If you think that you have got a penchant for writing, becoming a lyricist may be the right option for you. Lyricists write songs for TV shows, movies, ads, and other such media platforms.
Lyric-writing is an art in itself, and India has produced many lengendary lyricists like Javed Akhtar, Irshad Kamil, Sahir Ludhianvi, and many more. If you think you can become the next big thing in this field, read on.
Due to the rise of mediocre songs, lyric writing had sort of taken a back seat. It had all become about the beat and the rhythm of the song. But lately, people like Varun Grover (“Moh Moh ke Dhaage”) and Manoj Muntashir (“Teri Galiyan”) are leading the fight against mediocrity and are making sure that lyric writing does not become a dying art.
Step-by-step guide to become a Lyricist in Bollywood
- Start working on your craft as soon as possible. Write as many songs as you can. You will write many bad songs and poems before you write a good one, so don’t be discouraged if your writing is not good enough yet. Another important thing is to start analysing songs from your favourite movies, to see what makes them tick.
- There are no colleges for lyric-writing. You would have to learn everything yourself. The ‘craft’ of lyric-writing is as important as the ‘art’. Take a look at the recommended resources section; it will help you become a better lyricist.
- You are going to have to move to Mumbai (or equivalent cities for regional cinema). There are no other options. So, move to Mumbai as soon as you can. Approach young and unknown directors with your songs and see if they can be used in a short film, as it will also help a lot.
- Write the best songs you can. Get them registered at the SWA website so that they can’t be stolen. Also, try to create an online following. Start putting your poems and songs on YouTube and Instagram.
- Send your writing samples to production houses, directors, music composers, ad agencies; basically anyone who can help in getting you your first project. You can find their contact information on IMDB.
- Start writing for theatre as soon as possible. The money wouldn’t be much, but it will give you a lot of connections. And to be honest, building connections is what’s going to get you your big break. Irshad Kamil knew Imtiaz Ali, Varun Grover knew Anurag Kashyap. You get my point.
- Keep working at it and start putting yourself out there. There is a dearth of quality lyricists in Bollywood; so know that people out there are looking for writers like yourself.
Salary of a Lyricist in Bollywood
Like most other creative professionals, lyricists don’t have a ‘salary’ per se. You will earn money per project, and how much you earn would depend on your skills as well as the size of the project. If you become very successful, you can easily charge 3-5 lakh rupees per song. But you can’t expect the same amount of money when you are a beginner who’s writing songs for a short film.
Job Profile (A Day in the life of a Lyricist)
The main work of a lyricist is to write songs and jingles for movies and ad-films respectively. All the other stuff depends a lot on the medium you are writing for.
If you are writing for a film, it’s a pretty solitary job. Since there is no such thing as ‘office hours’, your daily schedule depends a lot on yourself. For a commissioned project, there are meetings with the director and producer every other week or so. Much like screenwriting, nobody really cares about how much you write in a day; all they really care about is that you submit your songs well within the time limit (usually a couple of weeks to a month, but it depends a lot on the director).
The actual process of writing a song goes something like this –
The music composer and the director sit down to decide what the song needs to represent and what feelings its should evoke from the audience. Once this is done, the composer comes up with a tune or melody. This tune is then given to the lyricist, along with a brief on what the song should be about and what it should convey. The lyricist then writes the song. This process goes on and on until the director is satisfied.
If you are writing for an ad-film, the only difference would be that the ‘commercial’ aspect of writing would get more focus. You would still be given a brief and a tune or melody, it’s just that you would have to inculcate the brand and whatever it is trying to sell in the song.
It is a really fun job if you like creating and telling stories, as you get to work with people working passionately to get a story to the masses. Technical skills are not really required, but vast amounts of creativity and imagination are a must. Huge amount of patience is also needed in this profession. Remember, what you are writing now would come on the screens after a year or so (if you’re lucky).
Growth opportunities are there for those who want them (you can become a content head, script supervisor, or executive producer), but most lyricists are happy being lyricists.
No degree is required to become a lyricist.
One thing to love about being a Lyricist
“Your songs are going to be heard by a billion people, literally. That’s a huge power trip.”
One thing to hate about being a Lyricist
“There is no clear-cut path to get into this profession.”
Resources and Tips
- SWA India’s website and YouTube channel are great resources for you. They constantly interview industry people, which can give you more insight.
- The YouTube channel of Manoj Muntashir is a extremely helpful. He literally teaches you how to write a good song, and also provides insights about the craft.
- Read “Kaali Aurat ka Khwab” by Irshad Kamil. It contains stories and anecdotes about his popular songs, and lets you know the real side of things, right from the horse’s mouth.
- Check out this excellent YouTube video. It teaches you all the technical stuff about writing songs and ghazals.
- You would require IMDB a lot; to get the names and contact information of people involved with a project.
- The Film Companion website and YouTube channel also does a lot of interviews with lyricists.