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How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?
July 21, 2011 7:53 AM   Subscribe

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song? "Def Jam started paying for Rihanna's recent single, "Man Down," more than a year ago. In March of 2010, the label held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for Rihanna's album, Loud."

Cost of "creative process" (assembly line writing and production) = $78,000
Cost of marketing = $1,000,000

A peek at the realities of today's music industry.
posted by incandissonance (75 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Considering the explosive profit potential of a Rihanna hit, I was actually surprised it was "that cheap". It seems the only pro in this deal who isn't guaranteed to get paid is the artist herself, Rihanna. The rest get paid either way (though I suppose their careers will die if they don't produce results very often). I'd also be curious as to the percentage/fixed take, if any, of those producers, writers, etc.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:02 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was surprised by

1) How little it was, considering

and

2) How much I liked it.
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, like, how come she doesn't just, like, put her songs on the internet, man? Then everybody could hear 'em, and it wouldn't cost all that money? Riiiiiiiight?

wrong
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:04 AM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is the KLF method not workable anymore? The Manual was a guide to creating a number-one pop hit without talent or money.
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Clarification: today's pop-music hype-factory industry. Like many modern industries, there are the big players who throw around a lot of money to stay on top, and there are those who do it because they are passionate about what they do. And then there are the DIY folks, artists who make music that catches ears.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I listened to this on NPR when it first aired. I thought this song plain sucked.

I'm not the right demographic for her music, but in general it doesn't make me drive for the dial.

This one was horrible in my mind.

Also, way too much money goes into something like this.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:06 AM on July 21, 2011


artists who make music that catches ears.

Sometimes more than a hundred or so!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:06 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to compare this to the well known essays by Courtney Love and Steve Albini i.e. the recording industry makes it money by ripping off the creative side of that equation. It's pretty straightforward but NPR manages to obscure the issue.

Now, you can look NPR's coverage of other sectors of the US economy and consider that they apply the same filter.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


But it's not a hit until everybody hears it. How much does that cost?

About $1 million, according to Daniels, Riddick and other industry insiders.
Sorry, I just want to emphasize my point: who does NPR speak with to learn about how the music industry numbers work? Why, music industry insiders of course, and anonymous ones at that. It's a template for how they cover corporate america in general.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Daniels and Riddick aren't anonymous.
posted by Jairus at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2011


Is the KLF method not workable anymore?

The Pipettes were formed (rather tongue-in-cheekily) via the KLF method. Heard them on the charts recently?
posted by griphus at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. As the article notes, this is a modern update on what has been going on for many years.

Several decades ago in the famous Brill Building located in New York, there was a "hit factory" of writers, producers, and musicians that cranked out hit after hit. Some of the songwriters, artists, and producers who worked at the Brill Building included: Some of the songs produced there included: The biggest difference between what they did at the Brill and what they do now with Rihanna and others is money. There is just a lot more of it being thrown around nowadays.

Sources here and here
posted by zooropa at 8:16 AM on July 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sorry, I just want to emphasize my point: who does NPR speak with to learn about how the music industry numbers work? Why, music industry insiders of course, and anonymous ones at that. It's a template for how they cover corporate america in general

Well, the question was "how much does the industry spend on this?" The best people to answer that question are the people who spend the money.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2011


Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" cost like $6000 (including a fee to Van Halen, which was later expanded to a $180k civil settlement after the song blew up). Not that that is a model or anything, but it's probably considered a holy grail of production costs to net profit ratios.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


But, like, how come she doesn't just, like, put her songs on the internet, man? Then everybody could hear 'em, and it wouldn't cost all that money? Riiiiiiiight?

wrong
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:04 AM on July 21 [+] [!]


It's true, there's next to no data supporting the 'strawman argument' hypothesis of distribution.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The music industry would claim every hit costs $1,000,000,000 if they could. Then they could claim it as a loss and not pay any artist, while pushing for draconian laws supporting their monopolies.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I swear there was a previously on this, because I made a comment then about how they folks interviewed essentially admit payola is still going on in the industry (paying off/bribing the radio DJ types to get them to play your song..)
posted by k5.user at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2011


Bob Lefsetz writes an industry blog that is worth reading. In short, he thinks radio is dead, paying for music is dead, owning music is dead, streaming rented music is the future and bands make their money on the road and selling merch.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


payola is still going on in the industry (paying off/bribing the radio DJ types to get them to play your song..)

