As a lyricist, how do I make money?

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I have collaborated so much, especially since I have been on here, but I can never seem to make money at it. I am not a singer, and can only
play my ukulele so-so.
Any tips?


Hey Cindy @cindyrella!

I'm afraid very few folks are able to make any money on lyrics or music or even complete professionally produced songs! I have made next to nothing on the songs I have released but to be fair I have only formally released a few. I have made some money selling royalty free instrumental tracks through Audio Jungle but it is fiercely competitive and really it wouldn't even come close to paying the bills.

I bet some people will tell you to just keep trying and I agree with that but you cannot depend on music for any money these days. I honestly believe a lottery ticket has about the same chance of making me some money!

@cindyrella I work as a lyricist near enough full time (around archery, gardening and Airbnb lol). I work professionally and I do earn money from it. I work predominantly in the sync licensing world, with a few small artists cuts also.
If you would like to talk about how I do it in depth, I am more than happy for you to call me (either phone or Facebook voice call etc).
I couldn't live off of my sync fees, royalties, wfh contracts etc, but they are nice extra income. My long term plan is that this is my retirement fund Smile The royalties that is. Not that I'll stop writing when I reach retirement age !
Give me a call, or ask anything you want here Smile
Amanda xx

That would be great! I am mostly needing it for some extra income. I have to leave soon and won't be back until late, but I think I can tomorrow.

As a lyricist, I make money through my day job.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

So inspirational too!

Talk tomorrow Cindy Smile

I hope to later! My son just called and said he almost fainted at work this morning and asked if I could drive him to the doctor.

@cindyrella -- it's a loaded question, chocolate or vanilla, -- which is best? You'll get as many answers as folks here.

No one should ever tell you not to "try", or certainly, -- not engage your art ( OMG, that's the extreme )... but try to make money; anything is possible, and context driven too.

The thing is, and aside for all the 100% correct comments above, -- many people out there are making money off of folks like you who want to make money. "Send me your song with $150 and a full description of your goals and what *you think of your song and why" to... Nash-ville, TN, PO Box... and I'll get back to you quick. Or, hey, "we don't charge you ever to record, BUT, if we hire folks to play YOUR song... well, you understand, you'd need to pay "us", err, uh, ohh, Them, them... I meant them... right!? Smile

There was a person here, just after the last 5090, last year, after it ended who posted songs and the situation she was in, a "Contest" (and/or other services too), and was lyric eval gimmick, -- AND she posted SOOO MUCH info on herself (I wanted to vet if she was working for that company Wink ) ... by the time I got done, I knew where she lived. Not good. She worked as a "Senior" (older american) as a Waitress... with grandkids and etc., and was wide open on the Internet.

Well, like it or not, -- I responded and she got off line, disappeared, *did work Wink for that corp seeking $ubmissions Smile (gray-web bait).

So, the one thing, since you ask, and many get on a high horse about "qualified" answers and what they know... I know one thing, for what it's worth... I have NEVER seen anyone "make" it, making money by other than situational circumstance where someone got to know your stuff (so do it)... and YOU and said give'em a call.

Quote to me... "I know I can hire better than you and money is not the issue, but I know I can tolerate having YOU around for 8-10 hours a day 'till this is done".

So, talent?, "the best cost the most", "reputation"... eh... OK... or one day someone may say, "hey, I remember this lyric... (looks it up)..., then "remembers" (forget it a real ashhole, hard, complicated to deal with, or NOT, remembers nothing or just sweetness and easy to get along with all...) ... and you'll get contacted.

I don't know anyone but the "services" making money off some of this other stuff, (posting services), but so long as it costs you nothing, -- why not, go for it if have the time!

I'll add one thing, -- years ago when worked in publishing and a family member there as well, -- was the one who generated and issued the ISBN numbers (ALL went through them, one person), you see on all books, -- before deregulation, and amazon and etc. Smile (still exists)... well, we were always amazed at how ignorant and ripped off Authors were who went through a "Publisher" who then, effectively/functionally owned their work... -- they got a "check" and were happy, but not "business people".

