellent opportunity to network in the industry, which could pave the way for additional songwriting opportunities down the line.

Actionable Strategies for Session Work:

  • Showcase Your Skills: Create a portfolio showcasing your musical skills, not just your songwriting, to attract session work.
  • Network in Studios: Use your connections to find out about session opportunities and offer your services.
  • Set Professional Rates: Know your worth and set your rates accordingly. Make sure to get agreements in writing to ensure you’re fairly compensated.

16. Mechanical Royalties

Mechanical royalties are an often-overlooked revenue stream for songwriters. Every time your song is streamed, downloaded, or physically sold, you are entitled to a mechanical royalty.

These royalties are typically collected by organizations such as the Harry Fox Agency in the U.S. or the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society in the UK. Registering your work with these organizations ensures that you receive the payments you are entitled to.

This could become a significant source of income as your music gains more traction, and it’s also a passive income stream that can pay out over many years.

Actionable Strategies for Mechanical Royalties:

  • Register Your Works: As soon as you release a new song, make sure you register it with the relevant organizations.
  • Monitor Your Streams: Use analytics to track how often your songs are being streamed or sold and reconcile this with your royalty statements.
  • Consult a Music Attorney: To ensure you’re getting all the mechanical royalties you’re entitled to, consider consulting a music attorney who specializes in this area.
Screenshot of songtrust homepage

17. Direct-to-Fan Sales

The most straightforward way to make money is to sell directly to your fans. Whether it’s through your website, social media platforms, or at live events, you can offer digital downloads, CDs, or vinyl records.

This approach cuts out the middleman, allowing you to retain more of the profits. With direct-to-fan sales, you have complete control over the pricing, presentation, and promotion of your music.

Actionable Strategies for Direct-to-Fan Sales:

  • Create a User-Friendly Website: Ensure your website has an intuitive interface where fans can easily purchase your music.
  • Social Media Promotion: Use social media to inform your fans when you have new music available for direct purchase.
  • Offer Bundles: Consider bundling music with other merchandise or exclusive content to encourage higher-value purchases.

18. Sheet Music and Tablature Sales

For the technically inclined songwriter, selling sheet music or tablatures of your songs can be a lucrative option. Musicians often seek out these resources to learn new songs or to study the intricacies of a composition.

Whether you’re offering a piano score or guitar tabs, these materials can provide added value to your music and brand.

Actionable Strategies for Sheet Music and Tablature Sales:

  • Transcribe Your Best Works: Start by transcribing your most popular songs into sheet music or tablature format.
  • Use a Digital Storefront: Use platforms like Shopify or Etsy to sell digital downloads of your transcriptions.
  • Promote Through Music Schools: Partner with music schools to promote or sell your educational resources.

19. Library Music

Library music, or production music, is a pool of pre-cleared tracks that filmmakers, YouTubers, and video game developers can license for their projects.

Your compositions could end up in a variety of media, providing you not only with licensing fees but also broader exposure for your work.

Actionable Strategies for Library Music:

  • Research Reputable Libraries: Investigate which music libraries have the best reputation and offer the most favorable terms.
  • Tailor Your Submissions: Create a range of tracks that suit various moods and settings to increase the likelihood of your music being accepted.
  • Regular Updates: Keep submitting new tracks to keep your catalog fresh and appealing to licensees.

20. Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting for other artists offers a viable path for immediate income and answers the question of how to make money as a songwriter. In this setup, you typically receive an upfront payment for your songwriting skills, although you won’t get public credit or future royalties.

For some songwriters, sacrificing recognition is a reasonable trade-off for quick financial gain.

Actionable Strategies for Ghostwriting:

  • Network Discreetly: Build a network of contacts who are open to ghostwriting collaborations, but remember, discretion is crucial in this line of work.
  • Clear Contracts: Always establish a clear contractual agreement outlining terms, payment, and any other expectations.
  • Build a Ghostwriting Portfolio: Over time, accumulate a portfolio of tracks that you can privately share with potential clients to secure more work.
Screenshot of ghostwriter profile in Fiverr

How To Make Money As A Songwriter – Summary

Navigating the complex terrain of the music industry can be daunting, but as we’ve explored, there are numerous avenues to monetize your songwriting skills.

