As I’ve said many times before, writing a song for its own sake is still – and will always be – an admirable pursuit. It’s something that not many people can do and is a wonderful form of individual artistic expression. That being said, if your goals include not only writing songs but also making a living doing it, there are some additional considerations that you should keep in mind. One of the most important things to remember is that there are lots of ways – beyond having a hit song – that you can make money with your songs. I thought I’d mention/remind you of a few of them.

Make money with your songs

1. You can perform them

Sometimes, as songwriters, we get so wrapped up in the idea of getting our songs cut by other artists, that we forget that we’re the first and easiest person to perform our songs. If you’re also a performer, there’s no reason not to go out, get paying gigs and sell your music from the stage. There are the tangible benefits of the money you’ll make and several intangible benefits including exposing your songs to a wider audience and – equally importantly – seeing how your songs work in front of actual listeners.

2. Start your own record label

I’ve mentioned this before but what’s the point in waiting for a record label to sign the artist you’re writing with if you can easily start your own label and release the music yourself. This requires a little business know-how including being sure your songs are registered with your PRO (Performing Rights Organization like BMI & ASCAP) and with SoundExchange but the benefits will far outweigh the effort if and when your songs start to have a little success via streaming or radio play.

3. Sell your songs to music libraries

It might be worth mentioning that not every song you write has to be a heartfelt exploration of your innermost hopes and dreams. In other words, there are music libraries out there whose sole purpose is to find songs for everything from corporate training videos to dentists’ offices. Writing songs for the sole purpose of placement in these kinds of libraries will not only generate some income but will teach you to flex songwriting muscles that you might not otherwise get a chance to develop. Do a little research and see what’s out there. I think you’ll be surprised.

4. Develop an artist yourself

Another idea in the “why wait around” category would be to find a young, unknown talent and spend the time developing them into a successful performer and recording artist. This way, you’ll be able to write songs specifically for and with them for their project. Believe me when I tell you this is much easier than trying to pitch your songs to a well-known artist where every songwriter in the world is sending that artist songs for their next record.

Make money with your songs

5. Create a TV show/make a movie

For those of you hoping to get your songs in films or on TV, reaching out to music supervisors and pitching your songs can be challenging at best and discouraging at worst. Why not align yourself with a budding young director or documentary filmmaker and write music specifically for projects that you develop together. There is – of course – no guarantee of success but it’s a great way to get a foot in the door and, again, build up the requisite songwriting muscles for continued film/TV work in the future.

6. Write a song for a product or company and pitch it to them

Now we’re getting pretty far off the reservation but what’s to stop you from writing a song for a specific product and then pitching it to the company? The more creative you can be the better. And for those you who wonder if anything like that can ever work, I’ve got proof. A few years ago I wrote a song with my collaborator, Alexis Fox, called “Coco Chanel.” Then, through a random series of connections, I was put in touch with a marketing exec from Chanel and pitched her the song. They ended up playing it in their annual corporate get together and Alexis and I were paid handsomely for the use. This stuff really does work.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be trying to write a hit song and, who knows, one day you might just do it. However, while you’re waiting for your winning lottery ticket, there are lots of other ways to make money from your songwriting. Hopefully, this post will inspire some of you to be creative and get your songs working for you for a change. Don’t hesitate to use the comments section below if you’ve got suggestions of other unusual ways to make money from your songs.

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3 responses to “Six Unusual Ways to Make Money with Your Songs”

  1. Great advice, Cliff… especially #4, develop an artist… work with someone who is on their way up, someone who is at or close to your level.

    I kept blocking my songwriting because I was trying to work beyond where I was at the time. I was trying to write “hits” instead of writing songs that were worth cutting, either by myself (your first tip above) or another up and coming artist (# 4).

    Once I realized what I was doing wrong the songs started flowing again!

  2. This was altogether timely! I appreciate all the options – seriously, they’re worth trying! Great Job!

  3. It is a transition that must be consciously made, that of changing from a hobbyist, a creative artist just writing songs, to a company marketing its product, the artist as performer, and/or as marketer of the songs.

    Having some marketing skills, bookkeeping skills, commercial law knowledge, copyright law knowledge demands a whole other course of study than what simply emerged by accident. Consciously, deliberately educating yourself about these aspects of becoming a company can help you do what it takes to get your company off the ground, and, even if you turn some of these duties over to others later, to enable you to stay involved and help run the company as time goes on. Lots of people get robbed because they turn the whole business end of things over to someone else and don’t know what’s going on in what should be their company.

    I always cite a band called The Non-Commissioned Officers who had a song called “Evolve”, which they somehow got played on a Garnier Fructese TV ad. They got thousands of inquiries from consumers who wanted to know about the song. That kind of exposure could catapult your commercial venture out of the red and into the black, with the sky the limit. I don’t know what ever happened to the Non-Commissioned Officers or whoever wrote the song, but it could have been, should have been their big break. Were they ready to capitalize on their success? To seize the day? Are you?

    There’s no time like the present to develop the skills and knowledge demanded to take your product to market.

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