4 Ways to Make Money as a Songwriter

Written By: Korie Burton | Middle Tennessee State University| Songwriting Major | Muscle Shoals Song Rooms Intern 2020

We all know it can be difficult to make money in the music industry. However, it makes it a little easier if you know who is collecting the money and how to go about making income from your songs. Here are four ways to make sure you get paid for the performance and streaming of your music!

1. Sign up with a PRO (Performance Rights Organizaton)

PROs collect performance royalties of songs. Let’s say an artist cuts your song and then one day you hear it playing in Walmart. Well, Walmart pays a PRO fee to allow music to play in their stores. So every time that song is played, whether it be Walmart, Starbucks, the radio, you name it.. your PRO distributes royalties to you. It’s super easy to sign up and EVERY writer should have representation. Here’s a little info on two of the most common PROs in the United States:

BMI: To sign up as a songwriter on BMI, it’s free. To sign up as a publisher, it’s a $150 fee. To learn more, click here.

ASCAP: To sign up as a songwriter, it’s a one-time $50 fee. To sign up as a publisher, it’s a one time $50 fee. To learn more, click here.

2. Perform

It’s no secret that the most common revenue stream in the music industry is in live performance. Even if you’re not an artist yourself, it’s in your best interest to go out and play your songs to an audience as much as possible. Not only does your PRO collect royalties for live performances, but if you perform for a gig fee, then you’re also making money as well… And don’t forget about tips from the crowd!

3. If you’re going to perform… register your performances with your PRO.

I am affiliated with BMI, and I can only imagine ASCAP has a similar system…. As a BMI writer & publisher, I can go into my account and register every time I play one of my original songs at a live music venue using the BMI LIVE program. This helps my PRO know exactly where my songs are being performed and how many people are at that venue hearing them. Each quarter, BMI sends royalty checks straight to my bank account. The biggest chunk of income is from my own personal live performances of my own original music. This is why I highly recommend every writer register each performance with their PRO if your PRO offers this opportunity.

4. Register with an Organization to Collect Streaming Royalties

Unfortunately, PRO’s are not in charge of collecting performance royalties ONLY… not streaming royalties (music that is streamed from Spotify, Apple Music, etc;) The Music Modernization Act is working on addressing this issue, but for the time being, songwriters must find another organization to collect digital streaming royalties of our music. Personally, I plan to register with Song Trust. One of my co-writers described it to me as a “funnel” that collects all of your digital streaming royalties that PRO’s doesn’t collect. Click here to learn more about Songtrust and the services they offer.