Careers

Chic’s Nile Rodgers says many musicians often don’t understand the value of their songs

Nile Rodgers of Chic performs on stage at North Sea Jazz Festival at Ahoy on July 14, 2018 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. 
Dimitri Hakke | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Nile Rodgers of Chic performs on stage at North Sea Jazz Festival at Ahoy on July 14, 2018 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

Musician and producer Nile Rodgers has enjoyed a profitable career, releasing his own smash hits as well as producing for artists including David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger.

Born in The Bronx borough of New York City, Rodgers first went out to work at nine years old, pickling cucumbers for a local store. Fast-forward 56 years and Rodgers is a wealthy man, although admits himself he has “lost millions and made millions over and over again.”

Speaking to CNBC at the London listing of his new investment fund Hipgnosis, Rodgers said many musicians failed to realize the value of their product.

“Every song has its own profit and loss statement and people don’t seem to realize that. Each song is its own independent business,” he said.

The Chic star gave the example of his distribution company that specializes in video games and video game soundtracks.

“I always try and explain to the composers that they have very powerful intellectual property, especially if they can manage it in ways that go beyond the game. I try and repurpose their music in other areas. We have done alright with it,” he added.

Rodgers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year and earlier this month was appointed chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in July, 2018.

During his career with his band Chic Rodgers had hits with songs "Le Freak", "Good Times" and "Everybody Dance". Rodgers also produced David Bowie's biggest selling album Let's Dance with several hit singles including "China Girl", "Modern Love" and the title track, "Let's Dance".

He produced Madonna's blockbuster album "Like a Virgin", the B-52's comeback multi-platinum album "Cosmic Thing" and other artists Rodgers produced or recorded for include Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, and Diana Ross.

Not always so smart

Despite his business acumen Rodgers admits to not always being so sensible with his money, especially when his first proper pay check came in and his girlfriend at the time was keen to pay the rent.

“I started out with Sesame Street, it was a union job and to me it was so much money,” he recalls, “so I went out and bought platform snakeskin platform shoes!”

Presenter Nile Rodgers on stage during the Nordoff Robbins' O2 Silver Clef Awards ceremony at Grosvenor House, on July 6, 2018 in London, England. 
Dave J Hogan | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Presenter Nile Rodgers on stage during the Nordoff Robbins' O2 Silver Clef Awards ceremony at Grosvenor House, on July 6, 2018 in London, England. 

The music producer said while he never tries to muscle in too much on the financial priorities of other musicians, he occasionally stresses that you are your own best asset.

“The most amount of money I have ever made on a consistent basis is by investing in myself,” said Rodgers.

“Obviously, I have a pretty decent portfolio. It is the one thing that performs above average and that’s because I work. My market doesn’t close and I only sleep for 2 or 3 hours a night,” he added.