It Costs More Than A Song To Sing

We’ve been meaning to understand how songs are produced and how musicians make a living. While it is challenging to point out how much producing a song would really cost, we have broken it down to simple parts, just like how you would value the cost of an egg sandwich, minus the marketing or a chicken costume.

As a starting point in our research, Damon (see our article about The Artchemist) gave us some insights into how much music production would cost in Singapore.

1) How much does it cost to produce a single, or an album?

It really depends on the quality or if any big names are involved in the production team. Refer to the components below. If it were to be self produced, it can be cheap but quality will be sacrificed.

2) Do prices vary very much in different countries? If so, can you provide some examples please?

That – I’m not very sure. But for big name producers, they pretty much travel and have a fix price. As for cost of recording (studio hours), prices definitely will differ. For if there is a budget (especially budding artistes), I believe recording locally will definitely be the best choice. For famous artistes, they would usually record locally to save time. Variations should not be drastic. Quality probably sets the price.

Who Role – What do they do? Price per song/per hire, SGD$
Song Writer Compose melodies and lyrics $600-$1500
Music arranger Instrumentation and planning of background music $600-$1200
Producer Director of song, guides the singer during recording $1200-$1800
Mixing engineer Person who puts all the music and recording together and balances them. Catergorised as post production $80/hr (usually a mix takes about 4hours)
Mastering engineer Final sound adjustments with all other tracks of an album. Also post production CaR research (@’google’) shows it costs about $800-$1000 per track.

3) How do aspiring artistes fund their production?

In Singapore, it is usually through their gigs. However, that is tough as well as there are limited opportunities and when the demand is high and supply is low…

4) How do they make profits?

The ‘Single’ or album is now only a name card. CD stores are scarce. For independent artistes, it is really to about sharing their music. Or have a glimpse of hope that some artiste management firm sees their potential. For commercial artistes, their managers sell their artiste as ‘products’ to potential establishments, cutting deals to be spokesperson or model for their products. Commercial gigs and concerts are where the money is now provided you have the name.

5) Are there price differences between “Independent Artistes” production and “Commercial” ?

Technically, no (there isn’t). Talent cannot be measured (monetarily). Quality of equipment and price differs. Therefore, it is all about budget vs. quality.

6) What would you advise aspiring artistes (Independent or commercial) to do in relation to money matters?

It is always a dilemma. Money, fame or music? There will never be a balance. Independent or commercial, it is music. To start off, keep it simple. Low budget does not mean you can’t make good music. By the time you get the money to do what you think sounds good, it is too late.

(Thank you, Damon)

So, one song would cost between SGD$3,520 and SGD$5,820, excluding studio rental and music videos (thank goodness for YouTube!).

That would mean you need:

1)      At least 2800 downloads from iTunes, in order to cover the cost.

or

2)      Perform about 12 sessions of 1.5 hour gigs, get paid at least SGD300 per gig, and potentially sing that song about 25 times per gig.

And if you look at this article – it is how much a famous pop artist spends on one song: http://theweek.com/article/index/216935/the-eye-popping-cost-of-a-hit-song-by-the-numbers

Now, can you blame musicians for being so upset about piracy?

Please share with us your thoughts and comments, particularly if you have more information about music production costs in other countries. We’d love to turn the table above into a matrix of countries vs. costs of production.

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