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How to Write Music for Money

by Johnny Kilhefner , studioD

It's tempting, listening to pop songs on the radio, to think, "I can do that." The reality, however, is that songwriting is a competitive field that not a lot of people make money. Successful songwriters start writing songs because of their passion for music or as a creative outlet. If your mindset for getting into songwriting is simply to make money, then you're in the wrong line of work. If you want to write music, make sure you are passionate about it and the money will come.

Join a Performance Rights Company

Songwriters rarely outright sell their songs. Instead, they sign the rights over to others and are paid royalties for their compositions. U.S. artists register with BMI, ASCAP or SESAC to earn royalty payments. Signing up with these organizations yields other benefits, such as discounts on music services, and offers opportunities for industry showcases for songwriters.


If you concentrate all your efforts on writing a hit song that pays enormous amounts in royalties alone, you'll wind up going crazy. Instead of approaching the craft head on, trying going at it sideways by taking on gigs that may not be exactly what you want to do, but will help pay the bills and finance your hit song writing. Contact local advertising agencies and ask if any of its clients need jingle writers. Your work may be featured online, in TV commercials or on the radio.

Songwriting Contests

Entering contests for songwriters is one way to try to earn some cash and at the same time get your name out there. The contests for songwriters may be at local level, paying very little, or at national levels, with the promise of a hefty payday. Not to mention the possibility of earning any other prizes the competition promises. As mentioned earlier, songwriting is a competition, and entering contests is another way to test your mettle and become a better writer in the process.

Work For Hire

In certain situations, a company, band or musician may commission a songwriter to create a song for a specific event or production. The writer is paid a one-time fee for his work but loses his ownership. These arrangements should have large enough paydays to validate the writer's sacrifice of ownership, as he will then lose future royalty payments.

About the Author

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.

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