Radio DJs are no longer involved in programming decisions, That's done at the corporate level of whatever media conglomerate owns the station. Which makes payola that much easier because there are only a dozen or so people to pay off to get your song played all over the world.
posted by rocket88 at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is the KLF method not workable anymore? The Manual was a guide to creating a number-one pop hit

With a little updating, it would probably still work. But when they say "number-one pop hit," the list they're charting on is dance club music as played in clubs, not broadcast or general distribution.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:32 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is the KLF method not workable anymore?

Lady Gaga.
posted by Elmore at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2011


Lady Gaga.
posted by Elmore


Part of the KLF plan is to have no talent or skills, only taste, and to be open to having the very talented young programming engineer contribute his keyboard stylings, without songwriting credit.

I don't see her deferring the keyboards to the engineer.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:45 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I admit I'm not a big Rhianna fan. My wife has her stuff on her ipod so it was on in the car recently. There was a song - which I cannot remember the name of, nor will I bother looking it up - about S&M and rough sex. And my first thought was, good for her, she wrote this song and is singing bravely about her personal sexual life in a way that might open some peoples eyes to ... and then I felt like an old man and an idiot. The song was put together by a bunch of well paid 'song writers' and sold to her marketable demographic - 11 to 30+ year old men and women. I don't hate Rihanna, but this realisation squicked me out. And, yes, I am naive and stupid a lot of the time, but I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

While I'm not a fan of Gaga (I really don't like the music), I didn't mean to suggest with my comment above in reference to the KLF thing that she is talentless. I think she has a lot of talent, and is also very canny.
posted by Elmore at 8:46 AM on July 21, 2011


The song was put together by a bunch of well paid 'song writers' and sold to her marketable demographic...

It was also a foregone conclusion, in Billy Jean, that Michael Jackson was not "the one."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:48 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


What the???
posted by Elmore at 8:51 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet: "The song was put together by a bunch of well paid 'song writers' and sold to her marketable demographic...

It was also a foregone conclusion, in Billy Jean, that Michael Jackson was not "the one.
"

Well, duh. The kid is not his son.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:54 AM on July 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


StickyCarpet, yeah, like I said I'm naive and stupid a lot of the time. I don't listen to a lot of pop music, I like stuff like Dylan and Harry Chapin. So I sometimes get fooled into thinking pop stars are songwriters. I have been enjoying Adele's most recent album, so there is some hope...
posted by Elmore at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2011


The song was put together by a bunch of well paid 'song writers' and sold to her marketable demographic - 11 to 30+ year old men and women. I don't hate Rihanna, but this realisation squicked me out. And, yes, I am naive and stupid a lot of the time, but I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

So when Elton said that was...our song...

...there was someone else?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" cost like $6000 (including a fee to Van Halen, which was later expanded to a $180k civil settlement after the song blew up)

I'm not certain, but I would have to assume that the Dust Brothers and/or Matt Dike would cost significantly more than $6000 to have produce your song these days if you want to factor in sample clearance. They were virtually unknown at the time, and that was their first hit.
posted by Hoopo at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2011


All I know is that I cannot get a record contract, we cannot get a record contract unless I take these tapes...and granted, the tapes themselves are yours...You own them, OK? But the magic that is on the tapes...that fuckin' heart and soul we put into those tapes...that is ours, and you don't own that.
posted by mattbucher at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I just want to emphasize my point: who does NPR speak with to learn about how the music industry numbers work? Why, music industry insiders of course, and anonymous ones at that.

Who do you think they should be interviewing? Industry outsiders? As for anonymity, what do you expect? People aren't going to put their name on this stuff, and they're going to be a lot less honest if they have to. It's not like when "unnamed administration officials" spin the press, since there's no common agency to dictate their answers.
posted by Edgewise at 9:12 AM on July 21, 2011


I don't see her deferring the keyboards to the engineer.

