You may also find our page on 'How to become a singer' helpful.
A songwriter will create a song – including both the lyrics and musical composition – and sell this to a singer. Unless of course the person is also a performer and may therefore have the song themselves!
Songwriters can choose to work either on their own, or they can work as a team with one or more others. Many songwriters can play one or more instruments and sing themselves; sometimes this is expected of them as it means they can be a lot more involved with the whole process of writing a song.
A songwriter composes original music for a wide variety of different people and organisations, for example:
- Opera companies
- Symphony orchestras
- Cinema / Television / Radio
- Singers in the entertainment industry
If you want to become a songwriter there are certain skills that you will need:
- A passion for music and writing – you will also need a lot of patience and self-discipline! Especially if you are not feeling particularly inspired or have ‘writer’s block’.
- Have musical understanding and knowledge – you will need to know how to write melodies and chords as well as being able to write your song as a lead sheet.
- Be good at writing lyrics! – Having a way with words is vital to produce a decent song. Some songwriters find it useful to have a thesaurus and rhyming dictionary at hand when writing.
- Be able to play at least one instrument and sing – this is not essential for getting into the industry; however, it will be more of use to you and your career. For example, when producing your demo to give to potential clients, you will need someone to be able to sing to demonstrate the lyrics and song. If you can’t do this yourself, you will need to hire someone.
- Have good communication skills – this will be useful for both the way you communicate through your lyrics and with a client. You may be asked to write a specific type of song and will need to know exactly what is expected of you.
Qualifications and Training
There are no specific requirements when it comes to starting a career within the music industry and song writing. However, it is a way of gaining in a personal sense as you can develop your skills and having qualifications can also put you ahead of your competition.
By studying you could possibly make contacts within your field that could come in handy in the future!
There are many different routes you can go down; you could go to university, college or take specific classes. By studying to be a songwriter, you can expect to cover the following subjects:
- Music theory
- Musical arranging
- The music industry
- History of classic artists
For more information on song writing courses take a look on:
- The London Song Company – an organisation that offers opportunities, training and services for songwriters and songwriter performers.
- Point Blank Music School
- BIMM – offers courses on all musical areas, the classes are taught by those who are involved in the music industry.
Benefits of freelancing
There are many benefits to freelancing as a songwriter, just some of the advantages include:
- A great feeling of job satisfaction and really enjoying your job
- Greater tax benefits and the chance to make more money by freelancing for more than one client
- Flexibility and being able to manage your own time
By using our Freelancer Calculator you can work out exactly how much you could potentially take home.
Finding work as a songwriter
As with most jobs in the entertainment industry, there is a large amount of competition out there. Many songwriters choose to freelance and some publishing companies will offer single-song agreements – this is where they buy a song one at a time.
Here are some useful tips on how to find work and other useful links:
- Set up a professional website. Make sure your website contains the relevant information needed to sell yourself as a songwriter. By putting your work on display you will show the viewer what you’re capable of. Take advantage of social-networking sites and set up links between your account and website.
- Join the International Songwriters Association. Provides advice and directory information, plus more.
- Submit your songs to music publishers, record companies or artists. Make sure that you include a relevant CV with your demo and most importantly make sure you COPYRIGHT all of your songs!
- Sign up to Music Jobs Ltd. This is an interactive database-driven recruitment website for the music industry. There is also a special section for freelance musicians who can promote their services.
- Join the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). ‘The voice for music writers’, this organisation exists to support and protect the interests of songwriters, such as copyright issues etc. They also publish opportunities relevant to those working across all genres, such as competitions and calls for submissions.
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