is an individual who writes both the lyrics
Lyrics are a set of words that make up a song. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist or lyrist. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of...
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...
to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...
, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...
. Although songwriters of the past commonly composed, arranged and played their own songs, more recently the pressure to produce popular hits has tended to distribute responsibility between a number of people. Popular culture songs may be written by group members, but are now usually written by staff writers
: songwriters directly employed by music publishers.
Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers. Further more, songwriters no longer need labels to support their music. Technology has advanced to the point where anyone can record at home.
The old-style apprenticeship approach to learning how to write songs is being supplemented by some universities and colleges and rock schools. A knowledge of modern music technology and business skills are seen as necessary to make a songwriting career, and music colleges offer songwriting diplomas and degrees with music business modules.
Since songwriting and publishing royalties
Royalties are usage-based payments made by one party to another for the right to ongoing use of an asset, sometimes an intellectual property...
can be a substantial source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record
A hit record is a sound recording, usually in the form of a single or album, that sells a large number of copies or otherwise becomes broadly popular or well-known, through airplay, club play, inclusion in a film or stage play soundtrack, causing it to have "hit" one of the popular chart listings...
, legally, in the US, songs written after 1934 may only be copied e authors. The legal power to grant these permissions may be bought, sold or transferred. This is governed by international copyright law.
Professional songwriters can either be employed to write directly for or alongside a performing artist, or they pitch songs to A&R, publishers, agents and managers for consideration. Song pitching can be done on a songwriter's behalf by their publisher or independently using tip sheet
A tip sheet is a publication containing the latest information, tips or predictions for a particular industry. Tip sheets are commonly published to impart business or stock market information, music industry songwriter leads, and tips on horse racing results....
s like "RowFax", the MusicRow publication, and SongQuarters.
The staff writer
Songwriters signed to an exclusive songwriting agreement with a publisher are known as "staff writers". Being a staff-writer effectively means that during the term of a songwriter's contract with a publisher, all their songs are automatically published by the company to which they signed, and can not be published elsewhere.
In the Nashville country music scene there is a strong staff writer culture where contracted writers work normal "9-to-5" hours at the publishing office and are paid a regular salary. This salary is in effect the writer's 'draw', an advance for future earnings paid on a monthly basis so they are able to eat on it. The copyright of the songs written during the term of the agreement is owned by the publisher for designated period, after which the copyright can be reclaimed. In an interview with HitQuarters
HitQuarters is an international music industry publication and contact database founded in 1999. It is noted for in-depth interviews with industry figures, with past subjects including Simon Cowell, Martin Kierszenbaum, Jason Flom, Diane Warren, Peter Edge, Ron Fair and RedOne, as well as its A&R...
songwriter Dave Berg
Dave Berg may refer to:*Dave Berg , Major League Baseball player*Dave Berg *Dave Berg...
extolled the benefits of the set-up: "I was able to concentrate on writing the whole time and have always had enough money to live on."
Staff writers are common across the whole industry, but without the more office-like working arrangements favoured in Nashville. All the major publishers employ writers under contract. A staff writer contract with a publisher is a natural first step for any professional songwriting career, with some writers outgrowing the set-up once they achieve a degree of success and a desire for greater independence. Songwriter Allan Eshuijs
Allan Eshuijs is a Dutch songwriter, producer and vocalist. He started his songwriting career writing mainly for Dutch and German artists, including Cascada, Yvonne Catterfeld, Ch!pz and Sandy Mölling, but he now also works with US and British artists...
described his staff writer contract at Universal Music Publishing as a "starter deal", the success from which eventually allowed him to found his own publishing company so that he could "keep as much [publishing] as possible and say how it’s going to be done."
- Rimler, Walter Not Fade Away Pierian Press (1984) ISBN 0-87650-159-5
- Waterman, J. Douglas, Ed. Song: The World's Best Songwriters on Creating the Music That Moves Us Writer's Digest (2007) ISBN 1-58297-424-1