Although I consider my primary job to be a session singer, I also write songs and people hire me onto a project as a lyricist. I want to dive into that role a little deeper today!
How to Hire a Lyricist
First things first: What is a lyricist?
A lyricist is someone who, quite simply, writes lyrics.
They may write other parts as well, but if they’re writing the words to a song, they’re a lyricist! So, let’s say you are a producer, instrumentalist, or singer, but you know that writing lyrics is not your strong suit. That’s totally okay. There are enough talented lyricists out there that you can easily find someone to take your story and song to the next level.
But what, exactly, does a lyricist do in regards to a project?
The answer depends entirely on what you’re looking for. I have contributed lyrics to songs in the following ways:
- Written full lyrics to a song with a melody
- Written full lyrics and a melody to a music bed
- Edited lyrics for clarity and emotional storytelling
- Consulted on lyrical projects for a second opinion
- Written ad content lyrics for commercials
- Edited commercial lyrics to retain the most info in the shortest time
The list continues, but hopefully, this shows that there is no standard way to hire a lyricist. You may already be a lyricist but be stuck on a verse. You may have a story to tell but are not sure how to put it into lyrical form. Any of these are great reasons to find a lyricist to tell your story!
How much does a lyricist cost?
Sorry, there’s no set answer to that! I know you were hoping for a number, but it depends on several things including who you ask, what you need, and what the end result will be. If it’s a song about how much you love your grandma, and she’s the only one who will ever hear it, that will be less expensive than a song you’re going to try to pitch to a major company for a commercial. If the lyricist retains some of the rights to the song, that will be less expensive than giving you full rights and ownership over it (because if the song ever becomes famous, the lyricist typically receives no residual income if they give up their rights). Also, I’ve had clients contact me to write lyrics, and fail to mention that I am also responsible for creating the melody. Typically those are separate fees so it’s important to mention that up front for an accurate quote!
How does the process work?
Everyone works a little differently, but for me, we start by gathering what you already have. If it’s just the music bed or instrumental, that’s perfect. If you’ve also got a melody, great! From there I determine what you’re looking for in terms of the story. After I get a feel for what you’re looking for, I start writing (by hand – I’m old school like that). I send you a draft and let you look/listen and make any changes. I go back, edit and resend to you. Once you’re completely happy with the draft, I go to my booth and record the vocals professionally (unless I’m only writing and not performing, in which case after you’re happy with it we’re good to go!)
Each lyricist has a method and work style, so I can’t speak for everyone. It’s important to find someone whose work style compliments your own and someone you trust to tell your story.
In case you’re curious, here’s a link to my reel of songs I’ve written for clients. I may have written lyrics only or contributed in other ways to each of these samples, but hopefully, it will show that there are few limits in songwriting. I love that each client has a unique story and try to convey that as best as possible!