It’s easy to imagine a famous singer-songwriter whipping up musical magic in a flurry of inspiration, then pushing it through the studio system and onto iTunes and the radio with minimum interference. But that’s not the way the pop music factory manufactures its sausage.
An NPR blog post from late June pulls back the curtain to reveal the arduous assembly line that pumps out hit singles.
The process starts with writing camps in which songwriters are culled together to pound out music and lyrics for two weeks, at a cost of $18,000 per song. Songwriter and producer costs are factored in, adding another $50,000, and then comes the mixing and mastering ($10,000), before more than $1 million is needed to grease the proper wheels that allow the song to become ubiquitous throughout culture. Promotion costs include marketing, promotions and wining and dining radio station program directors.
The artists don’t get paid until the studio manages to sell enough songs and albums to push the production into the black.