How Much Does It Actually Cost to Make a Song? ($8,320)
The Internet can be a great marketing tool, but it is ruining the livelihood of many artists. This we all know.
Ventura County-based photographer John Mueller penned an insightful post titled This Photograph Is Not Free, in which he determined the actual cost of producing one of his pictures. (This was a response to the requests photographers often receive for free usage of their work in exchange for "exposure.") He determined someone would have to spend $6,612 to shoot the same photo he shot.
And so, we decided to apply this concept to the recording industry, as musicians also often feel pressure to give away their music for free. Thus, how much would it cost someone to recreate a song from scratch?
We chatted with bassist Danny Bengston from the L.A.-based scuzz pop band Pangea to discuss some numbers.
First, we determined Pangea's (approximate) equipment costs:
Erik's drum kit: $400
William's Squire guitar: $500
William's amp: $500
Danny's Squire bass: $200
Danny's bass amp: $600
Chad's Fender guitar: $900
Chad's guitar amp: $1,000
Then we added up the small things (approximately):
-Effects pedals: $50-100 each
-Patch cables: 5 each
-Mic stand: $20
-Mic cable: $20
-Instrument cables: $50 each
-Drum sticks: $10
-Guitar tuner: $50
-Guitar picks: $5 pack
-Gas money to get to studio: $15
-Copyrighting song(s): $45
When you reach the studio, you're going to have to pony up at least $450/day, so if you're lucky, you can have an album recorded in a week, which will cost roughly $3,150 in the studio. Mastering your album will cost about $500 and duplicating the CDs will cost about $250, for 100 CDs.
But that doesn't even include the van you'll need to transport your equipment to the studio, so factor in an additional $3,500 for a vehicle that runs but doesn't look too pretty.
You've easily just spent over $11,820 to recreate a song that most people have, at one point or another, downloaded for free.
Then there's the cost of promoting the song and advertising the album. Keep in mind that each band member needs to pay for necessities like rent, insurance, and food, which is why musicians, like the guys in Pangea, need to hold onto their day jobs until they make it big. The venues in Los Angeles that pay small acts to play are offering $200-400/gig. Otherwise, the band is required to sell a certain amount of pre-sale tickets.
So what's a band to do? To start, find sponsors who will at least provide some free clothes/food/money for touring. Then wait it out. Any industry's viability lies within the consumers, so stop pirating music and fork over the cash your favorite artists are struggling to earn. Trust that it will cost you much less than $8,320.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.