By getting here, you’ve shown that you’re serious about music. What started as a hobby is now on its way to becoming a legitimate source of income. Unfortunately, money isn’t going to fall from the ceiling.
The next step is selling a song you wrote as a songwriter.
Nowadays, there are many paths to monetizing your music. Uploading your music to an online platform is a vital step. However, additional steps are needed for those seeking enough recognition to satisfy their financial goals.
That’s why you’re here. You want to bring in some money with your music—perhaps enough to turn your passion into a career. Without further ado, let’s dive into how to do exactly that.
How to Sell Music Online
Unsurprisingly, the Internet is the best place to distribute your music in 2022. There are more great options than ever for getting your songs out there, too.
Even though streaming has become the norm for traditional artists, other ways exist to sell your music. A prime example is stock music.
There is a tremendous demand for stock music, including photography, illustrations, video, and music. You can sell your music as stock on websites like Stockmusic.net. Selling your music as stock offers significant pricing flexibility.
You can even choose to sell the rights of your music to one high-paying client or sell it at a lower price—such as $30—for anyone who wants the rights to use it.
Or you can just upload your music to iTunes. While this method isn’t as great as it was 15 years ago, many people still prefer to purchase their music rather than stream it.
Whatever path you choose, be sure to do your market research. Some genres will have better success on one platform than others. For example, rock and jazz fans are more willing to buy music than hip-hop and pop fans.
How to Earn Money on Spotify
Popularity is essential if you want to make a living wage as a musician on Spotify. Unfortunately, you’ll only get about 4/10th of a cent per stream.
To make enough to be a full-time musician, you’ll need a lot of streams. For example, you’ll need 750,000 streams to make $3,000 dollars. To generate enough for a career, you’ll need to get that kind of volume every month—assuming you’re independent and receive 100% of your music’s revenue.
For most musicians, Spotify is one of several income sources. It can be a substantial source of passive income (which is the best kind of income). Plus, getting your songs on Spotify should be on your musical to-do list so you can build a sizeable fanbase.
After all, Spotify has over 365 million active users.
Can You Make Money on SoundCloud?
There’s no doubt that SoundCloud is a great platform for gaining recognition. Post Malone and Billie Eilish are just two of many well-known musicians who started this way.
But does SoundCloud pay, or is it merely a publicity tool? It depends.
To get paid through SoundCloud, you’ll need to use SoundCloud Premier. Then, you need to become a qualified artist. You must ensure that your music is 100% original to qualify.
Your money depends on how much SoundCloud brings in through ads and subscriptions. Unfortunately, this amount isn’t stable or predictable. As an artist, you can only cross your fingers and hope the SoundCloud sales team does a good job.
How to Find Fans for Your Music
The most difficult part of becoming a renowned musician is distinguishing yourself. Millions of songs are instantly accessible to the public through YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and more.
Unfortunately, uploading a song is not enough, no matter how amazing it is. You need to let people know you’re writing songs. You need to connect with the kinds of people most likely to enjoy your music.
As much as media consumption habits have developed, there is no substitute for old-fashioned techniques. Mailing lists (or email lists), phone calls, and talking to people in your social circle will go a long way. Social media will fill in the gaps.
Once people talk, you’ll see more referrals in your Instagram and SoundCloud accounts. It’s not easy, but hard work is crucial—and greatly beneficial.
How to Sell Song Lyrics to Bands That Need Them
Beyond awareness of your personal musical talents, you also want to sell the lyrics. So, how do you do that? Below, you’ll get some answers.
Recording a Demo to Show Off Your Lyrics
After you’ve written a song and are ready to expose it to the world, you must record a demo. A demo is a copy of the song lyrics to a simple melody. A demo can be as simple as one person singing along to an acoustic guitar or a keyboard.
Demos are one of the most valuable assets for your work as a songwriter. Many music publishers do not want a song not already visualized. These people want to know how it sounds before committing time or money to further development.
