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Songwriter

Songwriters may compose both the melody and the lyrics (words) to a song or write only the words.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Librettist, Lyricist, Writer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Composers (5132.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers (F032) 
  • 2011 NOC: Conductors, composers and arrangers (5132) 
Interest Codes
The Songwriter is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Composers
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to invent melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures in order to express ideas and emotions in musical forms such as symphonies, operas, and film and play scores

METHODICAL

Interest in precision working to play instruments to assist in composing, arranging and orchestrating music; and in copying compositions to music paper

directive

Interest in applying knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and musical forms to create compositions and scores; may conduct and teach music

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Songwriters write songs for particular events, artists or media (for example, musical theatre, radio advertising, film or television). They may be lyricists or librettists:

  • Lyricists write only the words to a tune or melody that someone else has composed. They may write songs in all musical styles including rock, jazz, pop and country.
  • Librettists write the words sung in musical dramas, operas, oratorios and other dramatic classical song literature. With words, they create the scenes and characters that tell the story.

Songwriting is a very personal process; there are as many ways to write a song as there are people who write them. However, in general, songwriters:

  • write the lyrics first and the melody later, or compose the melody first and the words later
  • rework both lyrics and melody many times to produce a marketable product.

To market their work, songwriters may:

  • ask record company representatives and music publishers to come out to live performances at clubs and concerts
  • make demonstration tapes (demos) that present songs in a professional manner
  • distribute demos by publishing them on the Internet, mailing them or delivering them in person to performers, record company representatives and music publishers.

Songwriters may record demos on home sound recording systems or in professional studios. Many songwriters are musicians and singers themselves, and record their own demos by accompanying themselves on the piano or guitar. They may hire side musicians or singers to perform as well.

The ultimate goal for many songwriters is to have their songs chosen by record companies, music publishers or recording artists, and have them turn it into a hit single.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Songwriters often work alone, although they sometimes work together as collaborators. Their hours of work and working environments vary considerably. Those who write advertising jingles for radio and television commercials must be able to work under the pressure of tight deadlines.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Songwriters need the following characteristics:

  • creativity and talent
  • the flexibility required to work with other people's ideas and suggestions
  • the self-motivation and self-discipline required to keep writing
  • the perseverance and determination required to handle rejection from publishers and recording artists because it may take years before a songwriter has a successful song on the music charts.

Songwriters should enjoy the creative process and expression involved in their craft.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Although no formal training is required, songwriters need an excellent working knowledge of the language in which they choose to write and the ability to work within song structures. It is helpful to have:

  • the ability to play one or more instruments
  • knowledge of music theory, harmony, arrangement and composition
  • computer skills and a working knowledge of related technology such as musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) software and music notation programs.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada offers song writing workshops and seminars periodically in larger centres across Canada.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Grande Prairie Regional College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Many people can write songs but relatively few can write songs that have commercial value. For some songwriters, writing advertising jingles is a stepping stone to becoming a lyricist or songwriter. These songwriters may work under contract with advertising agencies or radio and television stations.

Most songwriters send copies of their demo tapes to:

  • music publishers
  • recording artists
  • music producers.

Publishers, singers and producers always are on the lookout for good material and listen to hundreds of new songs each year. However, they often are overwhelmed with requests to listen to new material so novice songwriters need to develop contacts to get their music heard.

Songwriters are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Songwriters are paid royalties for performances of their work. In Canada, performance rights royalties are collected and distributed by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. Therefore, to receive royalties, songwriters must be members of SOCAN and register their work.

Songwriters earn royalties from:

  • the sale of tapes, compact discs and videos (mechanical royalties)
  • the sale of sheet music and the use of their music in films (synchronization royalties)
  • radio, television and motion picture performances of their music and live performances in venues such as bars and clubs, exhibitions and concert halls (provided certain criteria are met).

Songwriters who do not assign their works to publishers are entitled to all of the royalties for performances of their work. Those who assign their works to publishers usually receive 50%. Some songwriters own and operate their own publishing companies but songwriters new to the field usually earn more if they have a contract with an established publishing company.

Songwriters are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average from $29.46 to $33.20 an hour. The overall average was $32.85 an hour. More recent data is not available.

Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Music
  • English Language Arts
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Alberta Music Industry Association website: www.amia.ca

Cultural Human Resources Council website: www.culturalhrc.ca

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada website: www.socan.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Jun 01, 2009. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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