I learned *decades ago as an "art student", -- make sure you get paid. I was one of few who did and has always been a bid deal. But, I leave it there or risk "TLTR", -- God forbid, aye Wink !

-- Balance... peace..., good work

Best of luck to you!

Thanks for writing all this and such good advice! I will heed it!

From the performing, recording and producing side, all my formal CDs have covered their production costs, provided I don't count the cost of my time, studio or instruments, only the costs of (e.g.) duplication, postage, CDBaby and so on. Some have even turned a slight profit. So much so that I can pay the lyricist shares, where I'm not the lyricist. But then comes the rub: I'm sure he wont' mind me mentioning this debt, but I owe @Stephen Wordsmith $1.53, or is it $1.54? royalties for tracks on "Irritatin'Katy", where we're sharing those track's royalties 50/50. Riches almost below measure! The about to be released "Flying Tadpole's Travelling Blues Band" has done reasonably to date, but again, on present calculations the three other lyricists on that look like they'll pick up $3-$5 a song. Again not riches. And if you think in terms of one lyric ie 50% of one track royalty, 17 tracks, so 1/34th of total royalties and the profits are only a couple of hundred bucks, well...don't count on increasing your barista coffee uptake! To make money, that "couple of hundred" needs lots more zeroes behind it, and not in the Spotify oops cents column! I guess it's what people might call "vanity publishing" but I reckon the stuff needs to be got out htere and damn the uncaring world! Incidentally, re-read @johnstaples comment re libraries. Yes it is ferociously competitive and also a numbers game. I get royalty trickles there, but all my library stuff is instrumental, no solace for lyrics.

Thanks to you and John both and all who responded!

I have received some money from Songtradr. Enough for a couple of cups of coffee... The competition is fierce there too. I read or heard somewhere (can't remember where) that people submit 200 plus tracks to a single licensing opportunity on Songtradr... what chance do we have :). However... since it doesn't cost me anything and I love writing songs and you have to buy a lottery ticket to win the lottery I continue to occasionally submit and release songs. Original songs and public domain are via Songtradr and covers are either by Cover in a Week or The Orchard. Onwards!

I have been blessed with having a few musical collaborators who have been active trying to promote our songs on various platforms. From that over a few years my total earnings were close to 60 - on average about 5 dollars per month. One month I got 12 dollars - enough that Karen and I went to Denny’s and got the senior discount pancakes. We almost broke even! I did do one CD with all of my lyrics. Had a CD release party which was a packed house and enough people came to that and paid a cover charge and bought CDs so that I could pay for the part of the cost of making the CD but I was able to pay the musicians who helped make the CD with me and performed that night with me less than the deserved but what they asked ...

team up with a musician/ composer who can write music and has pubishing connections


It's a tough world out there. I wish I could make money from my music, but it's not to be; I have friends who are talented, professional musicians, and even they stuggle to earn a living through performing and recording. My expectations have eroded these days to the point that if I earn enough to keep me in guitar strings every year, I'm happy. Smile

(Should you feel like keeping my stock of Ernie Ball Super Slinkys topped up, you can find my stuff here: )

It's good to see folks still poking at this one.

One of my favorite things to comment, and if even mocked for it as has happened here and there on occassion Smile is, "always be nice to everyone always".

Highly discounted is the effect when artists don't focus just on the "art", so to speak, the music, the work product. It brings to mind the classic Art-101 question "what is art", too; however, aside from that.

Dolly Parton could be an excellent example if only because she is not walking it back or staying silent now waiting for their income statement to recover; as I observe a number of others who got "USED" ? by some commentary portal for their benefit$ Can you live on 1/2 your paycheck next week for the next year or two?

