How Much Money Does A Songwriter Make?

[This post was originally written in 2006. ย Seven years later, it is much, much more difficult for songwriters to make an income from their songs because record labels are going under in, well, record numbers!]

I’m writing this article because I am truly surprised at how many people find my website using exactly those key words “how much does a songwriter make?” Why am I surprised? We are a society hell bent on making money. So why wouldn’t a person who likes writing songs think, at one time or another, that they might actually make money from it?

First words of advice: If you start writing with the idea of making money, it won’t work! Why not? Because you won’t last long enough. The average songwriter in Nashville, for example, has to work at it HARD for an average of seven years before even seeing anything. Most give up before then, especially the ones who ask “How much money does a songwriter make?” ๐Ÿ™‚ You have to love it, that’s the only thing that will help you hang in long enough to see anything come of it.

Okay, you probably didn’t come here for a lecture, you want the cold, hard facts. Here are some facts:

1. Songwriters make some of their income from mechanical royalties. In the US, the royalty used to be 8.5 cents per song per unit (CD) sold. On January 1st, 2006 it became 9.10 cents. An album that sells 500,000 copies in 2006, would give the songwriter $45,500 per song. Sounds like a lot, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ But…

2. Less than 1% of ALL ALBUM RELEASES (I mean, ALL of them) sell more than 1,000 copies. Less than 1%. That means more than 99% of the albums released in 2006 will sell less than 1000 copies. And, because fewer people are purchasing CD’s, that number might be expected to go even lower.

3. Let’s put this together: It will likely take you at least 7 years to get a cut on an album, which has a 99% chance of selling less than 1000 copies. If it sells 1000 copies, you make $91.

Here are some more statistics:

48,000 = number of writers and artists in Nashville trying to “make it.”

1,350 = number of songs recorded in a year on major labels.

85% = percentage of songs recorded going to “insider” writers, publishers, producers, etc.

75 = number of songwriters getting 1 or more cuts per year in Nashville.

Why am I using Nashville as an example? Because that’s where a lot of the business has been in the last 20 years! And where would you go other than the place where it’s all happening?

The above stats can be attributed to a very interesting thread that happened on my old message board…a kind of blog written by BobbyJoe, someone who just moved to Nashville a short while ago and who has been dealing with the business of songwriting one day at a time.

$91…THAT’S how much songwriters make. To begin with. If that doesn’t take the wind out of your sails, then I refer you to a couple of other articles on this website. The first is a brief Beginner’s Guide to Publishing . This gives you an idea of how song publishing works and what you can expect. Another article covers the steps you should consider taking, everything from performing to getting critiques, creating demos of your songs, books and songwriting organizations. It’s called Your Songwriting Career.

If you found this article because you Googled “how much does a songwriter make”, and you’ve made it this far through the article, you just might have half a chance. Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

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  1. Say thanks for the tips your right. “You really suppose to write for the love of music not the love of money”. I did ask, how much can a songwriter make but you see I have been writing lyrics since my childhood. I started because of how I lived growing up the man who opened my eyes to this is a legend now. I was angry in a lot of ways, and I knew if I wanted to make it in life. Then I would have to learn how to cope through the hard struggles in life. I hear from others all the time besides myself. They say I’m really good. I love music for the fact it has made me stronger and has saved my life more than anyone can imagine. I can write, maybe not spit and if I don’t make all swell my life isn’t over yet. If anything it’s just beginning for me. I appreciate the lecture by the way. You are right my man more
    than you may know, and thanks for the tips later.

    1. Thanks so Much for Articles , Found them very helpful.Lee Bowleyjr. CIP PUBLISHERS..903 263-7633 Once again Lee !;-)

  2. Where did you get your statistic for number of songwriters in Nashville trying to make it? I’m doing a research project and I’m interested in a lot of facts like this.


    1. Hi Steve…thanks for your question ๐Ÿ™‚ As I mentioned at the top of the article, it was written quite awhile ago and I suspect that those stats may even have come from some time before that. I believe that I found the stats from a link on an old Usenet group called Usenet preceeded messageboards, and when I first came on the web in 1996, I joined that group and was a member for a number of years. This group was also frequented by a number of artists and songwriters who were based in Nashville. I’m fairly certain that someone from that group who lived in Nashville posted a link to these stats, and I’m pretty sure I know who it is. This was a guy who was involved in the music business down there, and he still is.

      People have asked me before where the stats came from, and I’ve researched to see if I could find the original post or link, but I haven’t been able to find it. I am quite certain of its legitimacy but it reflects what was happening in Nashville quite some time ago. I think the business has changed considerably since then, and probably the chances of success in Nashville are even worse now than they were then!


  3. Just thought you should update your text to say that digital songs are now included in the licensing, so it’s not only the physical album licensing that will pay the songwriters but anysong sold over the net will also pay the same licensing rate to the song writer.

  4. Hi. I have started writing songs already and wanted to become a singer. But after I heard what I sound like, I just decided to write songs. Is it really true that song writers don’t make a lot of money. Thats a little sad,but expected…I guess. Meh, I’m still really young so I’m pretty sure I have a long time for me to choose my career. Thx for the very helpful info but I really expected songwriters would make more money..

  5. Hi my name is muhammad hamza and i am a song writer and i am sell my song can you buy my song m show you like my song

    1. Just to let you know Muhammad, that no one buys songs. Not me, not record companies, not artists.
      You have to find a way to get your song published, and that’s how a song might end up with an artist.

  6. hi i am a song writer and i have so many song written to be sang but no buyer yet inbox me i will giver you a copy

    1. No one buys songs. Not me, not record companies, not artists.
      You have to find a way to get your song published, and that’s how a song might end up with an artist.

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  8. Sir i m writing songs in hindi and i am sell our hindi songs,our songs is meaningful. And motivated for youngers
    Send us address , contract detail for our sons send


  9. You list here only Sold music and royalties by Sale of the album. How much does the songwriter see for Radio Airplay. In 1986 I remember reading it was 9 cents for the writer of the lyrics and 11 cents for the band and a nickel going to the Publisher. Other 75 cents went to the Label. Well actually those should read percent not cents. Typically Radio Airplay gets between 3 and 5 dollars depending on what city and the advertisers. I know those royalties can go on indefinitely even if you only net 100 dollars a week worldwide.

  10. I haven’t written a single song yet, and i don’t know how to write music, and I can’t play an instrument… But if I hum you a few bars, can you give me a million dollars?

  11. I have written about about 70 great country songs. Wondering if you are interesting seeing them. My cell 816 5167752. Really!!!

  12. I think I will write a collection of my poems and publish it as such.
    And the title will be: I wanna be a song… ROSE NORTH

  13. Sounds like the songwriter takes it in the shorts which is strange to me because without songwriters there would be no songs. WTF

  14. Great concept, writing for the love of music can only be the way to have a brighter career.

    Focusing on money at the beginning is not a good way to start. You have said all that is needed.

    Thank you for your awesome post and I am so happy to find this.

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