What is a Lyricist by Definition?
A lyricist (or lyric writer) specializes in crafting creative words for songs. They create lyrics to old and/or new melodies, either to be sung or spoken by a music artist.
While all songwriters are lyric writers, not all lyric writers are songwriters. So if you become a lyricist it means you're choosing to work with someone else's music in one way or another (because you don't create your own melodies). Either your lyrics are half of the new song, or you're attempting to create a new song lyric inspired by a classic.
A lyricist can choose to team-up with a music composer or songwriter, work as a contracted freelancer, or be hired as part of a staff of a music publishing company (see staff writer).
Probably the most popular genre for a music career as a lyricists is rap or hip-hop. Even though every music genre needs great lyricists, rap's main artistic focus is on how creatively you can string together words and phrases over a melody, (break) beat or loop.
Average Income for Lyricist Jobs
Like with most jobs, the amount of money you can make is usually based on how skilled or experienced you are at writing lyrics, and whether you're paid hourly or per song project. But below are the average income for lyric writers and a few pros and cons for each.
- Standard Employee Salary: Hourly Wage
- Self-Employed / Freelance Income: Fee charged for project
- Average Income from wage: roughly $30/hr ($70k/year)
- Average Income from project fee: between $0 and $100,000 per project
Staff (or Collaborating) Lyricist Pros & Cons:
- Shared ownership of song lyric
- Guaranteed income (if hired by a music publishing company)
- Shares burden of writing, improves lyric, but being critiqued is humbling
- Projects provided by team. Better change for steady work
- Must finish the number of songs/albums on your contract, even when you're not inspired
Self-Employed / Freelance Lyricist Pros & Cons:
- 100% ownership of song lyric
- Lowest chance for income (until your song sells or leases, or until you find paying artists)
- Lack of quality control or critiquing from another lyricist or songwriter
- Must build a list of clients on your own
- Free to work at your own pace
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