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Song Writer


Some people love writing songs and playing instruments, but do not crave the stress and drama that can go along with being a professional musician. Song writers come up with lyrics (words) and melodies, creating whole songs which they try and sell to a musician, a record company, or a recording artist. They can also be on staff with radio stations and television companies, writing advertising jingles and theme songs. Some song writers work on commission. They are approached by an organization, government agency, or artist. The client might have an idea or an event in mind, but is unsure about how to translate it into music. That is where the song writer comes in.

Song writing can be a very private experience. Some start with the lyrics, and then develop the music around the words, while others come up with the music first, and wait for the words to come later. Some writers work on a piece for years before shopping it around to producers and musicians. In order to market the song, the writer may record it themselves playing it, or ask a musician to play it. Then the demo tape is sent off to studio executives, singers, and music publishers, in the hope that someone will buy it and make it a hit.

Once they are established, it becomes easier for them to get a contract with a major company or radio station, ensuring them a steady income and job security. However, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to get recognized. Not everyone's songs become hits. However, this is not a career anyone embarks on because they crave money. It is a job for people who love music, whose heads are always swirling with tunes, lyrics, and an overwhelming urge to create.
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Los Angeles Film School
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Programs Offered:
  • Associate of Science, Recording Arts
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Song writers need to be creative, with lots of drive, self-motivation, and self-discipline. They should be thick-skinned people who can bounce back after rejections and criticism. They should enjoy working through any problems that come up during the creative process. They should be able to work from the ideas of others, and be professional enough to work hard on a project even if they don't share the client's vision.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Meet with clients to discuss needs
  • Work out melody on an instrument
  • Develop lyrics on paper
  • Work with each part of the song to make a cohesive package
  • Have record company representatives and music publishers listen to live performances of the song at a club or concert
  • Make demo tapes of new song for musicians, record companies and music publishers
  • Each day is spent working on a song, either hammering out the tune or finetuning the lyrics. Song writers will spend time each day talking with clients or prospective buyers, in person, over the phone, or by email. They may also spend part of the day in recording sessions, either performing the tune, or observing hired musicians as they record the demo tape. Song writers work alone, or in teams (one might write the lyrics while another writes the music). They will work wherever they feel inspired. This could be at the park, in their bedroom, or on the bus or subway. When recording demo tapes of their songs, they may work in state-of-the-art recording studios, which they might own, or have to rent for the sessions. Those who work under contract to a company or station may work regular office hours, but will be at work late into the night if a deadline is looming up ahead. Song writers may travel, especially when working on a potential hit. They will encounter many types of people, from brand new artists to influential producers.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Song writers can be self-employed, or be on staff with a radio station, television network, or record company. When they are self employed, they live off the royalties from the sale of recordings, sheet music, radio play, and use in movie soundtracks and television shows.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Song writers don't only have to write chart-topping pop tunes. They can write advertising jingles, radio jingles, or theme songs for television shows. These song writers work under contract with radio and television stations, and advertising agencies. They may work as musicians, publishers, or become music producers. They might start working as agents, or open their own recording studio.

  Educational Paths  
There are no education requirements for those people interested in becoming song writers. However, song writers should be able to play at least one, if not more, instruments, as they will need to work out tunes. Song writers should also have some background in music theory, composition, and arrangement, so a few courses at a conservatory, or a college or university program in music theory, would be helpful.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Los Angeles Film School  Online
Get the career of your dreams with an education from the Los Angeles Film School.
Programs Offered:
  • Associate of Science, Recording Arts
  • Associate of Science, Music Production
  • Bachelor of Science, Entertainment Business
Campus Locations:
  • Los Angeles, CA

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