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How Music Production Costs Are Impacting Songwriters

Maybe you have written some good song lyrics and believe you’re a good songwriter (or at least have been told so). So now, all you need to make it big is to record the right songs that will get picked up by a major label, artist, or publisher, right?

Well, not exactly. Not according to industry statistics, which have painted a dismal picture for the music creation fraternity; especially songwriters. To begin with, approximately 19 out of every 20 songwriters, who have had their music published, do not earn enough from their craft to live comfortably. That is, according to figures released by several performing rights organizations in the U.S.

Against the backdrop of those figures, it becomes abundantly clear that as an aspiring songwriter who intends to make a living from your talent, you might only have a 5% chance of reaching that level of success. And success is extremely relative in the grand scheme of things.

Take, for example, standout songwriters such as Aloe Blacc and Ne-Yo, both of whom have recorded hits of their own, as well as written or co-written songs that went viral. Yet, in 2014, Aloe Blacc pointed out in an op-ed entitled “Streaming Services Need to Pay Songwriters Fairly,” that he earned less than $4,000 from a song that was streamed 168 million times on Pandora. The song, “Wake Me Up!” was co-written with Avicii and two other writers, brought in a little more than $12,000 that had to be further shared up among them. As Aloe Blacc so rightly asked, “is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?”

Ne-Yo has also bemoaned the lack of proper compensation to songwriters in an e-mailed response to for a 2015 article, noting that “even though demand for music is greater than ever, it’s harder and harder for songwriters to make a living.” Ne-Yo also expressed concern about the disparity between how much someone who records a song can make compared to the individual who actually wrote it, which is up to 14 times more.

But the struggles of songwriters go deeper than proper remuneration for recorded songs. Many songwriters struggle to even get past the recording stage due to the high cost of professional music production. Depending on who you ask, the cost for recording a high quality demo or radio-ready song could range from $500 to over $5,000. That’s according to a survey done by Recording Connection and posted on SoundCloud, in which a number of well-known producers were asked about the cost of using music studios.

One producer, Mike Johnson of Clear Track Recording Studios, who has worked with the likes of Madonna, said the average cost was $1000 - $5000, while Rick Camp of RC1 Productions, who has helped create hits for Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Usher, said it could range from a few thousand dollars at project studios or as much as $20,000 at big studios.

Those costs don’t include the price of studio time either, which industry statistics also show could range from $50 - $500 per hour.

Evidently, the vast majority of songwriters cannot afford such high costs, so many have resorted to cheaper methods, often resulting in poor recordings that don’t do justice to their songs. Others have simply given up on their dreams of making it big, while others who really love what they do, have continued to struggle with trying to make ends meet by doing odd jobs, while waiting patiently for their elusive big moment.

But while the current scenario paints a bleak future for songwriters, there have been a few light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel solutions that are promising to turn things around for songwriters. Take SongCat for example, a premium online recording studio of worth, which presents to songwriters affordable costs for recording songs or tracks. On top of that, they have squeezed many of the other associated costs of recording music into simple payment plans; plus you can decide what you want in your song mix without leaving your home.

Slowly but surely, many modern day songwriters have been catching on to these solutions. Could this be the new model of recording music that puts the ball back in the court of songwriters who are constantly faced with high music production costs and little returns? Only time will tell.

Reader Comments (1)

Excellent article. Songwriters need support more than ever.

October 11 | Registered CommenterNat Erh

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