Recording and promoting a new album is expensive. Really expensive.
For instance, independent Brooklyn-based hiphop artist Radamiz, recently self-released his latest album “Writeous.” In an interview with hiphop blog DJ Booth, he noted the entire project cost $14,450 to record, produce, and promote.
While less than big-budget major label projects, it's still a big chunk of change for an independent musician.
Here’s the breakdown of how he spent that money…
Recording and Mixing: $5,400
At an average cost of $45 an hour for studio time, every minute spent tweaking bass lines or equalizer levels at up.
Fans consume music on YouTube more than any other service. So a professionally produced video uploaded to and promoted on the service is a helpful way to get your music discovered.
The “if you build it they will come” line may work for Field of Dreams, but in reality promotion is essential to get a new album noticed. The breakdown here consists of $800 for digital promotion of the first single from the album, another $1,200 to promote the video for another track, $1,500 for digital promotion of the entire album, and $1,000 on sponsored social ads and posts.
He spent $1,100 for licensing and submission costs to get a track placed on MTV, and another $600 for a PR campaign.
This mostly consists of $750 for cover art, and another $100 on miscellaneous tech costs and other expenses.
So where does this money come from? As noted, typically artists working with a label seek an advance. They use this to pay for these and other costs on the agreement that any future revenues the project earns will pay back what’s owed.
The article didn’t mention how Radamiz paid for the costs listed. Clearlyhe didn’t work with a label for and advance. And that’s a good thing, because he’d be pretty underwater right now had he done so. As of the article's publication, the album has earned a little over $800. But it can take years for a debut album to strike a chord with a broad audience.
“I don’t take any of these things as losses,” he told the blog. “I take these things as investments.”
Artists with a history of royalty earnings, can raise money using their back catalog to fund future projects. Once royalties from an older project start to decline, it can take a long time to save up enough quarterly checks to pay for a new one.
Not every band is like this one, which earned a $10,000 windfall after registering with SoundExchange. That $10,000 represented years of uncollected royalties waiting for them in a bank account. Their next SoundExchange check was likely far smaller.
The only other way to compile a lump sum of this size is to sell a part of these past earnings. The average commercial music auction on Royalty Exchange closes for six times its previous year’s earnings. So even with a conservative estimate of five times prior year’s earnings, an artist earning as little as $3,000 a year in royalties could generate the $15,000 needed to self-fund a new release.