Lyrics are frequently overlooked as a revenue source (royalties). Here's a rough sketch of how you can benefit from song lyrics as a potential source of revenue.
(or skip all of the backgrounds and go straight to our solution at the bottom of this page)
What Kinds Of Royalties Are Earned With Song Lyrics?The short answer is mechanical royalties. Mechanical Royalties are generated through physical or digital reproduction (e.g. streams) and distribution of your copyrighted songs. This applies to all music formats old and new such as vinyl, CD, cassette, digital downloads, and streaming services. Record labels, streaming services, etc. pay a mechanical royalty every time they reproduce and sell a CD of the music, AND for each time lyrics are displayed.
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. Mechanical royalties cover a number of areas, such as on-demand streaming mechanical rates and songwriter mechanical rates. Most artists know about the on-demand streaming mechanical rates, but seem to be unaware of the revenue potential that their lyrics have, do not populate the lyric services, and do not collect or maximize the potential of their songwriter royalties.
Services such as ChristianDance.eu, Songtrust (a publishing administrator), and others can deliver your lyrics to a number of monetized sources, such as Musixmatch, Genius, & LyricFind. Besides the fact that lyrics enhance the listening experience, this also creates relevant records for collection partners to cover your bases and collect your 'songwriter' mechanical royalties. 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.
There are a number of separate revenue streams for songwriter mechanical royalties, and you (or your publishing administrator) will need to follow different processes to collect the royalties from each of these streams. The collection process of Sound Recording Royalties (which includes the on-demand streaming mechanical royalties) for goes through your digital distributor (such as CD Baby, Distrokid, or Tunecore), who digitally releases your music across a variety of streaming sites and music retailers.
For songwriter mechanical royalties, independent musicians act very similarly to independent record labels. The major difference is that you will need to seek out your own mechanical licensing agent or publishing administrator. An excellent option for many artists is a publishing administration service such as CD Baby Pro, Songtrust, or Tunecore. For a small fee, publishing administration services collect publishing on your behalf while retaining an additional percentage of everything they collect.
Digital ReproductionWhen you search for the lyrics of any given song online, you will almost certainly come across websites devoted to transcribing (often incorrectly!) the lyrics of countless tracks.
Online services, like digital streaming services & lyrics sites, are legally required to pay songwriters a fee for displaying song lyrics (songwriter mechanical rates). Let me rephrase this to help you better grasp this monetizing opportunity... any site or service that is publishing (parts of) lyrics is legally obligated to pay songwriter mechanical royalties. An exception is made for content that is not controlled by the service / site (e.g. lyrics submitted in the comments of a YouTube video).
There is no set statutory rate set for displaying lyrics. The fee can be in the form of a blanket license for a specific time period or a percentage of annual gross sales. This is money that you should collect as a songwriter.
Think again if this seems to be a minor revenue stream. Lyrics have grown in importance in recent years on social media platforms such as Instagram — where you can pair your videos with streaming music and lyrics — and streaming platforms such as Spotify, which launched its own streaming lyrics feature in the fall of 2021. Companies such as Musixmatch (a Spotify partner), LyricFind, and Genius power the lyrics for many of these services, providing revelatory karaoke refreshers as well as another potential, a well-trodden path to profitability for songwriters.
Let me take this up a level... Search engines, such as Google, have licenses with a number of services to display lyrics, and this covers lyrics displayed in search results. If your song lyrics are ranking in the Google search engine results pages (SERPs), then your lyrics are being displayed in full, regardless if this is exactly what the search engine user was actually looking for... Each view is counted for songwriter mechanical royalties. Publishing unique content to the internet not only helps you as an artist to generate more visitors to your content, but it also makes your content more relevant to be listed in search results... and therefore also generates more views of your lyrics. One of your online content strategies should be aimed at getting your lyrics published to third-party sites and services that are obligated to pay mechanical royalties for displaying song lyrics.
Static lyrics vs. dynamic lyricsDynamic lyrics are displayed line by line while a song is played (karaoke style). According to statistics, dynamic lyrics are viewed more often than static lyrics. Realize that it only requires a small amount of additional work to make lyrics suitable for dynamic display if you are already publishing static song lyrics.
... more royalties are earned when you have dynamically displayed lyrics ...
For some songwriters, print music royalties can be a significant source of income. Print royalties, unlike mechanical licenses for physical reproduction, do not have a set statutory rate; instead, they are established through direct negotiation with the licensor.
Print And Merchandise Royalties
Although sheet music is no longer the primary source of songwriter royalties as it once was, lyric books are still published in some genres (optionally with guitar chords).
Don't overlook the potential of merchandise featuring their lyrics. T-shirts, coffee mugs, tea towels, and water bottles are all subject to the same licensing requirements and subsequent royalties.
How To Cash In On These Royalties?
- Getting set up with a publishing administrator (like Songtrust) — one that will register and collect on your works with sources all over the world — is an important first step in ensuring you're collecting the royalties your lyrics have earned. Learn more about Songtrust's songwriter offerings by clicking here.
- Also, get your lyrics on Genius, Musixmatch, and LyricFind. (CRITICAL)
- Getting your lyrics on Genius is fairly straightforward. Register as an artist and start posting your lyrics.
- Musixmatch has more formalities and guidelines to follow, but the rewards are also larger! Start off using a special artist account to simplify DIY lyric submission for artists. Musixmatch is an important source used by a large number of internet platforms for displaying lyrics.
- LyricFind is more challenging to access for indie artists and smaller labels. You can submit lyrics as fan-based contributions via email... but time-synced lyrics require other submission routes (e.g. through ChristianDance.eu).
Our solution for submitting (time-synced) lyrics to Musixmatch, Genius, and LyricFind
We have a detailed DIY guide and online tools to help you publish your lyrics to Musixmatch, Genius, and LyricFind. We also have a special agreement with LyricFind to submit time-synced lyrics that you can benefit from.
- Online tool to check & fix Musixmatch submissions for common errors
- Online tool to convert Musixmatch submission to Genius (once submitted to Musixmatch)
- Online tool to convert time-synced lyrics on Musixmatch to LyricFind LRC format
... OR ...
Share your lyrics and song details with us, and we'll take care of the rest (we provide our services through Fiverr.com)
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