I am lucky to make a living as both a songwriter and a “regular writer.” When I tell other writers about my songwriting, they typically respond with, “I wish I could do that!” My response is always, “Why don’t you?” I hear reasons like, “I don’t know how,” or “I can’t sing.” These excuses seem reasonable, but I’m here to tell you that if you’re a writer, you CAN be a songwriter and you CAN get paid for it! Here’s a step-by-step process to becoming a songwriter:
1. Analyze your strengths
If you’re someone who doesn’t use a lot of creative writing, you’ll want to start putting some work into this. Songwriting is all about emotion. Take your latest piece of writing and see how it could be a song. If you’re thinking, “nothing I write could be a song,” here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve written an article about online shopping. It’s a straight-forward, how-to guide. What if the person shopping is buying things to care for a sick loved one? What if they have a spending addiction and need to stop? Use imaginative stories to find your lyrics.
2. Practice lyric writing
Having a great story won’t matter if you can’t make it fit the music. This is the biggest issue with new lyric writers. They don’t know how to write in a way that will fit into a song. Songwriting is largely math-based. If line one has 6 syllables, line two should as well (you can play around with this once you’re experienced, but for now just keep it simple). Use a metronome and say your words out loud. Can you clearly speak them to a beat? If not, make edits.
3. Meet cowriters
Now you’re ready to put your words to music! If you already play an instrument, you’re a step ahead. However, you can easily meet potential cowriters at open mic nights. I saw a woman read a poem she wrote at an open mic. She was so good that several people asked her to co-write after she was done! Practice speaking your words and getting into a rhythm, then perform them in front of musicians. If you’re stage-shy, post them on your website and social media. Connect with other writers and offer your awesome lyric writing skills.
4. Get co-writing credit
This is where the money is. When you write a song with someone, whoever’s name is on the track gets paid. Determine how you’ll split royalties ahead of time (before the song is finished or released). Typically, if two people write a song they’ll split it 50/50. Decide how you want to split it and go from there. Do not give away your credit unless you are offered some type of up-front pay!
5. Get paid
Now you’re at the point where you’ll pitch your songs to publishers. You and/or your co-writers will attend pitching events or submit by mail or email. Sign up for a royalty tracking service (BMI or ASCAP are used in the USA) and register your songs. Use those companies to find pitches in your area, or find publishing houses through them to submit songs. You don’t need a big hit for decent money! If your song is chosen for a commercial, you’ll get a few cents every time it’s played. This adds up!
Hopefully these tips will inspire you to try songwriting. It can be a fun and creative way to earn income, and you might write the next big hit!
BIO – Mella Barnes is a singer/songwriter with writing featured in Songwriting Magazine and The Huffington Post. She blogs about the music business, giving advice to new songwriters at www.mellamusic.com