Recording a full demo of your lyrics with music isn’t strictly necessary. However, learning how to write songs with lyrics and melody can make selling your lyrics easier.
If hiring a studio, you can use their in-house musicians, saving you time to find help. However, you’ll want to bring a musical score for each member, which takes more work.
Can You Sell Song Lyrics Without the Music?
Sometimes, finding some buyers for lyrics without a melody is possible. However, these buyers are likely to be few and far between. Most bands don’t want to buy a song that doesn’t already come set to music. After all, if buyers can’t see it work, they won’t want to put in the work to make it work.
Many lyrics come off as poor excuses for poetry without a compelling melody.
But what if you write but don’t read music? In this case, the best option for songwriters is to look for a collaborator who can read and write music. Here are a few options for finding likeminded musicians to help set your lyrics to music:
- Look into the local music scene. Attending open mic nights and other musical venues can help you network with the right people.
- Find a songwriting mentor. Finding another songwriter capable of writing both lyrics and music can help. These people give you a good idea of what you’ll need to learn.
- Join an online songwriting community. Communities like SongwriterLink are among examples where songwriters can collaborate. You can even get free lessons on how to write lyrics and set your work to music.
Finding Musicians for Your Song Lyrics
After writing your lyrics and song, you must figure out what type of musicians you’d like to work with. Remember that songwriters can collaborate with others in a wide variety of genres. Do not feel you should limit yourself to a single type of music. On the contrary, the more varied your music is a lyricist, the easier it is to find a band.
Keep in mind that a band may feature its songwriter in many cases. This can be an advantage to an outside lyricist without playing skills. It allows you to collaborate with a songwriter who can put your lyrics to a melody (work with someone who can play music).
Five Tips on Pitching Song Lyrics to a Band
Learning how to pitch your song lyrics correctly to a band or music publisher is where mistakes are made. Those mistakes can be severe in a tight-knit community like the music industry. Nobody wants to become blacklisted because they didn’t approach professionally selling their songs.
If you’ve found a band you’re interested in selling your lyrics to, remember these tips before making your move.
1. Figure out what the band wants from the song
You want their engagement from the first note when you pitch a piece to a band. Writing lyrics for a band isn’t a matter of throwing together a bunch of songs and seeing what sticks. You should be writing towards the band’s goals for their music if you’re working closely with them.
2. Don’t get involved with professionals if you aren’t a professional
Remember that when you start pitching song lyrics to bands, you’ll compete against song lyrics and melodies from dozens or hundreds of other songwriters. Don’t expose work that isn’t wholly refined and polished, or you might get marked as an amateur. Your track record will follow you.
3. Make sure you have a refined presentation
If you don’t take your work seriously, you can’t expect others to tell you seriously, either. Don’t pass out a bunch of demo CDs scribbled in Sharpie or hand out your contact info on scraps of paper from your songwriting notebook. Get business cards and carry yourself like a real professional.
4. Reach out to independent artists
Your local music scene is the best place to start finding up-and-coming artists. Reaching out to them via social media isn’t unheard of. Small-time local bands often are eager to interact with everyone, and your writing might appeal to them. So don’t be afraid to contact artists.
5. Network in the Music Industry to Sell Songs
When you begin to network in the music industry to sell song lyrics to bands that need them, you should keep a few significant concepts in mind as you go along.
First, it’s almost impossible to sell bare song lyrics with no melody to a band that is already well-known and popular. People who are already big-name artists usually already have their songwriting teams set.
Instead, when you begin to network in the music industry, try focusing on musicians getting their start in the business (just like you). Learning how to write together can teach you a lot about writing songs with others, and you’re much more likely to sell to a start-up band than one already established.
New upstart bands can be found either at local music venues and festivals or in digital music communities online. Developing a lead for a good collaboration may take several weeks or even months, but making the proper connection can be well worth the time invested.
If you’re lucky and do enough networking, you may find yourself hooked up with a band needing a steady songwriter. Collaborating flexibly with a band is essential since other band members might want changes to the lyrics or melody.
