The next time you bop your head along to tracks from your favorite pop artists, think about how much money was spent on the creation of that one song alone. NPR talked with a bunch of music insiders who ballparked a figure of how much Rihanna’s “Man Down” song cost on its journey from its inception to your ears, and the more-than-likely amount they came up with? $1,078,000. And a huge chunk of that is just to take radio programmers out to dinner. Pop music don’t come cheap!
Here’s how they break it down:
As NPR describes, “A writing camp is like a reality show, where top chefs who have never met are forced to cook together. At the end, Rihanna shows up like the celebrity judge and picks her favorites.”
According to Ray Daniels, who manages songwriters Rock City, the Jamaican-flavored track was written in about 12 minutes. But the money required to get those 12 minutes of inspiration were costly — Daniels estimates that Rihanna’s writing camp “had to cost at least 200 grand… It was at least forty guys out there. I was shocked at how much money they were spending! But, guess what? They got the whole album out of that one camp.”
The label, of course, has to pay the songwriters, the producers and all the studio engineers for their time and creativity. But the big money is spent on “rolling out the song”, which includes marketing, flying the artist out everywhere to promote it, and “treating the radio guys nice.”
How nice? Says NPR, “It can mean taking the program directors of major market stations to nice dinners. It can mean flying your artist in to do a free show at a station in order to generate more spots on a radio playlist.”
And guess what! All this money doesn’t even guarantee a hit. “Man Down” is currently #59 on the Hot 100 and radio airplay has been minimal. Of course, this is Rihanna, she’ll have more singles, and Def Jam will eventually make its money back. And if they don’t, well, RiRi doesn’t make any extra money (after her initial advance) on the song, either.
What can we learn by all of this? Don’t bother to become a pop star if you don’t write your own music. Instead, be a radio programmer and you’ll eat all the lobster and filet mignon your heart desires.