I do. Of course, that's a promotional video where she is just pretending to be part of the songwriting process, not an actual look at how the process really works. So maybe in real life she totally plays keyboards on her albums, but then she just pretends not to when she's doing promotional stuff and gives other people songwriting credit and pays them millions of dollars for no apparent reason.
posted by The World Famous at 9:12 AM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Expecting a singer to also be a song writer is a fairly recent thing.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I get the feeling some people wish there were more to be outraged about here.
posted by John Cohen at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Expecting a singer to also be a song writer is a fairly recent thing.

So is not expecting a singer to be able to carry a tune in a bucket.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:22 AM on July 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


I listened to the series as a podcast, and came away from listening to their excerpts from Man Down humming the hook to Bad Romance. So my main thought was: With all of those tens of thousands of dollars sunk into writing the song, was there nobody who came out of those sessions saying "hey, guys, this sounds like a bad Lady Gaga ripoff and nobody's gonna actually hum our version of that hook?"?

Or is that process so caught up with ass-kissing and politics that nobody can point out the obvious?
posted by straw at 9:23 AM on July 21, 2011


I liked the part where they wrote the song in 12 minutes. It sounds like a song that was written in 12 minutes.
posted by diogenes at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Considering the explosive profit potential of a Rihanna hit, I was actually surprised it was "that cheap".

On Sound Opinions the week this Planet Money podcast came out, Greg Kot pointed out that the potential return (total sales of between $2-3 million) is dramatically less than what it's been in the past... He was wondering why the million dollar investment is still considered a good wager.
posted by pokermonk at 9:31 AM on July 21, 2011


Expecting a singer to also be a song writer is a fairly recent thing.

Sure, if by "fairly recent" you mean "for the last 40 years." But for all of that time, there have been both singer-songwriters and non-songwriter singers that have been successful in pop music. Expectations depend, for the most part, on the genre. Country and dance music artists are not expected to write their own songs, but rock outfits generally are. There are plenty of huge rock hits that were not written by the stars who made them famous, but that's not generally widely-publicized information, since a lot of rock fans would be very disappointed to find out that their favorite song did not spring forth from the organic process they like to imagine.

Even in dance music, there's a sort of mythology surrounding the songwriting process. See, for example, the passion with which people insist that Lady Gaga writes her own songs.

With all of those tens of thousands of dollars sunk into writing the song, was there nobody who came out of those sessions saying "hey, guys, this sounds like a bad Lady Gaga ripoff and nobody's gonna actually hum our version of that hook?"?

It's a lot more likely that they spent all that money with the express goal of making it sound like Lady Gaga. If Jimmy Page had come out of the sessions for the first few Zeppelin albums saying "hey guys, this sounds like a bad Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf ripoff and nobody's gonna actually hum our version of that hook," several generations of white, middle-class stoners would have had nothing to sing along with in their custom vans.
posted by The World Famous at 9:38 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


So is not expecting a singer to be able to carry a tune in a bucket.

Auto-tune is a strange thing. It became so ubiquitous that people started using it for effect; even people who can really sing use it. I really can't tell who can and cannot sing these days. I mean, what does Akon sound like without it? Can he sing? I have no idea.
posted by Hoopo at 9:50 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's more interesting to me is the heavy investment in promotion. I wonder what would happen if all the music companies went away and no one was around to promote anything to station programmers. What would the radio play?
posted by jnrussell at 9:51 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It's a lot more likely that they spent all that money with the express goal of making it sound like Lady Gaga.

One time I was messing around in a studio after hours with a guy who later went on to enjoy some minor success in the recording industry. We laid down a few instrumental tracks and then were playing around with mixing, and I said that it sounded a lot like New Order. He said if he worried about that kind of thing he would never get any work done.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2011


The Pipettes were formed (rather tongue-in-cheekily) via the KLF method. Heard them on the charts recently?

Very tongue-in-cheekily, I would think, considering the amount of musicianship involved in Pipettes albums and live shows.
posted by eugenen at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2011


We still don't know how much it costs to produce a hit song. Man Down isn't a hit.
posted by rdr at 10:19 AM on July 21, 2011


Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" cost like $6000 (including a fee to Van Halen, which was later expanded to a $180k civil settlement after the song blew up). Not that that is a model or anything, but it's probably considered a holy grail of production costs to net profit ratios.

