Songwriter Guide on the Business Aspect of Songwriting

Songwriting is an art and almost anyone can be a songwriter. It’s not that hard. What is hard is the business and marketing aspect of songwriting. This is where most songwriters are struggling to get familiar with. This tutorial is written for a beginner and novice songwriter that wants to pursue a career in songwriting whether for full-time or part-time.

Settle Copyright Issues First and Manage your Catalog

You should understand copyright issues first before thinking of promoting your songs. Classic rule of thumb is to register your work in the copyright office before moving forward. There is a fee during registration; so to cut cost you can register all of your songs as one application. Make sure you do not commit these mistakes in copyright registration by songwriters.

Document your songs into something you can easily organize. As simple as an Excel workbook will do; jot down important facts about your songs. These can be as follows:

1.) Title – This is the official song title. This should be permanent and it’s not recommended to change this once the song will be registered with the copyright office.

2.) Date written – the date of completion for the song lyrics and melodies. This should be final. If you are thinking to revise the song in the future, don’t mark it complete or register it to a copyright office. Instead, put “ongoing” as the status in the date.

2.) Co-writer (if applicable)
3.) Lyricist (if you don’t write the lyrics)
4.) Copyright registration status
5.) Copyright registration number (if already registered)
6.) Link to the lyrics
7.) Link to the demo recording of the song.
8.) Performance right society registration status (if you are affiliated such as BMI, ASCAP, etc)
9.) Publication status – “published” or “unpublished”

There can other information that you need to track. It’s up to you to decide. In addition, if you created a broadcast quality sound recording of your song in own home studio; then you might want to add a new field about sound recording copyright registration (since this is different from the copyright of the song) and other related fields. Below is an example screenshot of the Excel sheet:

music catalog organization

music catalog organization

Learn more tips about organizing your music catalog. Keep your documentation updated as you continue to write more songs or other updates pertaining to your catalog. Keep this workbook in a secure location and make backups to this file in case of accidental deletion.

The essence of copyright in songwriting is very important. No copyright means no proof of ownership. And then there is no money or business for things that you don’t own. Remember that songs are your main assets.

Careful about publishing your songs

In this article about publishing songs, it illustrated the differences between “unpublished” and “published” works.

If you are in the business of songwriting; these are your customers:

a.) Music publisher
b.) Recording label
c.) Recording producer
d.) Other business sector in the music industry

They are responsible for publishing and recording your songs. Now it doesn’t mean you cannot publish it yourself. It is because you are not only the song author but a music publisher as well. You are automatically granted with publishing rights to your original songs by copyright law.