Monday, August 26, 2013

Income Streams for the Working Songwriter

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." - Proverbs 14:23 (NIV)

One of the many questions we get is how to make income as a songwriter. Well my dear, like any business you choose to get into, it takes this little thing called “work”. We songwriters tend to talk a good game, but like the verse above says, we can't just talk about it, we have to work at it!

"Nothing will work unless you do." - Maya Angelou

In reality, it's really very simple, and being the solutions-oriented, plain-speaking company we are, we're gonna break it down to very simple components for ya.

1. Pitch and Publish

This is the traditional route. You show your music off to the right ears, they "discover" you, and you make millions. It's how many of the people who have made a living off their songwriting have done it. There's only one catch, and it's a biggie: It ain't easy.

Also, this particular way requires a superhuman focus, organization, and in some cases, a move to a music center where you can network and approach publishers on a full-time basis.

It requires tirelessly showing your music to anyone who will listen, following up every lead you can find, and researching until you are blue in the face who is looking for what. It requires meetings, coffees, co-writing, and endless emails, calls, and communication.

Once a song is put on hold, or an offer issued, there's a whole other bit of work involved which can involve attorneys, contracts, etc. There's PRO (performing rights organization) administration, copyright issues, etc. It's a whole business life, but it can bring steady if not impressive royalty income.

That's why I tell artists who want to work to be full-time songwriters AND also be full-time artists at the same time, they may want to pick one to concentrate on. But if you don't want to just pick one, here's another (and sometime much more practical and possible) answer:

2. Perform and Sell

Put plainly: Get your songs recorded, and get your butt out in front of people.

There's no better or easier way to see money come IN immediately, than to gig and sell product. There's no gatekeeper (other than the church, club owner, or person who gives you the gig).

Many songwriters see themselves as some kind of artist, or at least enjoy singing and performing their songs. There's nothing like taking the thing you made and seeing it make sense and affect people directly. And it's even better to see cash coming to you for doing it.

Another way to see income is selling a recorded version at your concerts or events. Yes, CDs still sell, especially at events, and people are only too willing to pay any price right after experiencing your music and message.

But if this still seems like too much work (and if either of these do, this may not be what you were cut out for) here is another way:

3. Find Other Outlets

In the age of the magical, mystical Internet, we have many options we never had before as songwriters. We can find websites that play new music to waiting, willing listeners, sites that play videos that get spread virally, and companies that specialize in finding new music to use as background music at stores, and much more.

Here’s some quick names where your music should be if you want it heard and possibly bringing income back: CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, Jango, Reverbnation, Youtube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Mood Media (formerly Trusonic), Getty Images, Pandora, IndieHeaven, and the list goes on.

4. Write Songs for Events or a Purpose

Many times a song was born and either heard or brought in money because it was needed for an event, a church service, or a client requested it. This not only provided a built-in audience for the song, but also sometimes brought income. Look for these opportunities, and actively seek them. It may take turning over some rocks, some marketing, or simply making sure people know you can do this service.

Being a songwriter and making money mean getting to WORK making sure your music is heard. You can do that any of the ways above, but whichever way you choose, you are the one that has to get to it! It’s not called the music business because it doesn’t take work!

"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well." - Johann Sebastian Bach

Have a great week!

Eric Copeland is a producer, songwriter, and head of Creative Soul in Nashville, TN. He has gone after and makes money every day on all these things. You can too. For more information, go to 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post Eric

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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, keyboardist, songwriter, and president of Creative Soul Companies. What is Creative Soul? Our main goals are to inform, encourage, and assist Christian creative folks in ministry, no matter where they are in their journey. Thanks for reading! Find out more about us at