You’ve written and re-written your song, had a demo recorded, and now you’re ready to submit it to a publisher. Along with the actual song you’ll need to have a lyric sheet to present to the music publisher. It’s important to have a properly formatted lyric sheet available for the publisher to view as the song is playing.
How to Format Song Lyrics: Beginning from the top of the page to the bottom, song lyric sheets should include the title of the song, authors, song lyrics, and songwriter contact information including email address and phone number. All of the information should be on one page.
That’s it. No other information is necessary. It is vital that you present yourself professionally and offer a typed, never handwritten, lyric sheet. You only get one shot at a first impression and it needs to be one that puts you in a positive light. Let’s talk about each one of these items individually.
Use a common font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica. Do not use a fancy font style. You want your lyric sheet to look as professional as possible. The last thing you want is a publisher unable to read your lyrics. Plus it will flag you as an amateur. I’ll discuss font size later.
There are different opinions about how to display the title of the song. Some will say it should be over to the left side of the page and others will say it should be centered on the page. I’m not going to insist that you do it in a particular way. I will say that all of the songs I’ve had published have had the title centered on the page. I’ve never submitted one that had the title on the left side so I can’t tell you firsthand that will work or not. Don’t go over 20pt on font size with the title. Some have the title in quotation marks and some don’t. I bold the title and don’t use quotation marks.
There is also no real consensus on where to display the author names. Some have them listed under the title and I’ve seen some with the authors over to the right side of the page. The use of parenthesis is also sometimes placed around the author’s names. The font size should be no more than 12pt. I’ve always put my author’s names directly under the centered title.
These are justified to the left side of the page, never centered on the page. The font in the lyrics section should be no more than 14pt. Single space the lines. You don’t label the verse sections with “verse”. You do, however, label the chorus section with “chorus”. There is a line space between sections.
In subsequent choruses, unless the lyrics change, you only need to put “repeat chorus” where the next chorus goes. There’s no need to type out the whole chorus again. Some writers will indent the chorus to offset it from the verses. I have never done that. If there is a bridge it should be labeled “bridge”.
If you have a spoken or sung intro at the beginning of the song before any of the main sections appear, you should label that as “intro”. The same applies to any “outro” lyrics at the end of the song. If there is a “pre-chorus” between the verse and chorus label it as such. Never put chord names above the words. This is a lyric sheet, not a music sheet.
All of the contact information is over to the left side of the page like the lyrics. Only your email and phone number are required.
Simply put: Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is a sample of how I’d submit a lyric sheet.
(Ronnie Lee Hurst)
I wish I had a magic pen that knew just what to write
One to spell it out for you just how I feel inside
All I ever end up with is some worn out cliche’
I wish I had a magic pen that knew just what to say
Then I could place the perfect phrase right in the perfect spot
And let you see a side of me that isn’t seen a lot
There wouldn’t be a wasted word each one would speak the truth
A magic pen could help me send those special words to you
I wish I had a magic pen ’cause you deserve to know
What’s behind this pride of mine that’s hard for me to show
Fancy conversation’s never been my cup of tea
But then again a magic pen might bring it out of me
As you can see, formatting your song lyric sheet is relatively simple to do. I want to stress again the importance of adhering to the format. If you want to be taken seriously, and as a professional, you need to present yourself as one.
I hope this article has helped further your understanding of how to format a song lyric sheet. I encourage you to follow this procedure and submit your own songs. Good Luck and Write on!