Now there are some who seek to make money by jumping on the latest, who/what can we sheit on wagon and get lots-o-love ? (is it love?) from their walled off cluster of associates. Yeah, there will be many folks in Hell, give each other back-rubs over a chest-nut-roasting fire Wink Ah, God Bless the professionally outraged, -- it's a living I guess.

I remember a "pro" article, when paper magazines existed where a "how-to" column came up with, "if even asked for an opinion in studio, make sure that is what they are asking for", or, don't have one. Some "artists" are "nuts" when working and it's all rhetorical. Just be ready to deliver what they are paying you for, only, well, and easily. And that was an article purely, only, solely, souly Smile about "Music" when as studio musician you're there and want to be called back.

(I remember Sting was referenced in that article, but can't cite it otherwise, unless anyone else remembers it? Imagine being in session working and start talking about politics and religion... oh my, -- sex, drugs and rock 'n roll baby Smile "Hey ustaknow, what'a yah think of my vocals when changing key in the bridge?" Hmmm... how to answer? How good a musician you are, just won't matter, 5 mins later, or not Wink hahhh!)

Ah, whataiknow, Uno? Smile

I can only talk from my perspective which is a pretty small market place. Everyone i know who only works as a “musician” as do I, have to spread themselves across all sorts of areas of music to get by! I do get some from lyrics, some for full songs, some teaching guitar and Uke, gigging, jingles for radio, a bit of sound work, producing, commissioned songs (this is growing - songs as birthday presents)workshops at festivals, music for plays, session work, selling my albums etc. Still doesn't add up to much! Its a risky environment and you have to go all in to make it work! I was lucky and i didn't go all in until i owned my own house and had other income to pay the bills. Still its more a labour of love. Oh and spottify i do occasionally get monster amounts from them ha ha - the odd dollar at best

For some reason this came to mind again Smile

The question should be — while I am a dishwasher, how do I become a musician Wink

I washed dishes in a bar till weee hours of the morning illegally to get my first good guitar, washed then while I learned it, and wash’em now to keep the wife happy.

So, it’s a career as dishwasher I be. But hey I can’t complain, I get paid every Friday. Not sure what you all are complaining about.

I have been enjoying following this thread, but I didn't know what to add. (I started and then deleted a post a couple of days ago.)
The original post that started this thread was about lyric writing only, which I think would be a super tough sell for lots of reasons, including many already stated.
Last night's episode of the Ken Burns country music series on PBS mentioned Shel Silverstein, who wrote "A Boy Named Sue" and a few other country/folk songs. He was also an acclaimed kids book writer, and even if he didn't write the music for his songs, he was a musician.
Even a true lyricist, I think, would have to have more than just a little musical sensibility - Bernie Taupin (for Elton John) and Robert Hunter (for Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia) both recorded solo albums. I do think both wrote lyrics first and then gave them to their musician partners.
I know there are other true lyricists of acclaim, but the songwriters I follow and admire tend to do both. Bob Dylan, though, has collaborated with Robert Hunter and with a writer named Jacques Levy back in the '70s. I don't know that Bruce Springsteen has ever collaborated with other lyricists. And the songwriter I'm most familiar with - me! - writes most of his own lyrics. (Those I collab with are those whose words fit right into music with little or no re-writing.)
Sending out a batch of lyrics (even though that's how Elton John and Bernie Taupin connected) seems to me a crapshoot. Better to approach it the way @billwhite51 mentioned above.
There! Random thoughts now put into writing!

other notable lyricists in the era when singers generally wrote their own lyrics inxlude :atty Beckett for Tim Buckley, Keith Reid for Procol Harum, and Pete Brown for Cream, Many other mid sixties rock bands worked with lyricists who were not in the band.

Currently at 7,604 songs written. Peanuts on royalties. Now I get zero because I assigned all my BMI royalties to my daughter.

I mentioned Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead) in my post yesterday, before I knew he had passed away Monday. I got to see him perform a couple of times.
Phish also has a lyricist - Tom Marshall, who is also a musician.
@billwhite51 - I'm now listening to Procol Harum. Don't know much about them.
Lots of musicals have lyrics-only writers - that seems like a very specific skill set, though. The lyrics are often incredible, and they move the story along.

