I am often asked, “Where are the songwriter jobs?” Yes, unemployment may be high but that only if you want to work for someone else. In today’s entertainment industry, the focus should be on entrepreneurialism. Yes, create your own job. So, now you ask…”OK, so where do I look for customers for my songs?” Ah, that’s a much better question.
There are multiple income sources for a songwriter. One of the best ways for a songwriter to have a consistent flow of money is if the songwriter can also perform live. This accomplishes two or more income streams: one is the active income of getting paid to be the entertainment as a performer, and another is the income derived from the use of the song by the venue or promoter while you, the songwriter, perform the song. Yes, two income streams from one performance. In addition, there is a third possibility for more income if you have merchandise for sale such as T-shirts, compact discs or e-cards for music downloads.
Songwriter Income Sources
- Perform songs by the songwriter
- Royalties for the use of songs when performed live through P.R.O.
- Royalties from the use of song when broadcast through P.R.O.
- Royalties from the use of song when downloaded or streamed
- License income for use of song in video, film or television
- License use of song in audio recordings
- License use of song in game or toy
- License use of song lyrics in book
The third way for a songwriter to generate income from their song is if the song is used on the radio. This royalty is called Performance Royalty and payments are made in the form of a license from a radio station to a Performing Rights Organization such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. The P.R.O. where the songwriter is a member, acts on behalf of a publisher or songwriter to collect these fees from broadcasters. They also collect fees from venues and promoters when the song is performed live (see example 2.)
The fourth way to generate income from a song is when the song is used in synchronization with any type of video such as television or film productions. This includes music videos as well as training films. There is a one-time fee that the video producer will pay to a songwriter, or assigned publisher, for the use of each song used in their production. Entrepreneurial songwriters will do best if they negotiate the highest fee possible. In addition, if the film production company intends to release a soundtrack of the project, there may be mechanical royalties involved. Which brings us to number 5.
The fifth way for a songwriter to capitalize on their song is when a record label or recording artist uses that song on a recording. If the song has never been released as a master recording, the songwriter has “First-Right” and may negotiate any price they can get for the use of their content. However, one the song has been recorded and released for sale, any other record label or recording artist may use the song for their project. When this happens, the songwriter is paid a statutory rate determined by the US Copyright Tribunal Board as mechanical royalty.
Songwriters may wish to have their song included in a video game or a toy. When this happens, the game-toy company will negotiate a one time fee for the use of the song.
Lastly, if the lyrics to the song are used in a print publication such as a novel or music book, the songwriter will be compensated for its use.
So, when a songwriter is looking for songwriter jobs, it is recommended that the songwriter think outside the box and look for all possible uses for the song.
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