Music Diary News: The Real Cost of that New Single … and the Reason You Hear it So Much!

I have talked quite a bit about how the music you hear on the radio and see on the ‘top charts’ has less to do with actual tastes in music and more in massive quantities of money being dumped into making those songs and artists omnipresent and triggering the ‘if I don’t like X I won’t be cool’ … along with the well known fact that when our brain hears something enough it gets ‘stuck’ – even if we don’t like it.

I have also written rather derisively about these so-called ‘songwriters’ who are pop stars. While I cannot state emphatically exactly what involvement these folks have in the process, suffice to say it isn’t the same as what Bob Dylan or Lennon & McCartney or Pete Townshend called ‘songwriting’ back in the 1960s.

Last week at Digital Music News there was a report that broke down exactly how much was spent creating and producing a single song for Rihanna called ‘Man Down’. The image above tells the tale – $1,078,000!

There is a huge amount of money put into crafting the song, flying songwriters out to a common location, renting studios, basically putting everything together for the artist to come and simply add the vocal – which itself needs loads of attention as witnessed by the $15,000 for the ‘Vocal Producer’. One participant notes:

“It was at least forty guys out there,” said writer Ray Daniels, referring to the camp, which also involved several high-end studio rentals. “I was shocked at how much money they were spending!”

But what is staggering is that $1 million was spent on ‘song roll-out’. This includes buying radio slots, securing store locations, having the artist on every talk show around the world, and on and on. This money is a combination of actual expenses and ‘cost of business’ things along with a more formalized structure of kickbacks that have emerged as the primary force since radio market deregulation. As noted:

getting mainstream radio rotation is virtually impossible these days without major label backing.

It is worth noting what this means. Assuming a $1.29 average selling price for the song, taking 30% for iTunes, 10% for artist royalties, and leaving $0.75 per song to the record label, that means the song needs to sell 1,292,000 copies (yes, 1.3 million!) JUST to break even! And that is assuming the highest possible price, without Amazon charging less and freebies and so on. That is a huge – and risky – investment for an industry in clear decline. It is another example of an outdated business model trying to force itself into a self-fulfilling prophesy through sheer volume of money.

There you have it – for $1.1 million, you CAN buy yourself a hit record. It will undoubtedly be a million-seller, be all over the radio and have Ryan Seacrest singing its praises with Rihanna on the phone talking about how personal the story was to her as she wrote the song. When you hear that, remember folks – this is a massive industrial effort to control the landscape, and your ears and eyes have been sold.

Here is the video of what nearly $1.1 million produced (of course, that doesn’t include the cost to make and promote the video … )

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!