Category Archives: Professional Songwriting

best lyricists

The Top 10 Best Lyricists of All Time

Some songwriters are good, some are great, and then there are some that are downright legendary.

Whether you’re a beginner writer or a seasoned musical lyricist, it never hurts to get a little inspiration from the greats throughout time.

We put together a list of the best lyricists of all time to get you inspired to start writing.

We simply couldn’t rank these great lyricists, so mind that this list is not in ranking order.

Check out these amazing musical lyricists!

The Top Ten Best Lyricists of All Time

Many of these best lyricists are commonly know, but you may be surprised by the others that make this list.

10. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is an American songwriter, artist, and singer known for his extensive works throughout the sixties.

He’s been an active musician with a career spanning over fifty years. His stamina in a stressful music industry isn’t his only talent, though. He also happens to be one of the best lyricists of all time.

Some of Bob Dylan’s best songs include:

  • Alright Ma
  • Desolation Row
  • It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
  • Visions of Johanna
  • Blowin’ In The Wind
  • Like A Rolling Stone
  • Positively 4th Street
  • Idiot Wind

9. John Lennon

You can’t really have a legendary lyricist list without including the Beatle’s frontman and solo artist John Lennon.

John Lennon was a talented British singer, songwriter, and creative. Known for being diverse and experimental in his songwriting, John Lennon’s career as a musician lasted many years before his untimely death in 1980.

Some of John Lennon’s best works include:

  • Imagine
  • Instant Karma
  • Jealous Guy
  • Mother
  • Mind Games
  • Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
  • Dream

John Lennon’s work has been covered by many popular musicians, most recently by Lady Gaga at the Baku 2015 European Games opening.

8. Jesse Michaels

An unexpected and underrated creative makes this list with Jesse Michaels.

Jesse Michaels is a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist known for his work as the singer for ska punk band Operation Ivy.

Much of Jesse Michaels’ work was within Operation Ivy, which was short lived in itself. However, both stylistically and politically, Operation Ivy is known as one of the most iconic and influential bands in the punk and ska genre.

Some of Jesse Michaels’ best songs include:

  • Unity
  • Yellin’ In My Ear
  • Artificial Life

7. Kurt Cobain

Considered one of the most influential figures in nineties ‘grunge’ rock music, Kurt Cobain composed and wrote songs for the rock band Nirvana before his death in 1994.

He is known for his artful approach to music and ability to connect ideas and emotions in a relatable way.

Some of Kurt Cobain’s best songs include:

  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Heart-Shaped Box
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • About A Girl
  • All Apologies
  • Pennyroyal Tea

6. Jello Biafra

Another punk makes this list. Vocalist and songwriter Jello Biafra was the lead of San Francisco punk band Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

Known for being outlandishly political and running for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 and president of the United States in 2000, Jello Biafra is incredibly political in his music while maintaining a level of artistic comedy in his words.

Some of Jello Biafra’s best songs include:

  • Holiday In Cambodia
  • Kill The Poor
  • MTV Get Off The Air
  • California Uber Alles
  • Police Truck

5. Paul McCartney

The other fantastic musical creative that was part of The Beatles is definitely Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan himself is quoted as saying “I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I’m in awe of.”

On top of being an excellent and iconic melodist, Paul McCartney was able to stretch his talents past typical pop songs to add wit and complex storytelling to his written work.

Some of Paul McCartney’s best songs include:

  • Maybe I’m Amazed
  • Live And Let Die
  • Band On The Run
  • Another Day
  • Coming Up
  • Silly Love Songs
  • No More Lonely Nights
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Yesterday

4. Chuck Berry

Considered the first singer-songwriter of the rock and roll genre, Chuck Berry crossed boundaries that hadn’t been crossed before.

His fun-loving songs and celebratory American classics are still loved to this day.

Some of Chuck Berry’s best songs include:

  • Maybellene
  • Johnnie B. Goode
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Sweet Little Sixteen
  • School Day
  • Rock & Roll Music
  • Memphis, Tennessee

3. Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson truly set the stage for melodic and lyrical goals when he created some of the Motown genre’s greatest pieces of work.

