Work as a song writer has been called both the best job and the worst job. This is because, although writing songs is a fun and exciting way to make a living, it is also a hard career to break into and to succeed at, and many people give up when faced with frequent rejection and criticism. While writing hit songs for top groups is the pinnacle of songwriting success, there are many other ways to earn a living as a songwriter that are easier to break into.
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Staff songwriters may work for music publishers, record companies, movie or TV production companies or directly for music groups. Typically, the songwriter will be paid a weekly or monthly salary, and the company or group will own the rights to any song he writes. Most contracts also pay the songwriter a royalty on any song that is recorded. In some cases, staff songwriters are paid a flat rate per song, rather than a salary. Competition for staff jobs can be tough, especially contracts with music publishing companies and TV producers.
Freelance songwriters generally work on their own and sell songs to music publishing companies or directly to performers. Some publishing companies offer single-song agreements to freelancers--in other words, they will buy songs one at a time. Performers will also buy songs, usually only one at a time to start, and many freelance songwriters sell their work by first approaching performers directly.
Many radio, movie and television production companies use songwriters to come up with music for shows they are producing. Some songwriters specialise in songs for television, movies or commercials. This type of songwriting is more exacting, as the songwriter cannot chose the type of music to write. In the case of television or movie writing, she will often be given the completed film or TV show and have a short period of time to write music to fit it. Songwriters who write jingles for commercials may work for advertising agencies and are given specific instructions.
Composers create primarily instrumental pieces, which can be combined with lyrics. Sometimes the composer writers his own lyrics, at other times he works with a lyricist. Film and television composers score background music to use with films or videos and are usually hired directly by the film or television producers. Some composers also write music for performance, such as opera, classical music or theatre productions. Composers who write musicals for theatre may write the lyrics themselves or work with a librettist.
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