Nirvana's entire first album Bleach was recorded for $606.17 (30 hours of studio time). It has sold 5.7 million copies worldwide. I'm guessing that beats Tone Loc.
posted by msalt at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2011


If Jimmy Page had come out of the sessions for the first few Zeppelin albums saying "hey guys, this sounds like a bad Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf ripoff yt and nobody's gonna actually hum our version of that hook," several generations of white, middle-class stoners would have had nothing to sing along with in their custom vans.

Man, that is so unfair, I mean, what is Pink Floyd? Chopped liver?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see her deferring the keyboards to the engineer.

I do. Of course, that's a promotional video where she is just pretending to be part of the songwriting process, not an actual look at how the process really works. So maybe in real life she totally plays keyboards on her albums
posted by The World Famous


That's not the KLF model, at least not Phase One. Darkchild is a twice-Grammy-nominated musician/producer who is on the top of the business. He's not a minimum-wage-plus-grilled-cheese keyboard programmer, getting no credit. In Phase Two, you hire big expensive producers and hand them a selection of you favorite songs, and let them take it from there.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2011


Nirvana's entire first album Bleach was recorded for $606.17 (30 hours of studio time). It has sold 5.7 million copies worldwide. I'm guessing that beats Tone Loc.

Given that Bleach's sales numbers are the direct result of the success of Nirvana's later efforts, I think it's appropriate to consider the cost of writing, recording, producing, promoting, and touring behind Nevermind and In Utero to be part of the total cost of promoting Bleach. I mean some people bought Bleach before Nevermind came out (I was one of them). But it did not sell 5.7 million copies on its own merits or the merits of the $606.17 that it cost to record.

Moreover, Bleach basically won the lottery, and was not a calculated effort to sell 5.7 million albums. If you had the express directive to make an album that will almost certainly sell that much, you'd have to spend a lot more than that. Even if your strategy was to go around and find a brilliant garage band who can become the next Nirvana, that strategy is going to cost you, the record executive, a lot more than $606.17.
posted by The World Famous at 10:29 AM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nirvana's entire first album Bleach was recorded for $606.17 (30 hours of studio time). It has sold 5.7 million copies worldwide. I'm guessing that beats Tone Loc

That album took the success of a subsequent album and a re-issue to take off. I'm not sure if there was any effort to market a single from it.
posted by Hoopo at 10:30 AM on July 21, 2011


That's not the KLF model, at least not Phase One. Darkchild is a twice-Grammy-nominated musician/producer who is on the top of the business. He's not a minimum-wage-plus-grilled-cheese keyboard programmer, getting no credit. In Phase Two, you hire big expensive producers and hand them a selection of you favorite songs, and let them take it from there.

Huh. I thought Telephone was on Gaga's second album. Wouldn't that make it Phase Two?
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 AM on July 21, 2011


Given that Bleach's sales numbers are the direct result of the success of Nirvana's later efforts, I think it's appropriate to consider the cost of writing, recording, producing, promoting, and touring behind Nevermind and In Utero to be part of the total cost of promoting Bleach.

That's getting a bit absurd, don't you think? Any big hit is going to be a bit of a surprise, with luck and other music successes (or movies, etc.) supporting it. Rihanna wasn't unknown before this song, either.

How about -- "In Utero" only cost $25,000 to produce. And that was an attempt at a worldwide hit.
posted by msalt at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2011


I don't see the studio cost in the calculation - though they write At a typical writing camp, the label might rent out 10 studios, at a total cost of about $25,000 a day - how many days in the cathedral, where every piece of equipment cost more than a small car?

But wonder if that'd even scratch the point of the pop industry being a gleaming expensive shit-to-gold machine (50K to make product + a million for the "roll out") with all the money going into the machine and to the people who maintain the machine, rather than all that money going towards the music. (Whatever that'd be like?)

But why is this trend so apparent in music? Is it maybe because in music the industrialisation (ie mechanical reproduction) kicked in very early? I like to believe that musicians' jobs were some of the earliest victims of industrial revolution. But IANAHistorian and it'd be great if anybody could verify that.
posted by yoHighness at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2011


That's the point - it costs a lot to market a song and try to make it a "hit". In Utero may have cost $25,000 to produce, but much, much more went into marketing and promotion. There were even TV commercials. The actual production costs in both Nirvana's and Rihanna's cases are a mere fraction of the total cost of "hitmaking".
posted by Hoopo at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2011


It seems like they need to include lost income from the performer somehow. Like if Rhianna is in a studio, she isn't making $$$$ on tour.
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM on July 21, 2011


I just think it's funny we're comparing Nirvana to tripe like Tone-Loc and Rhianna.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So when Elton said that was...our song...

