CREATIVE ACCOUNTING

Unnamed Flaming Lips Album

$158,338.53

Music production is a cost-intensive project requiring complex tools (magnetic tape and multi-effects processors) and skilled practitioners (record producers). The following numbers reflect the budget from a Flaming Lips album released by Warner Bros. and recorded over forty-five days.

The budget is split into three categories: recording costs, equipment, and post-production. Recording costs encompass renting the studio, paying the producer, moving and housing the band, as well as the tape on which the record was recorded. The equipment is much more nuanced, as diverse processors, software, and instruments must be purchased. (Equipment is either kept by the band for future projects or by the record producers for their studio.) The last step of mastering the album is the intricate process that transforms music into what we hear when we buy a record. In some cases, a record budget may be accounted for after the recording has been completed and the project financed, thus some of the figures may seem oddly even.

In the past decade many influences have changed the way music is made and paid for. As CD sales have dropped, record labels cut the funds that fuel most records. As a result, there has been an increase in home studios for mastering (previously unheard of) and other changes to make the process cheaper for the artists. With equipment as well, it is difficult to determine the current equivalents of the pieces purchased. Though these processors and computers would be cheaper now, their up-to-date counterparts would be more expensive due to inflation. To simplify these problems, we used a standard inflation rate for the budget we were given. Because of the inflation rate, some of the numbers do not add up precisely.

This is the second installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that will show where the money goes for the major creative industries—film, book publishing, television, fine art, theater, and music. The series will eventually be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.

—M. Rebekah Otto

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

M. Rebekah Otto lives in Berkeley, California. Her interests include nineteenth-century medicine and education policy.

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