While songwriting can seem a like a financially tenuous career path, there are a number if different sources of revenue for those who choose to pursue it, particularly if they're willing to think creatively and have a good hustle. Here we look a few interesting examples.
Guest post by Frances Katz of Soundfly's Flypaper
Professional songwriters can generate many different sources of income from their songs in the same way an author creates additional income turning a novel into a movie, TV series, or graphic novel. It doesn’t matter whether your song has gathered a million plays or just a handful of listens — you can still put your compositions to work for you to generate more revenue. All it takes is a little creativity and a sense of adventure.
Here are a few new and fun ways your song can make you money.
Make an Old Song New Again
As they used to say on MTV, “Too much is never enough” — especially when it comes to the ways you can re-record and sell your music. Top-selling artists release multiple versions of both hits and deep cuts to present different versions of their songs and put a new spin on lesser-known tracks. You can remix a song and take the lyrics away, and release an instrumental version you could license to film or TV programs. Or how about stripping down your sound and releasing an acoustic, unplugged version?
For another change of pace, you could amp up the electronics and work with a guest DJ to make an electro-dance version of your original song. If you’ve got fans who don’t speak English (or you’d like to have some), try translating your lyrics and creating a foreign-language version of your song. You could also re-record your song live at your favorite venue, and release it as a live single.
Ringtones for Dollars
Imagine a world where every time a phone rings, your music plays. Creating and selling ringtones on iTunes can be a fun as well as a profitable way to repurpose your most popular or favorite songs. Even though you won’t earn royalties each time the phone rings, the good news is that you can earn royalties each time your ringtone is downloaded.
Make Music for Video Games
We all have friends who spend more time in their virtual worlds, and video games have some pretty interesting soundtracks to keep players coming back. Many songwriters have been quite successful in creating music for video games. Kotaku, the popular gaming site, profiles artists already composing for games, and ASCAP has created a FAQ about how music licensing works when it comes to video games.
Sell Your Songs to Stock Music Libraries
Music is everywhere, and stock music pops up in a variety of places including shops, podcasts, meditation CDs, elevators, and corporate training videos. The Guardian UKsays that everything from a simple keyboard motif to an epic orchestral track is needed by music libraries to sell to customers for a variety of purposes.
There are a number of music libraries that need composers to create music for their clients, and Disc Makers has some helpful tips to get you started. If you upload your music and it’s approved by the library, you can set your own price and earn a percentage of each sale. Music libraries offer some of the most favorable royalty splits in the industry, which isn’t bad for a side hustle.
Be King (or Queen) of Karaoke Night
As you may already know, the use of music and lyrics in karaoke is another mechanical use that can be another source of songwriter royalties. Aside from the kick you’ll get out of hearing your friends and total strangers belting out your songs at the local bar, you’ll also earn royalties every time someone sings your song. Licensing your music for use with karaoke could also potentially generate royalty income in a number of different ways including publishing, mechanical, and synchronization rights.
These different ways to get your song out there can be that little extra push you need to help generate more revenue. Think of your song like a business by doing research on other revenue avenues to help you get compensated for your work, but always remember to remain the owner of your copyright.
Find out once and for all how streaming and sales royalties work — and how to get the money you deserve — in Soundfly’s free course with Ari Herstand, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed.
Frances Katz began her career writing about MTV and Napster. Now she writes about technology, music, business, and culture for a variety of publications including The Week, The Atlantic, Paste, The New York Times, Ploughshares, and others. She lives in Atlanta, but you can keep up with her on Twitter.