How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?
June 30, 2011
by Zoe Chace
Getting a song on the pop charts takes big money.
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.
At a writing camp, a record label hires the best music writers in the country and drops them into the nicest recording studios in town for about two weeks. It's a temporary version of the old music-industry hit factories, where writers and producers cranked out pop songs.
"It's like an all-star game," says Ray Daniels, who was at the writing camp for Rihanna.
Daniels manages a songwriting team of two brothers, Timothy and Theron Thomas, who work under the name Rock City. "You got all the best people, you're gonna make the best records," he says.
The Cost of Rihanna's Man Down
Here's who shows up at a writing camp: songwriters with no music, and producers toting music tracks with no words.
The Thomas brothers knew producer Shama "Sham" Joseph, but they had never heard his Caribbean-flavored track that became "Man Down."
According to Daniels, the brothers listened to the track and said, "Let's give Rihanna a one-drop! Like, a response to 'I shot the sheriff!"
They wrote the lyrics to "Man Down" in about 12 minutes, Daniels says.
To get that twelve minutes of inspiration from a top songwriting team is expensive — even before you take into account the fee for the songwriters.
At a typical writing camp, the label might rent out 10 studios, at a total cost of about $25,000 a day, Daniels says.
The writing camp for Rihanna's album "had to cost at least 200 grand," Daniels says. "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."
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.
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