Careers in the Music Industry: Professional Lyric Writing
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
This week I have handed the blog-writing reins over to our fabulous guest writer, Hugh Webber from Zephyr Hill Music. Here, Hugh will give you an insight into professional lyric writing and where you can find all the information you need to start your lyric-writing career… (Jaclyn Delnevo).
A few years back if you had asked me if it was possible to make money from just writing lyrics for songs, I would have assumed you have to write a hit song or have a publishing contract. Why would anyone pay someone to write words when they could do it themselves? My experience on the SoundBetter platform has shown me otherwise.
Yes, you heard me right, you can get paid to write lyrics!
The biggest fear a lot of lyricists seem to have is to ask how you stop people running off with your lyrics and making money without you? I have two ways of working in terms of my copyright:
Ghost Write - Work entirely for a fee. I get paid and release the copyright entirely to the client - this might sound foolish as 'what if that song goes viral and then I have no claim?'. YES, that is a risk. To be honest, I make a judgement and look to see what other songs that artist or client is putting out. If it is minimal or non-existent, then this approach is low risk in my opinion. You are unlikely to get a mainstream artist with a big following using this service as they already have teams and management who can get them the people they need.
Co-Write - Work for a fee, but also retain a songwriter percentage. This works well for a project from a music producer. Often they are great at producing the music track, but struggle with lyric writing. That is the perfect scenario for me! They are looking to pitch their tracks to artists, labels, publishers, so there is a reasonable opportunity that something could get picked up, so retaining part of the copyright percentage makes sense. I’ve offered this a few times, but it has only been taken up twice. I think it possibly adds complexity for the user of the lyric in the long term.
The Ghost write option always costs more than the co-writing option, but this has never put anyone off.
What kind of lyrics are expected?
Usually you will be given the song title, and potentially some initial lyrical ideas are provided for you to work around. Often the melody line is roughly sung or played by a lead instrument, and your job is to fit the lyrics to match that. You always need to ensure that you make it clear what you will and won’t write. i.e. you might choose not to write explicit lyrics or anything that is negative or defamatory towards others. You may also choose to avoid politics, religion etc. At the end of the day, you don’t have to make an offer if you don’t like the look of the project. The quality of the music tracks provided will range wildly, so be prepared for some badly produced tracks! If I can hear the melody or see how one will fit, then I proceed.
Let me tell you about this specific platform I am using - SoundBetter
SoundBetter is a web-based site, where you create an account and a profile describing what you do. This platform includes lyricists, vocalists, producers, mastering engineers, and others who are trying to create songs. There are two levels of membership, free and premium - but you can’t simply pay to get onto the premium level. You have to demonstrate your work quality by getting reviewed from jobs you have already completed via the site and be approved for upgrade. I am currently waiting for approval for my own account, having now completed fifteen 5-star rated projects.
With free entry level, there is no natural promotion offered on the site. However, you can be found by setting your profile key words carefully e.g. lyricist, country music or whatever. Other individuals post projects and search for people to match their criteria. The premium level membership allows you to pitch for work directly to those with suitable projects. A potential client contacts you with the details of a project. This may simply include a description of the work required and often there is a track to listen to. If there isn't, you can start communicating with the potential customer and ask more questions about the project.
Important Note: everything is in US Dollars, and you can’t change that, so be aware of exchange rates! Also, be aware that SoundBetter takes approx 8% commission for every job.
If the client wants to go ahead, they release the funds to the project. That means that they have paid SoundBetter, and the website holds the payment until the customer marks the project complete. When the project is marked complete by the client, you get paid directly into a PayPal account. All communication must go through the website and this protects you, recording all of your correspondence and agreements.
Fairly recently Spotify bought SoundBetter, and there is the planned potential in the future to allow anyone with a Spotify for Artist account to directly connect to a SoundBetter profile, which could potentially get you more work if people click on your name from Spotify song credits.
When I’m not writing lyrics, I regularly help singers and songwriters explore their own potential, co-writing with them to transform their ideas into fully finished songs that they are proud of.
My SoundBetter profile is:
My other social media accounts are: