A songwriter is an individual who writes songs, also called a composer. Although songwriters of the past commonly composed, arranged and played their own songs, more recently the pressure to produce popular hits has tended to distribute responsibility between a number of people. Popular culture songs may be written by group members, but are now usually written by staff writers: songwriters directly employed by music publishers.
Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers. Furthermore, songwriters no longer need labels to support their music. Technology has advanced to the point where anyone can record at home.
The old-style apprenticeship approach to learning how to write songs is being supplemented by some universities and colleges and rock schools. A knowledge of modern music technology and business skills is seen as necessary to make a songwriting career, and music colleges offer songwriting diplomas and degrees with music business modules.
Since songwriting and publishing royalties can be a substantial source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record, legally, in the US, songs written after 1934 may only be copied by the authors. The legal power to grant these permissions may be bought, sold or transferred. This is governed by international copyright law.
Professional songwriters can either be employed to write either the lyrics or the melody directly for or alongside a performing artist, or they present songs to A&R, publishers, agents and managers for consideration. Song pitching can be done on a songwriter’s behalf by their publisher or independently using tip sheets like RowFax, the MusicRow publication, and SongQuarters. Skills associated with song-writing include entrepreneurism and creativity.