Composer or Songwriter

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Composers or songwriters create music for individuals, groups, bands or orchestras to perform, or to accompany TV productions, film soundtracks and adverts. The music may be in any style, for example, classical, rock, pop, jazz, folk, country, soul, rap or easy listening.

The Work

You could:


Due to the nature of this career, it is very difficult to quantify earnings. It may depend, amongst other things, on the genre of music you specialise in and your reputation. Very few composers or songwriters earn a fixed salary. Most are self-employed and work freelance, whilst also having another job.

Payment can be a percentage of the budget of a production, such as a film, an hourly rate or a flat rate per minute of music composed. Royalties may be earned whenever the music is played or performed in public. The Musicians’ Union (MU) website has information on recommended rates of pay, which is available to members.


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Getting In

There is no single entry route to becoming a composer or songwriter. However, composers of most styles of music have usually had some formal musical training. Being able to play at least one instrument and read and write music is important.

What Does it Take?

You should have:

You should be:


Getting On

More Information

Young Scot and Creative Scotland operate the 'Nurturing Talent - Time to Shine Fund', which aims to support young people aged 11-25 and interested in developing creative or artistic skills. Both individuals and groups can apply for funding up to £1,000. For more information see the Young Scot website.

PRS for Music Foundation offers a number of funding options for individuals and groups working with or creating new music. See their website for more details. If you join a performing rights collection agency, such as Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), or Performing Rights Society (PRS), the collection group will keep track of public performances of your material, collect payment, and pass the royalties on to you.

The Ivors Academy formerly The British Academy of songwriters, Composers & Authors (BASCA) exists to support the professional interests of songwriters, composers and lyricists of all genres. Membership includes access to useful information, discounts, benefits and opportunities; everything you need to support your career as a music writer.



The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Twitter: @CCskills

Creative and Cultural Skills is the Sector Skills Council for advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts.

Musicians' Union (MU)
Tel: 0141 341 2960
Twitter: @WeAreTheMU

Scottish Music Centre
Tel: 0141 552 5222
Twitter: @scottishmusic

Sound and Music
Twitter: @soundandmusic

This organisation provides resources on developing a career in the arts, including composing. Also a good source of music projects and competitions.

The Ivors Academy
Tel: 020 7636 2929
Twitter: @IvorsAcademy

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