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A person writing in a notebook in front of a mixing board. A person writing in a notebook in front of a mixing board.

What is a lyricist?

1 min read

Understand the role a lyricist plays in songwriting.

A lyricist creates and writes the words of a musical work.

A is the songwriter who writes the for a .

Copyright ownership for lyricists

Lyricists and all additional songwriters, such as , , , etc., who make an contribution to the musical work are considered under . Therefore, they can all own a share of the in the musical work; it's like sharing a pie.

Agreeing and properly documenting each author's share, also called , is the first step for each author to receive a share of earnings if the musical work is used. Learn more about this in the Songwriter Splits and Registering Musical Works topics.

Alternative copyright scenarios for lyricists

Lyricists can also write or musical works in exchange for a flat fee or salary, often referred to as . In these scenarios, the lyricist's copyright ownership of the musical work may change based on labor law or the agreement they sign.

You can find out more about this on the Work for Hire page.

Lyricists who have multiple creative roles

If you are a lyricist, you might also have additional roles when writing or recording a musical work, in which case you might also have additional shares in the ownership of that musical work and the .

Find out more about how this works in the Recording topic. To understand authors' rights in more detail, visit the Music Creators’ Rights topic.

Image Credit: Eric Ivar Persson, Parapix