Lyrics are often overlooked in favor of the more immediate melodies and hooks when people discuss great songwriting, but a masterful turn of phrase can mean the difference between a memorable song and one that is shelved entirely.
When it comes to royalties, songwriters have several unique opportunities for monetizing their lyrics. Here is a rough guide to how you can benefit from this growing source of potential revenue.
What Type of Royalties Do Lyrics Earn?
The short answer is mechanical royalties. The long answer depends on how you’re sharing your royalties with the sources that license them. Generally speaking, your distributor or record label – i.e., the entity monetizing your recording – is responsible for passing your well-developed words to content partners that populate lyric services online.
As a publishing administrator, Songtrust can also deliver your lyrics to some monetized sources, such as LyricFind, so make sure you’re sending all the relevant information to collection partners to cover your bases. Some lyric services will accept direct lyric delivery directly from songwriters and music creators via their platform or website; when going this route, make sure you’re using the correct format for their system.
If you search for any given song’s lyrics online, you will most certainly find websites devoted to decoding (often inaccurately!) the words to countless recorded works.
Much like how digital streaming services must pay songwriters, online lyric services are legally bound to pay songwriters for displaying their work. There isn’t a set statutory rate either; the fee can take the form of a blanket license covering a specific time period, or a percentage of yearly gross sales. Regardless of how you handle it, this is revenue you can, and should, collect as a songwriter.
If this seems like an insignificant revenue stream, think again. In recent years, lyrics have grown in importance on social media services like Instagram — where you can pair your videos with streaming music and lyrics — and streaming platforms like Spotify, which launched its own streaming lyrics feature in the fall of 2021. Companies like Musixmatch (Spotify’s partner), LyricFind, and A to Z Lyrics power the lyrics for many of these services, providing revelatory karaoke refreshers and another potential, a well-worn path towards profitability for songwriters.
Print And Merchandise Royalties
While they’re not as common nowadays, print music royalties can be a significant source of revenue for some songwriters. Unlike mechanical licenses for physical reproduction, there is no set statutory rate for print royalties; they are established in direct negotiation with the licensor instead.
Sheet music may not be the primary source of songwriter royalties it once was, but it’s still crucial for theatrical music and education. And some artists – including huge stars like Paul McCartney (his The Lyrics book was a New York Times bestseller) and cult favorites like Will Oldham and Frightened Rabbit – have seen a significant return from releasing lyric books.
Others have found success with merchandise featuring their lyrics. Whether they’re T-shirts, coffee mugs, tea towels, or water bottles, everything is subject to the same licensing requirements and subsequent royalties.
The first step in ensuring you’re collecting the royalties your lyrics have earned is getting set up with a publishing administrator like Songtrust — one that will register and collect on your works with sources around the world. Learn more about our songwriter offerings and register today.