Estimated Cost to Make Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’ – $1,078,000
Ever wonder why some artists and record companies are so adamant about stopping the pirating of their music? It’s probably due the incredible amount of money they spend to make just one radio single.
Zoe Chace, an employee at National Public Radio (NPR), wrote an article recently breaking down the individual costs that go into a record company’s attempt at making a hit single and used Rihanna’s Man Down as an example.
There a few steps that go into making what will hopefully become a hit single that cause the listener to crank up their stereos. Here’s the breakdown:
Writing & Producing
The process begins with what they call a “writing camp”. Essentially the record company rents a studio complete with all the bells and whistles for about 2 weeks, brings in a few of the top songwriters and producers in the country, then sits back and hopes that not just one song, but a whole album’s worth of usable material comes from it.
In the case of Man Down, Rihanna’s label Def Jam brought in the songwriting team of Timothy and Theron Thomas who work under the name Rock City along with producer Shama “Sham” Joseph. In this case, the 3 men were familiar with each other, but in many cases with these writing camps, writers and producers don’t meet until they’re put in the studio to start working.
According to Ray Daniels, who manages Rock City, Timothy and Theron had never heard Sham’s Caribbean beat that would ultimately become Man Down, but it only took them about 12 minutes to hammer out the lyrics. For that 12 minutes Def Jam paid Rock City $15,000, Sham got $20,000, and the studio rental ran approximately $18,000.
Grand total for writing the song = $53,000. That’s before Rihanna even steps foot into the studio to record it assuming she even wants to. As it turns out, writing camps are like a reality show. The writers and producers come together and write the song, then the artist (in this case Rihanna) acts as the celebrity judge at the end of the writing process to choose which songs they like an which one’s they don’t.
If you’ve listened to 106-1 KISS-FM over the past few weeks, then obviously Rihanna decided that she did like Man Down. Now it’s time to add her own personal touch to the 12 minutes worth of work Rock City put into writing it for her.
Not surprising, it’s not as easy as having Rihanna walk into the studio, belt out the lyrics and call it a day. In this case, it’s up to Rihanna’s vocal producer to help Ri-Ri get the most out of her voice and really fit the tone of the song. It’s also the vocal producer’s responsibility to handle the artist’s rider. This is a list of items the artist requires to get them in the right mood. These items can range from certain kinds of food & drink to candles and incense. All these responsibilities carry a $15,000 price tag.
Once Rihanna is in her “happy place” and lyrics have been recorded, it’s time to mesh the vocals with the beat. This is called the “mixing and mastering” process and adds another $10,000 to the price. Total cost so far = $78,000. On to the next step which is…
Now that the song is done, it doesn’t do anyone any good if the public doesn’t know it exists. Chace estimates a cool 1 million dollars in her article to market the song. This includes everything from creating CD singles to ship to radio stations across the country (including 106-1 KISS-FM) to shooting the video to booking appearances on the talk show circuit and even purchasing ads in magazines such as Billboard. There’s also the “new age” advertisements such as the iTunes store. In order to get a return on their investment, the record company wants to make sure the public sees or hears Rihanna every time they turn around or turn on the radio.
Estimated grand total after every thing is factored in = $1,078,000. Considering there are 11 songs on Rihanna’s CD Loud, Def Jam has quite a bit invested in this one album.
If you’ll notice, not once has there been any mention of how much Rihanna makes in this whole deal. The reason for that is because until the label makes back what it spent on the producing the album, Rihanna doesn’t see one penny for the fruits of her labor.
As it stands right now, Man Down hasn’t gone over quite as well as Def Jam hoped it would even with the added press of a “controversial video”. But something tells me that Rihanna and Def Jam will be just fine.
Check out the video for Man Down to see what a portion of $1,078,000 will get you these days.