Let me introduce you to Dot Matrix. She’s a very beautiful and exceptionally talented independent singer-songwriter. She does, however, only have one eye. It’s shrivelled and milky. It’s fine, though, because she’s entirely fictional.
Dot is in possession of the greatest song written by anyone in the history of mankind, but she’s wondering how much she should charge for it. She decides to quickly and cheaply record the track, keeping a tally of all the costs along the way.
Writing: Dot is a prodigious genius and wrote the entire lyric and melody in an (unrealistic) hour. 1 hour on minimum wage = £6.30.
Recording: A good day’s 12-hour studio session can be found in the region of £150. But Dot needed to pay her session musicians, too: a drummer, a bassist and a keys player. £30 an hour is an average amateur rate. It took each of them 3 hours to nail their parts, so were paid £90. That’s £270 for the backing track. Total recording costs = £420.
Finishing off: Her track is not yet finished, however. It firstly needs to be mixed. The wonderful thing about this whole process is that it can be done via the internet. Adding up labour rates, studio hire, revisions and stuff, Dot ended up with a bill of £200 for a day’s mixing session. Next, she needs it mastered. Although in many ways the more specialised process, mastering actually comes in fairly cheap. Dot got her song mastered at Abbey Road for £90! Therefore, Dot’s polishing costs = £290.
That puts the total minimum value of her finished song at £716.30. Unfortunately, she has to sell the mp3 on iTunes for 79p. That’s 1000x less than she was expecting. Yet people have the tenacity to moan about the price. “79p? For a song? Is it on Spotify or YouTube so I can listen to it for free?”
It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Frankly, if you’re not willing to spend less than £1 on a piece of art that someone has slaved over, you’re ill in the head.
This is, I admit, a very conservative model. All those huge pop hits that you love so much will have hundreds of man hours, and thousands of pounds pumped into them by record companies. You could correctly argue that a million people may download those tracks, and go to those gigs, so that money will easily be made back. Sure, for the high-earning mega-stars it’s not an issue. But what about poor Dot?
Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to support your local artists, who have to survive outside of the record company structure, with no financial backing. When you are offered a free download, think about the sacrifice being made so that you can enjoy the privilege of being entertained for nothing.
Oh, and did I also mention that the new Pariis Opera House EP is still available?