His lyrics were poetic and elegant while still maintaining catchiness in the pop genre as well. He even inspired The Beatles in their early days.

Smokey Robinson described his method of songwriting as such: “My theory of writing is to write a song that has a complete idea and tells a story in the time allotted for a record.”

Some of Smokey Robinson’s best songs include:

  • I Second That Emotion
  • You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me
  • Tracks Of My Tears
  • The Tears Of A Clown
  • Ooh Baby Baby
  • Cruisin’
  • Being With You
  • Shop Around

2. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell was a talented folk musician known her her artistic approach to simplicity in lyricism.

Usually accompanied by her acoustic guitar or piano, she would recite almost disturbingly personal words that changed the way people saw “normal” songwriting.

Confrontational and intimate, Joni Mitchell’s work somehow remains underrated for her masterpieces.

Some of Joni Mitchel’s best songs include:

  • Big Yellow Taxi
  • Both Sides Now
  • Circle Game
  • A Case Of You
  • Free Man In Paris
  • River
  • You Turn Me On I’m A Radio
  • Chelsea Morning

1. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton’s career as a country singer has been above and beyond impressive, and she can owe all that to her talent for songwriting.

From sweet bouncy Tennessee songs to heartwrenching ballads about romance and marital problems, Dolly Parton has pumped out hits that just about every American can recognize.

She was also the writer behind Whitney Houston’s iconic song “I Will Always Love You.”

Some of Dolly Parton’s best songs include:

  • Jolene
  • 9 To 5
  • I Will Always Love You
  • Coat Of Many Colors
  • Here You Come Again
  • Eagle When She Flies
  • My Tennessee Mountain Home

Get Inspired

Were you inspired by this list of the ten best lyricists of all time? Tell us what you think, along with your own favorites, in the comments below!

Tip on Being a Professional Songwriter: Saving Money on Copyrights



When artists first start creating with being a professional songwriter in mind, information floating around can be a little misleading about copyrights. It is surprising that there are still people who would like to think that cheap copyrights can be achieved by mailing something to yourself, but take a moment to walk through that theoretical lawsuit in the context of the music industry:

You and your band get a hit song stolen by a multimillion dollar record company backed boy-band, and you put together your case using all the money you didn’t make from the royalties of your plagiarized work. You walk into the courtroom facing a team of lawyers, all of them sharks sizing you up for the value of a counter-suit, and your best evidence is a disc sealed in a padded mailer, and perhaps the other members of your band who by hearsay claim you were the first to the punch. For more on this and other issues in music law, you can check out this article here on our own site.

A copyright through the Library of Congress, on the other hand, would mean that an official report was available showing exactly when they received the record of your having written the song, and exactly what you recorded when you documented that as your own composition.

So now you’ve faced facts and you’re ready to invest in actually protecting your work. The best way to save on copyrights is to register fewer of them altogether. If you are immediately concerned about the safety of something you have written, by all means file immediately. But the fact is, if you wait until you have a collection to bundle into a single registration, you can save quite of a bit of money, especially over time.

It used to be that one needed to fill out what’s called Form CA after registering a collection of songs in order to validate the collection entirely. Now that the copyright office is online, you can simply call what you are submitting a collection and go through the Form PA process, checking the box along the way that this is not just a single work you are registering. One snag–this savings plan assumes that each song in the collection is going to get the same songwriting credits across the board. (You can’t give your drummer credit for tracks 1 and 3 and take credit for the rest yourself, for example).

If all you want to protect is a single song, it is $35, and the fee for a collection is $55. To fill out the paper application and send a hard copy representation of your work, the Library of Congress penalizes you for the extra manpower in the mail-room, charging $85.

Once you have your collection together and have a record of it (it doesn’t have to be a high quality recording at all–just as long as it can be heard, or read in the case of lyrics), you are ready to get your form together.