The key takeaways from this article revolve around diversification, strategic networking, and leveraging online platforms to your advantage. Whether it’s collecting mechanical royalties or diving into the world of sync licensing, each method provides its own set of opportunities and challenges.

If you found this guide on how to make money as a songwriter helpful, we invite you to explore other posts on our blog where we discuss a wide range of topics related to money-making and entrepreneurship, such as;

The importance of building strong relationships within the industry—be it with other artists, producers, or even fans—cannot be overstated. In an era where technology is rapidly changing the way we consume music, staying updated and adaptable is crucial.

Here’s to your future success in the world of songwriting and beyond.

How To Make Money As A Songwriter – FAQs

How much money can a songwriter make per song?

The potential earnings from a single song can be a complex equation, illustrating the challenges and opportunities of how to make money as a songwriter. Factors like licensing, royalties, and upfront payments from artists all play a role. A hit song could rake in thousands of dollars in royalties, while an indie track might see far less. Different types of earnings like mechanical royalties, performance royalties, and sync fees all contribute to the financial landscape of a single song.

How do I get paid as a songwriter?

Payment for songwriters typically comes from multiple sources including mechanical royalties, performance royalties, sync fees, and direct sales. You can collect these payments by registering with performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, or mechanical rights organizations like the Harry Fox Agency.

Can you make good money as a songwriter?

Yes, songwriting can be a lucrative career, but the level of income varies widely among individuals. Established songwriters who’ve penned hit songs can make a substantial income, while beginners may find it challenging to generate revenue. Diversifying your income streams, like venturing into teaching or selling sheet music, can enhance your earning potential.

How do I start a songwriting career?

Starting a songwriting career involves a combination of talent, networking, and business acumen. Develop your songwriting skills through continuous practice and possibly formal education. Networking with artists, producers, and other industry professionals can open doors for collaboration and licensing opportunities. Finally, understanding the business aspects, such as copyright and royalties, is crucial for long-term success.

How can I protect my songs legally?

Copyrighting your work is the most straightforward way to protect your songs legally. You can register your songs with the U.S. Copyright Office or the equivalent in your country. This provides a legal basis for you to collect royalties and take action against infringement.

How can I sell my songs directly to fans?

You can use platforms like Bandcamp or your website to sell songs directly to fans. This approach allows you to retain a larger share of the revenue, as opposed to streaming platforms that take a significant cut.

What are sync licensing opportunities?

Sync licensing refers to the process of licensing your music to be synchronized with visual media like TV shows, movies, and commercials. This can be a significant source of income, especially if your song gets picked up for a popular show or a national advertising campaign.

How do I get into commercial jingle writing?

Breaking into commercial jingle writing often requires a different skill set focused on creating catchy, short tunes that can sell a product. Networking with advertising agencies and producers in this space can help you find opportunities. Creating a portfolio showcasing your ability to write jingles can also be a significant asset.

What are the benefits of collaborating with artists or producers?

Collaborating with established artists or producers can offer valuable exposure and a share in the royalties from the music created. Such partnerships can also provide you with a broader audience and potentially open doors to other lucrative opportunities in the music industry.

Can I make money by teaching songwriting?

Yes, teaching can be a stable income stream for experienced songwriters. You can offer workshops, online courses, or one-on-one sessions. Websites like Teachable and Udemy allow you to create and sell your courses, while Zoom or Skype can facilitate personal coaching sessions.

How can I use social media to boost my songwriting career?

Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook can be used to engage with your audience, network with industry professionals, and promote your work. Consistent posting and interaction can help you build a fanbase, which can translate to more sales and opportunities.

How do I increase my revenue through streaming platforms?

Increasing your revenue through streaming platforms often involves boosting your listener count. This can be done through promotional campaigns, playlist placements, and social media marketing. The more listeners you attract, the higher your streaming royalties will be.

About the author

Disclaimer: Please note this post may contain affiliate links, from which, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products and services I’ve used or would use myself. If you choose to purchase from any of my links, thanks so much for your support! 😊