Do Songwriters Get Paid More Than Artists? (Singers)


If you’re debating between the becoming songwriter or singer, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I explore if songwriters make more money than singers and how to do that.

Yes, in the long term, songwriters make more money than singers. However, both professions have high-income potential. Songwriters get paid per song plus they get royalties for life where singers get paid per performance. Your best bet is a combination of both worlds.

Let’s now explore ways to make money as a singer or a songwriter.

Age Gap Songwriters vs Singers

What’s great about songwriting is that with each song, you create a passive income stream for decades to come. Another benefit of being a songwriter is the age window, there is none. 

Contrary to singers a songwriter can be a success even in his 50s take as an example the artist Christopher Cross.

That said high-level singers can easily earn six-figure income per show, Arrowsmith’s Steven Tyler receives about $100.000 per show. Other popular bands such as AC/DC make about $67.5 million per year(!). This is not just from performing live but from royalties, selling merchandise, appearing on TV etc.

However, these big-name artists represent the 1% of the music industry, but you must remember is that in general, songwriters have a higher income potential compared to singers. But if you have the skills and talent try combining these worlds, writing your own songs and also performing them live is the best deal you can get your hands on.

If you want to know what the difference is between a composer and a songwriter I have just the right article for you! Just click –> here.

Singers vs Songwriters

Moderately successful songwriters will make more money than moderately successful singers, bellow I talk more about the subject.

Making Money as a Singer

When you’re involved only in singing and not in songwriting, you only get paid per performance or gig. However, sometimes, a Singer receives x amount of Dollars upfront to perform x amount of gigs.

With each album or single release, the singer will earn a small percentage out of every sell, usually somewhere between 15% and 25%.

But you cant depend only on this type of income. Just like with every business, you have to reinvest a portion of your income back into your business. You will probably need a marketing budget, a new-gear budget, etc.

Many singers are easily replaceable. The vast over-saturation of music performers has given bands and producers the option to pick and choose singers. This applies more to moderate singers.

Making Money as a Songwriter

A songwriter, on the other hand, gets his primary income from royalties and upfront payments. Royalties are being paid whenever someone records a song on CD, plays a song on the radio, features a song in a TV series or as a movie and game soundtrack.

The process goes like this

Let’s say you are the songwriter. 

  1. First, you get paid upfront by the recording artist or label to create a song for them. Alternatively, if you have an existing song you wrote they are interested in, the recording artist will pay for the rights to use your song. 
  2. Every time that particular song is sold as a cd-single, streamed, played on the radio, featured in commercials, TV shows, films, or any other medium, you can think of you get a royalty percentage.

It’s also possible for a songwriter to receive a payment every time one of his songs gets remixes. That includes DJ remixes and band remixes. 

A lot of producers and DJs seek to profit from new or old hits by remixing popular tunes. However, not all artists are keen on having their songs remixed by other DJs. Take as an example Taylor Swift, every time an authorized remix is uploaded; her team takes it down. On the other hand, Katy Perry’s remixes are all over the Internet; most of them were made by unknown producers seek to get more views on their YouTube channel.

In some instances, you can buy the rights to remix a song and possibly also earn royalties from it. 

Whether you’re a singer, a producer, or DJ, it is CRUCIAL to know how to calculate your royalties. If you’re interested in knowing more, check out this post where I explore the different types of royalties. 

Live Shows

Top-level performers can make six figures per each show; we’re talking here about acts such as Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Madonna, Lil Pump; also big-name DJs Calvin Harris, David Guetta and more. 

That’s why in this post we look at moderately successful artists and not at the 1% superstars. 

Working for a Music Label as a Songwriter

If a songwriter has experienced, recent success music labels might try and contact him (or her) for hiring purposes. If an agreement is set, usually the label will once a writer to complete X amount of songs within a period of 6 to 12 months. Often there is a non-compete agreement, which essentially means that during the volatility of the contractor, the songwriter has the right to work only for this specific label. sometimes in the contract, it’s also stated that all songs that are created within that 12 month period are owned by the label. 

Labels do contact songwriters and try to hire him in order to write music for vert artists. You see once you have created a couple of good hits

If your songwriting skills get widely in demand, don’t make the mistake to rest on your laurels. The music industry is a very competitive industry. It’s true that you are as good as your last hit; it is an ever-evolving schene with everyone’s attention on the latest and hottest product, that’s why once you reach the top (or at least are quite near to the top) you will have to work even smarter in order to remain there. 

Compare Different Wages

Bellow, I have created a list of the wages of different jobs in the music industry. o

The wages stated below are based on the US rates; other streams of income such as merchandise and royalties may be mentioned but are not being calculated. 

This Is the Salary of a Record Producer

The United States Bureau of Labour Statistics claims that the median annual wage off producers, performing arts and related Industries at $51,960 with the top 10% earning more than $167,000 a year

The main job for record producer is managing the recording of their artist’s music; this includes having a say on which songs will end up on the album, helping session musicians gather ideas, supervise the mixing and mastering process well as coaching the artist. 

