Publishing street musician

Published on March 10th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession


How do I make money from my songs – Part 1

Are you a songwriter who is searching for the different ways you can make money from your songs? Don’t go anywhere! This two part series will give you the answers you need.

For starters, I want to define the two types of income as it relates to you as a songwriter. One is active income, the other is passive.

1. Active Income

Active income is performance-based pay or more specifically, the money you get in exchange for your services. The majority of people make their money this way. You go to work for 40 hours, you get paid at the end of the week. Done deal. As a songwriter, active income is money that you will earn on what I term “one-shot” deals, where you get paid once for the use of your song or songs in a work for hire, film, television or whatever the project may be.

2. Passive Income

Passive income is money you get for not lifting a finger! This is when it gets good, because passive income is ongoing! For a songwriter, this would be specifically defined as residual income in the form of song royalties. Bands like Journey and Bon Jovi are still getting checks in the mail for their older hits. (Yeah I know, nowadays they are electronically wired but getting a check in the mail sounds more enticing!) Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the best selling catalog track on Itunes, with downloads in excess of 2 million and the only catalog track in history to garner double platinum status. And this doesn’t include what they make from getting played on the radio and television! By the way, a catalog track is a song that has already been previously released. You often see older artists on these catalog charts, such as The Eagles, Pink Floyd and James Taylor.

Now, let’s check out the different income sources you have as a songwriter! Let’s move on to Part 2.

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

7 Responses to How do I make money from my songs – Part 1

  1. Briana says:

    I am a great songwriter,\. The only problem is that i’m not the best at singing. And i would like to make money off of my music. Help!

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello Briana. You don’t have to be a good singer. You can get someone else to sing your songs for your demos. Shoot me an email and let me know what you have going on.
      Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you back soon.

  2. Placid says:

    I write my songs. I compose my music. I sing them . But I need to get it out like producing them and the beats or lyrics. How do I go about recording and producing my songs. Can you make me ref.

  3. chali says:

    I make my own beats do my own promotion editing writing my own company’s name,etc. I have a great quality 16 track album that I wanna push, but I need it to be more than just local. More than just another demo or mixtape, any advice??

  4. Pat says:

    I’ve noticed my songs are downloadable on the internet — who is getting that money? Or how can I find out? I’ve been out of the business for 20 years.


    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello Pat. That’s a good question, and one I couldn’t answer without knowing the parties involved. Are they being downloaded for free? Which sites? Do you have any prior publishing or past label agreements where they own the masters? It’s really hard to say. I’d get in touch with whomever is making them available.

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