Songwriting is one of those professions where you do the job and someone else takes the credit. When listening to a nice song, for instance, the first thing that comes to mind is the musician behind it, not the songwriter.
Well, if you are a creative person who prefers working behind the scenes and you love music, you could become a songwriter or composer.
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1. What Do Songwriters Do?
- Generating ideas for new songs – the ideas could come from personal experiences, those of friends and relatives or even from past and current happenings around the world
- Writing song lyrics – the song could be in any genre from pop to classical, soul or jazz
- Marketing the lyrics to musicians, agents, band managers and record labels
- Holding meetings with musicians to refine the lyrics
- Producing demos – these are recordings that demonstrate the songs’ potential
- Creating lyrics for specific purposes, such as film productions – this calls for other roles, like reading through movie scripts to identify the character of the singer and the general mood of the movie
- Interpreting music lyrics to other languages
Although songwriters often specialize in a specific genre, they are well-versed with several music styles.
2. Work Environment
Many songwriters are self-employed, so they don’t have a standard work schedule. They could write a song in the middle of the night, early morning or any other time some inspiration runs down their spine!
Songwriters can also work from their houses, private offices, recording studios, on a beach… literally anywhere they feel comfortable.
This doesn’t, however, mean they aren’t hardworking. In fact, songwriters are quite the worker bees. When they are not writing new songs, you can find them pitching their products or networking with industry professionals who can help advance their careers.
Although CareersinMusic.com says songwriters earn an average annual salary of $40,000, expect to earn much more if you can write hit songs. The site says you can earn millions of dollars in royalties.
4. Entry Requirements
Really, you don’t need any professional training to become a songwriter. If you have a natural songwriting talent and your passion for music is over the top, you can very much compose nice songs.
However, in an industry where songs are fiercely competing to rule the airwaves, there is a need to refine your talent and sharpen your skills.
A good number of colleges offer undergraduate programs in music composition, which can improve your knowledge of songwriting, music theory, creative writing, creative entrepreneurship, and poetry and literature. These schools include:
5. Important Qualities
Besides the education, you also need the following skills, interests and abilities:
- A high level of creativity
- A passion for music
- The ability to play one or more (preferably more) music instruments
- Good communication and organizational skills
- A knowledge of modern music technology
- A knowledge of copyright laws
- Strong business skills
- Good networking skills
- The ability to influence others
- Self-confidence and determination (the willingness to pursue what you want to achieve for as long as it takes to achieve it)
- Good computer skills for using music composition software
6. Career Advancement
As you can guess, finding success in this industry largely depends on whether you can write hit songs or not.
As such, you should focus on perfecting your songwriting craft and composing hit song after hit song. This way, established musicians will come with huge pay checks looking for your services.
Additionally, join professional associations such as the Songwriters Guild of America and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers to access more networking opportunities and industry events.
You can also pursue a master’s degree in songwriting to further improve your musical knowledge and songwriting skills.
7. Job Opportunities
Although many songwriters are self-employed, you may find fulltime positions in:
- Established songwriting companies
- Recording companies
- Film production companies
- Music management firms
With vast experience and a good number of clients, you can start your own songwriting company. With a master’s degree, you can be hired by music colleges where you will be tasked with nurturing future writers.
Some songwriters also move on to become recording artists.
Competition for songwriting jobs is strong, as the Bureau of Labor Statics predicts a slower-than-average job growth (5 percent) for composers. Much depends on your ability and determination. Writing just one sweet song can be the big break you need to open up a world of opportunities. As always, remember that networking is key.