Gosh thanks for all the great comments! I love hearing what you have done or mentions if famous lyricists. I wish I was more musically talented, but am just now trying to get the hang of my ukulele.

@cindyrella I see folks comment, "not instrument capable". To many folks grow up being told how "hard" it is. One of the "simple" to use instruments for a Lyricist is a Keyboard.

You put the Key Name Stickers on it.

And "simply" skip every other Key from where you start. So, e.g. "C" in the middle of the keyboard, C E G -- C Major. Do that with F and G, [FAC], [GBD] and you'll be able to play 3000 songs ez Wink

How to use "that"?

Well, sing your lyric word and then *find that note on the keyboard. Then skip every other key, and hit all three together. Hold it down while you sing the line or phrase (first half of the line). Continue 'till done. Smile

If you look at my last song posted (not pushing that, just, there it is), all that is, is the D Major Chord, DF#A

(Every note in that scale in that URL, forms THAT chord, -- could not be easier, to "play" your own song.)

The "MELODY" is the RHYTHM, and pitching up/down, one chord.

Why get a Masters in Music from Juliard, if that's all you need and Lyricists been banging'em out with Music Rights since the beginning of time.

Now that Uke, O M G... good luck, -- I can't play THAT instrument. Yet folks say, "oh, that's the easiest to play"... not well, if at all.

No Smile Keyboardists, they got it made!!! *Kidding, kidding, kidding Wink But for Framing out a Tune as you hear it in your head, you can get it "out".

Every Piano Playing woman in Church banging out Hymns, -- that's all they ever did... bang out three note chords in rhythm to the singing, -- add in a guitar player and you got P&W, old time!

Honestly, I've never understood that "Wall" folks face. Is there a difference in being proficient? Sure. But, to Frame out a song, a Lyric... anyone can do it.

(It's what I went through with my wife... who, finally settled on Keyboard and can "by ear" anything now, or build a Chord to play for any Hymnal she likes. She finds the Note she sings, skips every other Key, and bangs on the Keys in Rhythm to the song, -- the Melody, vwah lah!)

@cindyrella we still have not chatted !!!

I don't make money from music or lyrics because my stuff is beyond the comprehension of current normal people.
There will come a time when it will be understood and feted, and elevated to its rightful position.
I may not be here to see it, but obviously it will involve a lot of serious moolah.
This is the only way to make sense of our predicament. Biggrin

@Silver Machine - I was just having a similar thought! My daughter will re-discover my songs long after I'm gone, and she will see to it that I'm rightfully acknowledged as the genius I know I am! She can have the money to make up for the lack of inheritance.
Some famous performers - Gregg Allman, David Bowie, Warren Zevon - have indeed written music to be listened to after their passing. I'm not quite ready to go there yet, I hope.
One more thought to add to my ramblings of a few days ago - it would be cool to sit in a room, face to face, with a lyricist. I'd have guitar in hand or be sitting at a piano coming up with music, and the lyricist would lyric-ate.

A very fine thought @Chip Withrow, in leaving such riches to your dear daughter.
I have recently been sending demo cds to select record labels, but fear the Royal Mail may annoyingly get them to arrive before people have sated their misguided habit for current contemporary nonsense and are ready for the real meat and veg.

Yes, Silver... and Chip... -- I consider if I had a short story or song or anything from a grandparent, or great... grandparent.

I had my parents sit in front of a video camera, and the "sunday morning" stories retold so many times at the kitchen table, -- had them "go on" about them... I have to get the tape to CD and have not watched it since made... but I am sure, in the "correct mood" will be glad I had those, -- if even some kid down the road may not see it as valuable and toss it anyway Smile hahhh!!

Put it on the Internet, it will never go away! Wink hahhh!!

Thanks so much for this all! Great info.