Pop Hits, How Much do They Really Cost?

by Taylor Kilgore, age 16

Everyday new pop songs are blasting on the radio, Internet, and CD players for our entertainment. While you’re jamming to your favorite song, do you ever think of what it costs to produce such a song? Surprisingly, in many cases pop songs are worth millions of dollars. Yes, the catchy lyrics, and head nodding beats all come with a price. In fact, the song “Man Down” on Rihanna’s new album, “Loud”, cost around $1,078,000 to produce.
The money starts adding up in places called writing camps. These camps are the modern day versions of the old hit factories, where pop songs were once produced. Today, the camps are similar, but are used only on a temporary basis. Usually a label will rent out ten studios at a writing camp, for a cost of $25,000 a day. While the writing camps are a very important step in the process of making a “hit”, the manpower that runs them also has a cost. And it’s not cheap.
There are three main job roles involved in creating a song, the songwriter, producer, and a vocal producer.
At Rihanna’s writing camp, top songwriters were hired. The writers wrote the lyrics to Rihanna’s “Man Down” in only 12 minutes. Nevertheless, the bill for the songwriter was about $15,000. The producer at Rihanna’s writing camp alone cost $20,000.
Rihanna doesn’t even enter the studio during the song writing process. But when she does eventually enter the studio, her vocal producer is right along with her. It is the responsibility of Rihanna’s vocal producer, Makeba Riddrick, to make sure that the song is sung right. She tells Rihanna to “belt it out” or “sing with your lips closer together.” Riddick’s fee starts at $10,000 to $15,000. The last step of production is the mixing and mastering to make sure it all comes together. This process can cost around $10,000.
However, the costs don’t stop there. Just as important as making a great sounding song is making sure that the song is being marketed well. When you turn on the radio, you should hear the song being played. When you’re walking down the street you should see the artist on a billboard. When you go on the computer, you should see the song listed on the iTunes chart. Even after the label’s effort to make this happen, the pop song may still not be a success. To make sure the song is coursing through the media, the price could be as high as $1,000,000.
In Rihanna’s case, the song “Man Down” was not a huge hit and had only minimal radio play. Fortunately, the label can make up for the loss through other hits, but only then does Rihanna get her check.
Next time you’re listening to your favorite pop song, think about the huge amount of time and money spent on your few minutes of entertainment.

[Sources: www.npr.org/blogs; The Wall Street Journal]

I never realized that it cost so much to produce pop hits! It's really crazy, and makes me feel like this whole "digital age" of music isn't as much as it's made out to be. – Spenser , Madison (2012-01-31 19:33)
Wow, this is wild!! I've never put much thought into this side of the industry. Crazy!! Great work, Taylor. I'm excited to see your next article. – Deidre Green , UW-Madison (2017-01-10 17:24)