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How Do Songwriters Get Paid? Guide to Keeping Your Song Rights

January 22, 2021

How Do Songwriters Get Paid? Guide to Keeping Your Song Rights

Writing a song is a huge accomplishment. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, hard-work, knowledge, and sometimes sheer luck. There are many expenses that go into writing and releasing a song as well. Will you hire musicians as session artists? Are you recording at home or in an established studio? Will you mix and master your song or are you hiring someone else to do it? Either way, each one costs time, money, or both. In this article, we will explore different the question, “how do songwriters get paid?”, and look at ways for YOU, the SONGWRITER, to be paid and to keep your rights.

So, you wrote your song. You recorded it in a home studio or you booked a studio to record. You hired a pro to mix the song. And now another pro to master it. You wake up to a polished song in your email folder and you’re so excited. You just HAVE to share it with the world. I know… it’s the best feeling in the world. Hold on though, hotshot. Let’s get a few things going as to WHAT you need to do.


songwriter getting paid online

You now need to decide how you will distribute your music. Back in the day, you made physical copies of your music and sold them to record stores which would, in turn, sell them to the populace for a profit. We live in a new time now.

Nowadays, you go to a digital distributor like CD Baby, Tunecore, or Distrokid (just to name a few). From here, they have their own set of rules as to what you pay them upfront or a small percentage of your royalties (money you make from your music). I personally use Distrokid. You see, I pay Distrokid around $20 per year to keep my music up and streaming on pretty much all the major platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, etc. To me, this is not a bad idea since you can upload an unlimited number of songs and only be charged $20 a year. Oh, did I mention you keep ALL royalties? Not bad, huh?



Alright HotShot, you uploaded your song to Distrokid or another distributor. So what’s next? Now, we want to PROTECT your music. This is where you register yourself and your music with a PRO (Performing Rights Organization). The two main PROs are: BMI and ASCAP. I personally went with BMI. A friend of mine knows the VP so I just decided to go with them. They both do the same thing: protect your music and actually PAY you when and if your music is played on radio stations.

BMI charges you NOTHING. That’s right, nothing. Do it. In fact, I’d do it BEFORE your song releases. “But Jorge, you listed Registration as #2 on your list”. Yes, you’re right. When you upload to your distributor, you can set a release date. I’d give it 2-3 weeks before release so you can promote your song AND register it with a PRO. The order here doesn’t really matter, this is just what I do personally.




That’s right. You knew I’d say this one… Start a YOUTUBE channel. In fact, my challenge to you is to start one after you finish reading this article. I was finally convinced after two friends of mine (Gabriel Santiago & Andrew York) highly recommended it to me. They are big time guitarists, check them out.

You can upload your music to YouTube and add some cool cover art to it. Distrokid allows you to choose from different formats and creates neat videos for you. For example, check out one of the songs I’ve released using this specific method. 

Here’s iLuminar:

You guessed it, I’m a latin artist. This was a big decision because I grew up with Spanish music. Mix it with rock n roll / pop and BAM. You got Jorge Salas. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to make you some money so let’s continue.


So, this one is a bit different and sort of optional. Allow me to explain. Songtrust is like a PRO (BMI, ASCAP) but spans all across the world. BMI is an American organization. Outside of the US, your song could run the risk of not being monetized. Now, BMI can still do what needs to be done BUT it won’t be as extensive as Songtrust regarding radio streaming OUTSIDE the US. Since my music is all in Spanish, I decided to use Songtrust on top of BMI for that maximum protection and that I receive all money owed to me.

Songtrust does have a one-time fee of $100 and charges you 15% of royalties they collect for you. It’s not a bad idea if you think your music will be played outside the US. If you can, do it.



Alright, here’s your last one. This one is not for everyone but hey, the article is titled “How do Songwriters get paid”, am I right??? 

Fiverr is a good tool IF you want to write for others. Use your writing abilities to write music for hire or to be a session player. I currently use it as a session guitarist but I personally would never write music to sell to someone else. It’s just too personal to me but never say never, I guess! Check this profile to get an idea on how I set up.

Well, there you have it. Don’t just write a song, learn how to earn a living doing what you love. You won’t get rich off of one song you write. You probably won’t get rich writing TEN songs. The idea is to start building some income while doing what you love and maximizing your resources. With all the being said, I hope you enjoyed this article. Consider a private consultation or lessons with me, or check out some of our other music teachers


Jorge Salas is a versatile musician who has worked alongside some of the industry's top performers. His collaborative work and solo work has reached many audiences throughout the world. Aside from recording in many studios, writing, and performing, he is also an accomplished educator with 6 years experience in public school and 2 years experience in private school. Jorge has also authored his latest book titled "Modern Guitar Workbook" available on Amazon.

Jorge Salas