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Lyricist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Lyricists require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and educational options to see if this is the right career for you.

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When a song in a commercial is an original tune, or when you hear music with lyrics on the radio, you are hearing the work of a lyricist. These professional writers pen words to accompany music or to be sung acapella.

Essential Information

Lyricists are creative writers who craft the words to songs for entertainment, artistic, or commercial purposes. They may work with preexisting musical scores, collaborate with composers or musicians directly, or write words that will later be set to music. While there are no formal educational requirements for lyricists, a bachelor's degree in music theory or another related subject may be beneficial.

Required Education No formal education requirements, though a bachelor's degree in a music-related field may be helpful
Other Requirements Firm understanding of music and writing
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for writers and authors
Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 annually for all writers and authors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Lyricist

While songwriters create both the lyrics and instrumental portions of a song, pure lyricists write only the verbal components of a musical piece. Some lyricists may also be composers, as in the case of jingle writers, who focus on writing catchy songs for television or radio commercials. Authors who specialize in writing the words for operas and musical theater productions are known as librettists. Lyricists are employed in the arts and entertainment industries, working for companies engaged in music publishing, recording, and media production as well as live entertainment venues and educational institutions. Since this job requires written expression and an understanding of music, lyricists should develop their creativity and active-listening skills.

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Lyricist Job Duties

Whether they write a single song or an entire catalog of music, lyricists have a keen grasp of written communication and develop their creativity to respond to the commercial and artistic demands of producers, publishers, musicians, and composers. A lyricist interprets the style, tone, and mood of a piece of music and writes words to match, which may require collaboration with composers, musicians, or arrangers. In order to maintain intellectual property rights, lyricists publish their work and obtain a copyright for it.

Salary Information for Lyricists

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes lyricists in the broad category of writers and authors in reporting salary figures, listing a median salary of $60,250 as of May 2015. Salary figures varied widely for occupations in this job category, with the bottom-paid ten percent of earners taking home $29,230 or less per year and the top-paid ten percent of earners making $114,530 or more per year, the BLS said.

Additionally, lyricists may be entitled to collect royalties for the public performance of their work, either through their publisher or through a licensing organization. The Society of Composers and Lyricists said performing rights payments are often split evenly between the music publisher and the author of the work.

Lyricists earn money for the material that they write for artists or commercials. While some may be employed full time, others may earn royalties for songs they wrote that are recorded. They have the ability to arrange words creatively to form the lyrics of a song or commercial jingle.

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