...there was someone else?


Bernie Taupin
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


StickyCarpet: " But when they say "number-one pop hit," the list they're charting on is dance club music as played in clubs, not broadcast or general distribution."

Nah, The Manual is explicitly a guide to getting a genuine number one hit in the pop charts, as in sold more records than any other that week, not in some obscure dance music charts. Drummond & Cauty's most Manual-ish song, Doctorin' the Tardis went to number one in the UK. Edelweiss' Manual-inspired Bring Me Edelweiss was a proper number one a Europe.
posted by jack_mo at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2011


> I just think it's funny we're comparing Nirvana to tripe like Tone-Loc and Rhianna.

Well, you're not seeing the comparison very clearly then because it was about production costs versus profits, not about perceived quality of content.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2011


Not to mention the "Wild Thing" beat was fly as hell even if it's become a bit dated.
posted by Hoopo at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well it's the same infrastructure, whether Nirvana or Tone Loc. And even though the article does make the point of Payola taking the lion's share, like everybody else it takes for granted the hidden costs of that infrastructure.

But I don't want to pay these 2nd ark people, I want an app to show how much of the asking price was for marketing and promotion. In the supermarket too, please, inrtrnet, while you're at it.
posted by yoHighness at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's getting a bit absurd, don't you think? Any big hit is going to be a bit of a surprise, with luck and other music successes (or movies, etc.) supporting it. Rihanna wasn't unknown before this song, either.

It's not absurd at all. Nirvana was unknown when Bleach was released and remained unknown until their next album came out. That's why Bleach was cheap to record: Nirvana was unknown and was not trying to make a hit record. Furthermore, Bleach is not a "hit record." It has sold that many copies over the span of more than 20 years, with most of those sales long after the band ceased to exist.

How about -- "In Utero" only cost $25,000 to produce. And that was an attempt at a worldwide hit.

Well, first, what makes you think the people steering the ship on In Utero (Kurt Cobain and Steve Albini) were attempting to make a worldwide hit? Second, what costs are you including in that figure? Are you breaking it down the same way the NPR piece broke down the cost of the Rhianna track? Cobain presumably didn't write songs on a work-for-hire basis, so take that cost out and plug in his percentage of profits, residuals, etc. Likewise with Albini, did he do a flat-fee production arrangement, or a cut of revenues? Are you including mixing and mastering in that number? I bet you're not. And how about promotion? I bet you're not including promotional costs, either.

Like if Rhianna is in a studio, she isn't making $$$$ on tour.

How much time did she actually spend in the studio? I have a hard time believing she did anything in the studio other than show up for one day or maybe two to record her vocal over all the studio singer vocal tracks that came before it.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on July 21, 2011


The upshot is that you can produce cheap successes and expensive failures, and vice versa.
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on July 21, 2011


Couple of notes:

—In order to break even, just over 1 million people have to like Man Down at least one dollar's worth (more, really, given distro costs). That requires kind of a huge popularity, even in a country of over 300 million. A lot of the money will be made back on licensing, not direct purchases. In a lot of ways, individuals are no longer really the market for big pop music — corporate ad buys are, along with sync rights.

—A lot of the expenses make sense, especially on the creative end, but if the folks involved were pressed, they could do the same amount of work for a lot less. This tends to happen in music because the people involved directly in the decisions aren't necessarily tied directly to the costs. For the label, usually promo budgets are recoupable (I'd hope Rihanna has a better contract that gives her more control, but she very well may not). For the artist, they're paying for everything on credit anyway, with an indirect risk of not recouping, which means that they'll always push bigger. Like, did the video have to be filmed on location in Jamaica? No, of course not. That increases the risk, but I doubt she sells more copies because of it.

