(Note: This article has been amended to clarify Musixmatch's license agreements with both major and indie publishers.)
We’ve all been there. You’re out and about minding your own business, and suddenly you’re hit with an earworm; a song that just won’t get out of your head. What is this damn song? You can’t Shazam it, but you need to extract the lyrics bouncing around your left temporal lobe and add that song to your “Guilty Pleasures” playlist on Spotify. Chances are, you Google (or Alexa) the lyrics, and a quick search retrieves the song title in 0.61 seconds.
Song lyrics have been an essential part of the collective listening experience since sheet music and album sleeves have been around. Digital streaming and the Internet have only amplified our obsession, with over five million Google searches for “lyrics” every day.
Many lyrics sites are in the business of funneling this traffic into their ad-infested domains, while refusing to pay songwriters and publishers a royalty for the use. This is usually illegal, and you may be owed some money. More on that in a minute.
Lyrics are an integral part of the booming streaming experience.
According to a recent report, 88% of streaming music subscribers search for lyrics, and 61% of streaming lyrics users consider them essential to the experience (MIDiA).
More and more, tech is trying to keep up with that demand.
Google and Bing have both partnered with LyricFind, a top (legal) lyrics provider that now displays lyrics in directly in the search results page, as well as inside the Google Play Music app.
Spotify has partnered with their own share of lyrics providers over the years, from Musixmatch and most recently Genius, though only for select songs.
Amazon is paving a new frontier for voice controlled lyrics inquiries powered by Alexa, ranking their top 50 most requested lyrics of 2017.
Indie distributor DistroKid just announced their own lyrics integration with Apple Music and any other DSPs willing to work with them. Artists using the platform simply paste their lyrics into DistroKid, and watch them show up 2–3 days later. It’s never been this easy for indie artists.
Where & How to Submit Lyrics
In addition to Google and Bing products, LyricFind also delivers lyrics to Pandora, SoundHound, Shazam, and Amazon Music.
LyricFind is a leading digital aggregator, and compensates songwriters / publishers via Harry Fox Agency. If you are self-published, create a publishing entity and sign up for HFA Online. Then:
Sign-up for an HFA Online Account
Opt-in to the LyricFind publishing agreement. (located in the Agreements Portal inside HFA Online Account)
Sign-up and deliver your lyrics to LyricFind
HFA pays the lyrics display license fee quarterly to your HFA Online Account.
(instructions courtesy of Dae Bogan, TuneRegistry)
Why direct your fans to other sites when you can have them come to you? Even if it’s an unlisted page on your website, search engines will often list your official lyrics page as a top result. Bandzoogle and Squarespace are two hosting services that make listing lyrics easy and SEO friendly.
Google searches are the single largest source of sales on Bandcamp. As they put it,
"your fans aren’t just searching for the name of your band, or your latest track — they’re frequently searching for that one lyric snippet they remember."
When you add lyrics to a track on Bandcamp, it embeds those lyrics in the download file as well. Again, discoverability leads to sales directly to the artist.
Formerly Rap Genius, Genius is known for its lyrics annotation and interpretation features. Verified artists can confirm fan interpretations, or write their own official meaning.
The company is equally notorious for stirring controversy. The Genius folks were once in a very public legal battle with the National Music Publishers’ Association for not compensating rights owners for displaying their lyrics. The two have since reached an agreement, but only for NMPA members. (See if you’re eligible to be an NMPA member here). Genius was also eviscerated by Google in 2013 for “black hat SEO” practices, after stuffing their code with unrelated tags like “Justin Bieber.”
Even though they took an L, Genius definitely bounced back. Many lyrics on Genius do go unpaid, though you should still consider publishing to the site, which sees around 150 million monthly visits, and yields 86% of its traffic from search engine results.
Musixmatch secures licenses with numerous publishers and labels, as well as Vevo, MetroLyrics, AZlyrics and Shazam.
Musixmatch used to be the exclusive lyrics provider to Spotify, and now integrates via YouTube with an in-time lyrics extension. They claim to be the “world’s largest lyrics platform,” which is probably due to their gamification of the lyrics upload experience for fans.
Closed Captioning on YouTube and Facebook Videos
According to multiple publishers, 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. In addition, there are 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the US alone. That leaves a huge market demand for captioning your lyrics in your music videos and official song art.
Moreover, closed captions are indexed by YouTube, Google, and Facebook’s search algorithms, so consider it part of your SEO strategy as well. This will also encourage foreign languages to more easily translate the words and open up your videos to entirely new markets
To add closed captioning to your music videos, follow YouTube’s guidelines. Then, download the “.SRT” file from YouTube and upload it to the same video on Facebook and Vimeo.
Voilà! You may now reap the benefits of some increased web traffic (the organic kind) and milking your publishing for all it’s got. Now, go write some more lyrics!
For a full report on lyrics, check out MIDiA's research white paper for LyricFind: Lyrics Take Centre Stage In Streaming Music (December 2017)