On the NME website I read an interesting (if very badly written) article on the cost of releasing big budget, bubblegum pop. The full story is available here, though be warned, I feel my seven-year-old nephew could have structured and edited it better.
Anyway, in the report it says that it costs roughly £3 million to launch an album from a big, established pop act such as Rihanna or Britney and roughly £1 million to launch one from a new act such as Jessie J or whoever the industry is pushing that month.
It also discusses the ‘songwriting camps’ that are set up for your Rihannas and and Britneys, in which Tin Pan Alley-style teams of writers and producers compete to come up with the biggest hit, hence why the same ones are often used (think David Guetta et al).
One has to wonder why really. Apparently it cost about £660,000 to put together Rihanna’s latest single Man Down. I find all of this staggering, I mean, dynamic range compressors are built into most digital audio workstations these days, a decent synth doesn’t cost too much and a half-arsed, sequenced drum pattern is easy to work out. From listening to some of this tripe I’d say that’s all you need. To be fair ‘tripe’ is a strong word, Rihanna has a few good tunes. I’m thinking more Britney, Katy Perry and The Wanted here.
Once you give the ‘star’ a decent advance for the album and pay off Guetta, however, and then go on an unscrupulous marketing and advertising campaign to re-coup the advance and pay-offs and, stupidly, the marketing campaign debt (what a fucking stupid cycle) the amount spent seems pretty realistic, modest, in fact.
So, after spending that amount of money and time on an album you would think it was as ground-breaking and timeless as Revolver, Highway 61 Revisited or The Queen is Dead. Sadly this is not the case. I listened to the aptly named Loud by Rihanna (I like some of her stuff, remember) this morning and, quite frankly, other than the big singles like Only Girl in the World etc. it is fucking crap.
If you’ve ever, like me, thought that the Western World is awfully, almost deliberately wasteful, then surely these statistics’ coming to the fore show that consumerism has an artistic representation in albums such as Loud and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.