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The cost of making a hit song or album

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What does it cost to make a hit song? Good pipes? Thick skin? What about dollar bills?

"The amount that we've spent has never had anything to do with whether it was a hit or not," says Tom Silverman, CEO and founder of Tommy Boy Records, who has dollar bills hanging as inspiration in his Flat Iron office.

"In fact some of the songs that were the least expensive to produce were the biggest hits," he says, like "Planet Rock."

"I think we spent $800 making the record," he says. "And it sold 600,000 12-inch singles."

Or remember "Jump Around"?

"Maybe when we made jump around it cost us $10,000," he says.

Silverman says Grammy-winning breakout artist Lorde also invested a relatively small amount into her breakout single, "Royals."

"It probably didn't cost that much money," he says. "I would say around $10,000, maybe even less than that."

Lorde's album "Pure Heroine" passed 1 million sales earlier this year. But the cost of making a hit gets increasingly steep as an artist gains popularity.

"An artist like Rihanna sells a lot of albums, has a big fan base, so they can invest $3, $4 million into making that album because they have too much to lose if they don't," Silverman says.

NPR estimates Rihanna's 2011 single "Man Down" cost over $1 million to produce for the writers, a great producer, not to mention recording facilities and the all-important marketing: getting the song on the airwaves. But in some ways, digital avenues like Pandora, Spotify and YouTube are bringing the cost of production down.

"You can test your music on Sirius XM, on Pandora, on other places and then take it to radio, which is more expensive, once you know the record is a hit," Silverman says.

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