Virtually all songwriters would love to be able to support themselves financially through songwriting, but it can be difficult to find a stable career in music. It’s not impossible to achieve, though! The career paths below all have some aspect of songwriting involved in them and will still help you pay the bills. Check them out and see if something piques your interest!
1. Jingle writer
Median yearly income: $42,870 (Chron)
The main job of a jingle writer is to create catchy tunes and match it with equally catchy lyrics. The goal is to use the music to help sell or advertise a product or service. Of course, jingle writing may limit your artistic expression, but the most creative ideas are often born when limitations are in place.
In addition to being well versed in arranging, composing, and lyrics, a good jingle writer is creative, a quick thinker, and open to direction. Should you decide to pursue jingle writing, you’ll want to invest some money in decent home studio equipment.
Keep in mind that jingle writing is primarily freelance work, and there’s a lot of hustle involved. But once you score your first few clients, jingle writing could potentially give you the highest return on investment of any songwriting-related career.
Median yearly income: $48,439 (Payscale)
According to Berklee College of Music’s website, composers “create instrumental pieces, either to stand alone or to be combined with lyrics. They may compose for a specific situation such as film/TV composers who score/compose music to enhance videos or films, or they may compose for live performance and/or recording situations.”
As a composer, your job is to evoke emotion through music. Composers are responsible for that unexplainable sadness you feel when a movie shows a single image of a weathered tree, or when you randomly feel excited when that Orbit gum commercial comes on. This career definitely involves the most creativity out of the list, and it’s a perfect match for anyone interested in film music.
In order to become a successful composer, your knowledge of music needs to be pretty advanced. Most composers have a bachelor’s degree in music, and some of the most successful complete their doctorates.
3. Staff writer
Median yearly income: $40,381 (Payscale)
Out of all the careers on this list, staff writing is the only one that is all about songwriting. As a staff writer, you’re hired by a music publishing company, record company, or even a producer to create full-fledged songs for them. These songs will then be pitched to multiple artists to be potentially recorded and sold.
“Most staff writers receive a weekly salary, which may be treated as a recoupable advance on the writer’s future royalty earnings,” explains Berklee College of Music. “Or they may be contracted to write ‘work-for-hire’ pieces that are owned and copyrighted by the employer.”
A potential downside is that staff writers typically must sign an exclusive songwriting agreement, in which the writer is exclusively signed to one company at a time, and all works written by the staff writer must be published under said company. Another thing to keep in mind is that staff writers usually have a monthly or yearly song quota, so this might not be the best career choice for songwriters who have a hard time creating under the pressure of looming deadlines.
Median yearly income: $67,870 (My Major)
This career is great for strong lyricists who are interested in musical theater or opera. While the job does require some musical knowledge, the librettist’s main role is to write the words that’ll be set to music in a musical, opera, or other musical work. A librettist will usually work exclusively with composers and directors, so they’re always involved in a show’s musical aspects.
This type of work is very similar to lyric writing, but because you’re telling a story, the words need to be much more theatrical and descriptive. Librettists must be very poetic and clever with word usage.
This career can be quite demanding; you must have great knowledge of musical theater lyric writing and possibly even knowledge in Italian opera to be successful.
5. Music supervisor
Median yearly income: $45,061 (Glassdoor)
Music supervisors work with studios, musicians, and music representatives to select suitable music for movies, television, video games, and commercials. Besides selecting the music for placement, it’s also the music supervisor’s job to secure the necessary licenses to use it. Music supervisors are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting music to add to whatever projects they’re involved with, so songwriting experience will be helpful in recognizing quality songs.
In an average day, a music supervisor might work with production teams, directors, artists, managers, legal teams, and publicists, so it’s imperative to be a great team player to become successful in this field. The job requires a high level of knowledge in music publishing, copyright law, and an overall understanding of the music industry, so it might not be the best choice for anyone who cringes at the thought of being on the business side of things. While it can be very rewarding, the job is filled with strict deadlines, negotiations, and potentially long hours.
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