—Rihanna's got a great voice, but the cod reggae songs she's chosen (Pon De Replay too) have really done her no favors, and the S&M shit just kind of covered for an incredibly bland, midrange production on her last couple albums. Distrubia was a middling, muddled mess. She hasn't had a song as good as "Please Don't Stop The Music" or "Breaking Dishes" in years. It seems to me that the more she aims at a radio audience, the more bland she gets, and while she still turns out occasional club bangers, they're rarer and don't use her voice as well.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


But I don't want to pay these 2nd ark people, I want an app to show how much of the asking price was for marketing and promotion.

I say the following as a musician, songwriter, and producer who has only had three songs that had any marketing and promotion but who has released an album that I'm very proud of that has never had any marketing or promotion:

If you don't want to pay marketing and promotion people when you buy music, then buy music that doesn't have any marketing and promotion budget. There is a ton of it out there and a lot of it is far, far better music, including production quality, etc., than the big "hits."

But as long as you financially support artists who benefit from big marketing efforts, rather than supporting artists who do not, you have no place complaining about paying for the marketing that got you to the artist in the first place.

In order to break even, just over 1 million people have to like Man Down at least one dollar's worth (more, really, given distro costs).

No. It just needs to be popular enough for it to make money through mechanical and synch licensing in addition to sales. Placement in a national TV commercial or two would do the trick.
posted by The World Famous at 11:21 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


(To complete that thought, klangklangston, I note that you reached that conclusion, too, so sorry if I was too quick to say "no".)
posted by The World Famous at 11:22 AM on July 21, 2011


Can you explain what "mechanical and synch licensing" is ? As in getting stadiums to pay to play it during games ? (You mention commercial use separately, so I'm not sure what kind of licensing mechanical and synch are .. )
posted by k5.user at 11:36 AM on July 21, 2011


Mechanical Licensing

Synchronization rights
posted by The World Famous at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, you can put together a home audio workstation capable of producing a #1 club record together for about $5000, including buying all the software.
posted by empath at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2011


Man, after reading those, I still don't get it .. I mean, I get what they are now, but not the why ..

Mechanical seems like if anyone else wants to record the same music, they need it .. How often does that happen ? (The sheet music example makes sense, however, or lyrics.. Do all the lyric sites on the internet have such a license ?) Or does it hinge on the bottom quibble about folks who didn't write the song (Rhiana in this case?) must license it to sing it ?

Any synchronization rights has a baffling name, but seems to be the general "if you want to use my song/music in your show/commercial, license it" case ?
posted by k5.user at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2011


Mechanical also covers, I believe, radio play and use of the song on compilations and that sort of thing. Inclusion of a song on a compilation can be a good source of revenue, particularly since compilation CDs seem to be pretty popular in markets outside the U.S.

Synchronization rights is called that because it allows someone to synchronize the music with other media (e.g. video). Getting your song in a national TV commercial or a movie can be lucrative.
posted by The World Famous at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2011


"Porter says shortly after he started working as a programmer for BET about 10 years ago, he received $40,000.00 in hundred-dollar bills in a Fed-Ex envelope."

Where do I get this job?
posted by reductiondesign at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2011


this is why the music industry is going broke - not downloaders - this is not a viable long-term business model and it's doomed to failure
posted by pyramid termite at 1:21 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


this is why the music industry is going broke - not downloaders - this is not a viable long-term business model and it's doomed to failure

What do you mean? The music industry is going broke because it spends too much money on advertising?
posted by The World Famous at 1:35 PM on July 21, 2011


What do you mean? The music industry is going broke because it spends too much money on advertising?

I think so. They got addicted to a heavily marketed, artificial, 'hit' business model, instead of just creating good songs inexpensively and letting people find the music themselves.

Of course if everyone is just going to create good songs inexpensively and let people find the music themselves, you don't NEED a music 'industry', which is kind of their real problem.
posted by empath at 2:42 PM on July 21, 2011


Wow, that is... not actually good.

Sure, it's catchy, but it just 'hooks' various previously proven euphonious bits and sequences them together. The singer's voice is completely mangled by post-processing; all emotion, if any where there to begin with, is stripped from the lyrics.

LOL, the synth beat reminded me strongly of ultra-cheesy '80s Hong Kong romcom soundtracks.

And... a snub nosed .38 (.44?) does not have the accuracy to shoot someone through the throat at any distance much further out than point blank, unless it was a lucky shot on an innocent bystander.
posted by porpoise at 10:44 PM on July 21, 2011


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