A songwriter is someone who writes the lyrics for songs, their musical composition or melody to songs, or both. That is to say, a songwriter is often a lyricist or a composer, or both. The word ‘songwriter’ is however, more commonly used these days to describe one who writes popular songs than to describe a writer of art songs.
Songwriters may themselves perform the songs they write, or may write for someone else to perform. People who sing songs written by themselves are nowadays, typically called singer-songwriters. Most art songwriting is written for someone other than the composer to perform, although it is known that Schubert often sang his own songs at private parties, and there have been a number of composers who were also singers and wrote for themselves. Many modern rock and roll bands have one or two songwriters who are usually members of the band. In many cases, the lead singer of the band is one of the songwriters.
Many songwriters also serve as their own music publishers, while others may have external publishers. Legally, songs may only be copied or performed publicly by taking permission from the authors. The legal power to grant these permissions may be bought, sold or even transferred and is governed by copyright laws. Songwriting and publishing royalties can be a healthy source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record.
However, nowadays collaborating is one of the most rewarding and productive activities a songwriter can engage in. It’s also one of the most challenging as well. Co-writing can stretch you in more ways than you can even imagine up front. A look at the Billboard Singles charts and you’ll notice that the vast majority of hit songs were written by two or more writers. That’s because many songwriters have discovered that the collaborative whole is far greater than the sum of the solo-writing parts. Thus, with strong suits they can capitalize on, as well as supplement their weaknesses with the strengths of others.
Many artists have come to realize that writing alone year after year is limiting. The jack-of-all-trades approach may produce flashes of brilliance once in a while, but solo writers often find themselves stuck in a rut. If one feels the urge to merge with other talent, one first needs to take a hard look at oneself as a songwriter from an objective standpoint.