"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
Unique Recording Studios, a 26 year old studio that created recorded albums and hits from Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Taylor Dayne, Depeche Mode, George Benson, Pet Shop Boys, Level 42, Michael Bolton, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Cliff, Cher, George Clinton and a host of recording artists great and small …….. closed.
Bennett Studios, headquarters of Grammy winning Engineer Dae Bennett and the place where hits from Tony Bennett, Rob Thomas, Teddy Riley, K.D. Lang, Lady Gaga, the late Amy Winehouse, Josh Groban and many others came from …….. closed
Olympic Studios, where the great Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze, The Rolling Stones recorded six albums, Phil Collins recorded the drum track for In The Air Tonight ……. is now a cinema.
Sarm Studios, where Bob Marley recorded what is arguably his most important album, ‘Exodus’ ….. converted to flats, offices and townhouses.
Abbey Road Studios, home of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, Badfinger and many others ….. was put on sale in 2009 until the British Government protected the site granting it English Heritage Grade II listed status in 2010.
And the list goes on, and on ……
Granted there are large and medium sized recording studios that are still alive and doing well (not only in the United States and England but in other countries) but there is a noticeable decline towards the use of these kind of studios to record and produce creative works. There are many factors that lead to this conclusion (the changes in the music industry, budgetary concerns, the economy of a given country or creative sector, the mere cost of running a studio of that size) but I want to focus on one particular aspect of the music industry …. the rise of the ‘small’ or ‘home’ recording studio.
This rise is significant due to the fact that the cost of professional-grade recording equipment has been steadily dropping and the online accessibility of information about recording techniques, building and acoustically treating a room for recording purposes, the use of recording software (legally brought or pirated – another discussion topic for another day) and the employ of online mastering services. This dramatically drops the cost of creating music. Add the fact that due to the high influx of persons who, having access to recording software (free, brought or pirated), are now flooding the airwaves and online distribution services with self-produced works therefore bypassing the need to book time in larger recording studios and you can see how this can adversely affect the incomes of these facilities and the wealth of talent that work there. Dae Bennett, former owner of Bennett studios agrees with this view “I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, and I’ve been through many ups and downs.” … “The economic downturn, combined with the collapse of the music industry, was a little more than I could get through. We managed to stay busy, but the industry itself isn’t trending well.” … “We tried to hold the rates as much as we could, but the costs keep increasing.” … “The energy costs have literally doubled over the last three years. Without the record companies being interested in records anymore, the math doesn’t add up.”
The argument can be put forth that this wealth of talent (from award-winning producers and recording engineers to established recording artists) just have to ‘go with the times’ and create their own small or home studios. Many have already done so and have produced commercial-grade recordings.
Is there an easy solution to this? … or an even bigger question … Is there a solution in the first place? I personally do not know. I have been privileged to work at both commercial and home-grown production outlets throughout my career and the mere fact is that most of the general public, to put it very bluntly, does not care where the music is produced as long as it sounds good and moves them. The general audience only cares about the end product and not necessarily the process. There are MANY cases where large recording studios have produced works that failed in the marketplace.
There are many sides to this issue and we may not have time to analyze all the reasons in this one reading. Feel free to post your views on this matter. As I said this is just one view (of many) as to WHY the era of big budget recording studios, though still relevant for certain projects, are still on the decline.