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

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

  • 5132.2: Composers

2006 NOC-S

  • F032: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers

2011 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2016 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2021 NOC

  • 51121: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2023 OaSIS

  • 51121.03: Arrangers
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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
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
  • Minimum Education Varies

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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 20, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

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.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group, 97.2% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 13 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Sep 29, 2022

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.

Songwriters are part of the larger 2016 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average up to $37.80 an hour. The overall average was $29.84 an hour. For more information, see the Conductors, composers and arrangers wage profile.

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 Mar 31, 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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