Know when to walk away if your collaborators ask too much, but remember that the end goal is a strong recorded song. If that means changing a melody or a chorus here or there, it can be well worth it for a shot at a real recording of your song.
Enter Songwriting Competitions to Sell Lyrics
Another way to gain exposure for your lyrics and put them in front of the bands that need them is to enter songwriting competitions. However, these competitions typically don’t just judge based on the lyrics. Many songwriting competitions also consider their arrangement and melody.
The primary benefit of songwriting competitions is that music industry scouts oversee contests to observe upcoming talent. That makes winning a songwriting competition a great way to gain recognition in the broader music industry. It makes you more likely to make the proper networking connection to sell your lyrics to a real band.
To compete in songwriting competitions, you must play some music with your words. If you’re looking to enter a songwriting competition to try and sell your song lyrics, check out some of the following contests to get started:
American Songwriter Lyric Contest
The American Songwriter Contest features two primary contests–the American Songwriter Song Contest and the American Songwriter Lyric Contest. The Song contest comes with a chance to win $10,000 and get your song in front of some of the music industry’s most prominent executives.
Great American Song Contest:
This song contest has low entry fees and allows songwriters to get their lyrics exposed to professionals across the music industry. The most significant advantage of the Great American Song Contest for new songwriters is that it can draw attention to non-winning entries. Also, professional evaluations can improve your songs.
International Songwriting Competition
The International Songwriting Competition is the largest globally, offering over $150,000 in prizes. Winning this competition also comes with publicity and exposure to some of the most prominent musicians in the world.
Songwriting competitions are an excellent way to expose your songs to the music industry. However, don’t relinquish your local music networking connections in favor of global fame. While these contests are an excellent way to rocket to the top of the industry, you can still make a living working with the local music scene if your lyrics are good enough.
Five Ideas on Making Money from Music
1. Selling Beats Directly To Bands
While this might not be the most glorious path, you can sell your beats to other artists. Video production and advertising companies can make use of your work.
Say you sell a beat for $3 a pop. If you get 5,000 sales, that’s an easy $15,000—just for a beat.
Of course, you’ll need to put out some solid work. Promotion is key, though, because this level of opportunity will not come without substantial competition.
2. Selling Background/Stock Music (Music Licensing)
Like with beats, background music is a valuable asset for marketers, filmmakers, and content creators. There are plenty of online marketplaces where you can sell your music, too. Many prolific artists charge between $15 and $20 per download.
Sure, more production time (and costs) is associated with making full background tracks. However, you can charge more. Once the work is done, all you have to do is wait.
Be sure to avoid the classic mistake of thinking you’ll get downloads only by uploading. You’ll need to reach out through strategies like social media, email marketing, and even face-to-face networking.
How Do You Get Your Song Licensed for Sale?
Licensing songs and song lyrics is one way that songwriters can sell their song lyrics to bands that need them without directly getting in touch with the bands. Getting songs licensed requires you to record a demo of your music. It doesn’t have to be a perfect recording, but it needs to be well-balanced and clean.
Once you have a recorded demo of your song and lyrics, you can register your piece with a music licensing website. These websites are repositories for music and a library where musicians and other creators who need music can search for new songs.
After registering your song with a music licensing website, the songwriter can get paid when someone buys it. The website offers buyers a license to use the song in recording productions like YouTube videos, television commercials, and other potential projects.
A significant benefit of selling lyrics through a music licensing company is that they handle the more complicated aspects of the business, such as the following:
Do You Have to Pay Music Licensing Companies?
While musicians and songwriters don’t usually have to pay music licensing websites up-front to add their music to a repository or library, the process isn’t free either. As part of the deal, songwriters must offer up to forty to sixty percent of their song profits to the licensing company.
This may seem like a large portion of the songwriter’s profits, but remember that the music licensing company offers benefits in exchange for its service. For example, these companies promote your song lyrics even when you aren’t actively promoting them yourself. Music licensing companies can also act as a source of passive income if you manage to secure performance royalties.