  1. Go to–or if you don’t feel the need to peruse the website’s information, go straight to the Register a Copyright page. You will need to register with them first (in a manner similar to many websites requiring some personal info). From there, you are going to want to register your songs as a work of Performing Arts, using Form PA. For the hard copy application process here is the PDF link:
  2. The website is fairly intuitive. You will follow some slightly less intuitive prompts along the way. One is regarding the “Type of Work.” For this “Add” a “New” listing. Select “Title of work being registered” for each song you want to include, and click on the “edit” icon to the right of the listing when you see it, to put in every detail you can about it. It’s the same process when you get to the “Authors” section of the form–remember that you won’t be able to save money registering songs with different combinations of authors.
  3. Some of the next steps (“Limitation of Claims,” “Special Handling”) you might be able to skip through (by pressing “Continue”). Look them over to see if they might apply to your situation.
  4. When you’ve added all the information the Copyright Office requires, it’ll be time to “Review Submission.”
  5. Finally, after you review the information, you’ll “Add to Cart,” and check out. Note that after checkout is when you’ll upload your material.

So there you have it! For each demo of material you might save yourself one hundred dollars, provided each song is written by the same author (or combination of authors, such as the entire band), and you take the time to put it all into one registration form!

Indie International is here to offer as much information as possible to creative people in the entertainment industry. Please feel free to contact us for more information about songwriting and the music industry.

How to Protect Yourself When Marketing Your Music


In today’s entertainment industry, the key to getting the word out about your music is to take advantage of the wide range of marketing tools that are available online. Using social media and email campaigns can help to vastly increase your fan base, but the downside is that online marketing comes with inherent security risks that can compromise your personal information and creative content. Here are a few ways that you can keep yourself safe when marketing your music online.
Consider Copyright Protection

One of the most important issues when it comes to staying safe when marketing your music is protecting your content. You don’t want any original images, music or lyrics that you use to promote yourself online to be stolen and reused.
Obtaining a copyright on this content will help to protect against this. To do this, ensure that you register original music with the U.S. Copyright Office. Include a clear copyright notice on your content so you can take action against infringement just in case your music is reused without your permission.
If your band has a specific brand identity (such as a logo), this is something you should also protect. Use the TM or SM symbol to protect this content from being stolen, and registering it with the US Patent and Trademark Office will allow you to use the ® symbol to protect against infringement. It may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference and gives you the legal high ground.
Have A Secure Internet Connection

Another important step in protecting yourself when marketing your music online is to have a secure internet connection. Since most of your tracks and recordings are stored online and on your computer, they are vulnerable to security threats. If your computer or internet connection falls prey to a virus or malware, all of your hard work could be compromised. You need to make sure you use proper security software to avoid viruses and malware. If your personal information isn’t valuable now, it will be one day.
Since it is crucial for musicians to stay in touch with fans, you will also need to take steps to protect your personal information while online. If you’re at a gig and you want to upload photos or share an update, using a public WiFi network can leave your data unencrypted and allow for unauthorized access to sensitive information such as passwords and even bank details. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will encrypt your data to keep your information and content safe. If you need to find the right option for you, Secure Thoughts has some great reviews.

Manage Your Website Securely

A functional website is the perfect hub for your band’s online marketing campaign, hosting photos, tour dates, music and more. As all of this content is stored on your site’s server, you will definitely want to keep it safe. Be sure to browse the wide range of website security plugins that are available.
It is also important to ensure that your site is hosted with a reliable company. Conduct thorough research on various hosts before you choosing one for your site. Find out which one is the most trustworthy and be sure to work with them closely. The quality of hosts may change over time as well, so don’t be hesitant to switch companies if you find that you aren’t satisfied.

Double Check Social Media Privacy Settings 
Social media is one of the most powerful tools for musicians who want to spread the word about their craft. However, it is a very vulnerable form of online marketing, and networks such as SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr can be hacked if you’re not careful. To prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your account and spamming your followers with malware, keep a close eye on your privacy settings. Ensure that you are visible to fans without providing too much public access to your information. Use multiple forms of verification if at all possible.
It is also important to keep your passwords complex to reduce the possibility of your social media accounts being hacked. Ensure that each social network has a different password. While this may seem like a pain, it is crucial for keeping your social media profiles safe.
What methods do you use to keep yourself safe when promoting your music online? Do you have any thoughts on what was said above? Leave us a comment and let us know your tips!
Author Bio: Caroline is a social media guru who is passionate about music. Using her knowledge of online marketing, she wants to help her favourite indie artists protect their music online.