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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.