3. Selling E-Books and Courses on Songwriting
Writing songs is fulfilling. Teaching others how to create great music is an amazing way to expand your musical impact.
Do you love what you do? Are you knowledgeable about music production? If so, you have a valuable skill set—valuable as in people will pay for access to your wisdom.
It’s time to consult your inner marketer to craft a compelling value proposition.
You’ve done well as a musician.
You know what it takes to do well as a musician.
The next step is writing an e-book or creating an online course. First, analyze the attributes and habits that have driven you to where you are now. Next, create an outline of what you will teach. Then, hone your technical writing skills.
Ultimately, you’ll need to convey information in a way a 5th grader could understand. If you can market yourself effectively and show people what they’ll gain from buying your book or enrolling in your course, you can make a comfortable living.
Many artists and bands make more money from selling merch than their music. This and touring have netted millions for huge names like The Rolling Stones and Kiss.
Even lesser-known artists can make a good amount of money from merch. To put this into perspective, a $20 shirt grosses the same amount as 5,000 Spotify streams. So while you’ll have the most success selling merchandise while touring, this isn’t the only strategy.
A good e-commerce site could help generate a good chunk of passive revenue.
Join a Performing Rights Organization
Along with adding your song lyrics to a licensing library, joining a performing rights organization is another way to ensure you get royalties (and credit) for your lyrics after they’re out in the public sphere.
Performing rights organizations (also known as PROs) dedicate their time to tracking down licensed songs’ usage and ensuring that people pay for the commercial right to use the music.
While joining a PRO can be a good move if you’re a performing songwriter or you have had your songs hijacked in the past, a PRO doesn’t protect all musical licenses for song lyrics. For example, Broadway performances and sync licenses are not under PRO regulations.
Joining a PRO might seem like a waste of time for songwriters and lyricists who haven’t made it big yet, but it’s never too late to start setting up professional industry connections. A significant advantage of joining a PRO is that it can put you in a position to collaborate with other talented songwriters.
How Hard is it to Make Money as a Songwriter?
Truthfully, it’s difficult to make a living as a songwriter. That’s why it’s long been touted as a “dream job.” Most people cannot generate enough revenue to give up their current livelihoods.
However, you don’t have to be like most people. Most people don’t invest in becoming a career musician. After all, it’s hard to count the number of people who uploaded a song to SoundCloud, expected to get big, only to give up when fans didn’t fall from the sky.
It’s hard to make money as a songwriter. Fortunately, it’s doable if you:
- Make great music
- Show the world that you make great music.
So, if you follow the strategies we’ve discussed, you’ll be well on your way to building a career others will envy.
Nowadays, a giant number of platforms enable you to monetize your music. You can sell your music on iTunes, stock websites, or even design courses teaching others about music production. If you follow your musical idols, merchandise, and touring are where you’ll make the most.
You’ll most likely need to combine several income sources to make the living you want. Sadly, streaming services pay little unless you get millions of listens yearly.
The good news is that you have options. You can create and sell beats or lyrics. You can produce background tracks for high-paying clients. There are more options than ever to grow your fanbase quickly. So reach out through email, talk to people you know, and stay confident.
As long as you are talented and dedicated, there is a demand for what you do. The hardest part is bridging the gap between your artwork and future fans.
Selling Songs to Artists FAQs
How Do I Protect My Music From Being Stolen?
Licensing music is the best way to start. Hiring a music lawyer to bring you through the copyright requirements process can help.
The problem is that it’s impossible to prevent theft 100% of the time. International copyright laws are far more complex and often over the budget of most lyricists.
How Do You Improve as a Writer?
Constructive feedback is crucial, especially from your fellow writers. A willingness to improve and authenticity appeals to those around you; this will show as you look around.
Feedback from customers and feedback forums are the two best ways to improve. The problem with asking friends for feedback is they will try to avoid offending you (which isn’t helpful). Get opinions from people in the music industry.