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Songwriters may create both the musical composition and the lyrics (words) of a song or write only the words.

  • Avg. Salary $25,873.00
  • Avg. Wage $24.00
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Composer, 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) 
  • 2016 NOC: Conductors, composers and arrangers (5132) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Songwriter is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

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


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


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

Updated May 20, 2021

Songwriters write songs for particular events, artists or media, such as musical theatre, radio advertising, film or television. In addition to composing the music, they may also 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. Some songwriters write the lyrics first and the melody later. Others compose the melody first and add the words later. Either way, they typically rework both the lyrics and the melody many times to produce a finished product.

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.

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 audio or video recordings (demos) that present songs in a professional manner
  • Distribute demos by publishing them on the internet, sending them or delivering them in person to performers, promoters, record company representatives and music publishers

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 May 20, 2021

Songwriters often work alone, although they sometimes work with others 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 May 20, 2021

Songwriters need:

  • Creativity and talent
  • Flexibility to work with other people’s ideas and suggestions
  • Experience with musical notation, basic sound recording and mixing processes
  • Self-motivation and self-discipline to keep writing when they don’t feel motivated
  • Perseverance and determination 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 the self-expression involved in their craft.

Educational Requirements
Updated May 20, 2021

Although no formal training is required, songwriters need an excellent working knowledge of the language they compose lyrics in, and the ability to create original works using typical song structures. It is helpful to have:

  • An ability to play 1 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
  • An understanding of the rules of intellectual property rights and how musical copyright works, as well as typical pay and commission structures in the industry

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) offers songwriting 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.

Ambrose University

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 May 20, 2021

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 20, 2021

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

Most songwriters send copies of their demos to:

  • Music publishers
  • Recording artists
  • Music producers

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

Many songwriters post their demos on social media, in an effort to independently attract a following who appreciate their work. Often, gathering a large enough following online is sufficient to get a songwriter noticed by industry publishers, producers or artists.

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 [pdf] 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
Wage & Salary
Updated May 20, 2021

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 (CDs), audio file downloads 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
  • 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. However, those who are new to the field usually earn more if they have a contract with an established publishing company.

Conductors, composers and arrangers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $12.00 $31.73 $21.92 $24.00
Overall $12.00 $35.71 $24.00 $24.10
Top $12.00 $50.40 $30.72 $24.10

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Information, Culture, Recreation
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 20, 2021

Alberta Music Industry Association website:

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated May 20, 2021. 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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