The coaching ability of a record producer is one of the most essential skills they can bring to the table. Take, for example, legends such as Max Martin, while not exactly a record producer he’s not only known for his superb productions and melodic Lines but also his ability to bring the best out of the singer, make them feel at ease in the studio and help them deliver ascent performance.

This Is the Salary of a Music Producer

The average salary for music producers is just about $89,000 a year, yet the top and most wanted producers make upwards of six figures. Freelancing is also widely practiced, there on the low side, you can ask $100-$300 per song, but if you are good, you might find yourself earning thousands per song.

Music producers don’t finance or manage the production of an album. Instead, they create (produce) music. Often they use a digital audio workstation (DAW), instruments, and plugins (in the box or out-the-box); music producers must also possess a broad array of knowledge regarding beat making, chord structures, melody writing, mixing, and sound design.

This Is the Salary of a Music Composer

A music composer earns between $40,000 and $46,000, according to BLS, with the top 10% earning more than $90,000.

Music composers write original scores for movies, commercials, TV series, and more. Also, they write and arrange original music for orchestras and bands. 

This Is the Salary of a Songwriter

The average salary of songwriters is just above $45,000 a year.

The role of a songwriter is to create songs, write lyrics, and generally is more involved in crafting the melodic lines and underlying harmony, as well as adding or arranging different instruments for a song.

This Is the Salary of a Singer (Performer)

Professional singers make about $30 per hour is between $45,000 and $65,000 per year. As mentioned before, popular singers earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with big hits.

For the US singers are being paid the highest in California, the average is about $35 per hour.

It’s true that there are some singers work by ear, don’t know anything about music theory, and don’t possess any theoretical knowledge about how to form harmonies. But in reality, most singers are required to know at least music theory basics.

Lets now explore ways how to make money as a singer!

12 Ways to Make More Money as a Singer

Perform at events and weddings

Performing live at social gatherings can get earn you easily $150 or $250 per night, think about weddings and similar events. Of course, the amount is depended upon your skills and popularity.

Teach singing

If you know how you can train and teach other people to sing, or you can train existing singers and help them become better. Asking between $35 and $45 per hour, it’s quite common.

Perform at festivals

At the weekend and mostly on Sundays lot of festivals are conducted mainly in the summer; performing a couple of gigs can earn you the extra income you’re after.

Conduct sing-along kids parties

I can imagine that entertaining kids and adults at children’s parties is something fun to do. You can also introduce an hour of karaoke for the little ones and their parents.

Join in a cover band

There is a high demand for fo singers that can adequately perform cover songs of famous bands. Cover bands earn a couple of thousands per gig, not bad for “ACDC .2” or the “Deep Purple Experience” band!

Perform at a club or Lounge

If you want to perform at your local club, try this:

Get in touch with multiple venues in your area and ask them if they are looking for singers. Next, find out if they are interested in resident singers or if they are more interested in having singers in rotation. Again your salary depends on your performance as an artist and the quality of the venue; anything from 50 to $500 per night is typical for this kind of jobs.

Singing at a cruise ship

Going on a cruise, demonstrating your vocal abilities, and at the same time getting paid for it sounds like fun, doesn’t it? 🙂

What I like about cruises is that even if payment is low, at least, you will have the experience and enjoyment of the trip. However, if you are an established guest entertainer, your salary could go as high as $4.000-$5.000 per cruise. 

Music Theatre

Performing in Broadway, New York, is a dream come true for many singers.

You don’t have to be a musical star to be able to perform in a musical. If you are a starter, always you will likely begin with a supporting role, but once you create the right connections you’ll have the change to climb up and get bigger roles.

However, dance training and proper vocal training are essential if you want better-paying jobs.

Opera singer

Keep in mind that if you want to be a successful you will have to train a LOT! Opera singers can earn over $100,000 per year with the lowest earnings reported at about $20,000 per year. As you may have guessed already, opera theater is a very competitive industry.

Theme park character singer

If you have been to Disneyland or to the Efteling in the Netherlands, you surely have noticed a lot of character-singers performing there.

Because Disney is located in many different countries, you might find yourself traveling to multiple destinations such as the United States, Singapore, Paris or Australia. Besides having companies such as Disney or Universal-Studios in your CV is always a plus.

Go International

There are a lot of gigs in non-English speaking countries, this is because local singers may not have what it takes to perform at high-class parties, therefore sometimes organizers prefer to fly in native English speaking singers to complement their show or product launch.

Host karaoke nights

Karaoke parties are fun, but most people in the audience are shy to come on stage and sing. That’s why having a karaoke host can warm up the crowd and encourage the audience to participate more actively. Salary start from $200 and might go as high as $1,500 $2,000 per night.

There you have it. A complete post exploring the income opportunities from both singers and producers!

PSST! Do you know what the pros and cons are of being a musician are? If not you should read this article right —> here.

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