Friday, July 1, 2016

MSR in NYC closing July 1 2016; Why are all the big studio's are going out of business?

A few weeks ago, the NYC recording studio MSR announced it would cease operations as of July 1 2016.This comes on the heels of Avitar Studios (formerly The Power Station) announcing it was up for sale.Why are all the NYC recording studios going out of business? What has happened to the need for big budget studios?

Change in Economics

I believe the answer is in the question. The idea of big budget recording is no longer economically viable. Artists are losing support from the production companies as artists are choosing alternatives to publication(CD Baby, Distrokid, etc). Who needs a big publishing house when you can self-publish and avoid the royalty and publishing fees? This is not a new phenomenon as the book industry is currently going through this same dilemma: Independent and self-publishing is undermining big publishing.

No More Editorial Process

What we are losing is the big publishing editorial process. As record labels are downsizing, so is their acquisition and editorial staff. No longer willing to take chances on failure, record labels are mostly going for established artists and thus not needing an entire department of editors. Without editors, executives are again not taking chances on new artists. New artists are now turning to the self-publishing route and thus undermining the entire business model.
What are we left with? A plethora of music to choose from, but no vetting process. This means that you have to hunt for new music or music in a genera (or sub genera, or sub sub genera) you like.

Computing Cost vs Performance

With good equipment being inexpensive in today's market, highly trained audio engineers who graduate from universities and technical schools are producing music without the big budget studio. The paradigm of graduating high school and interning at a studio no longer works in today's market. Most studios want interns who are already college trained, thus reducing the learning curve and getting a more productive employee quicker.
The new millennial employee is also extremely computer literate, which makes the paradigm of analog recording almost obsolete. Why record analog when the computing power of non-linear editing is not only cheaper (no costs for tape), but highly cost effective in terms of staff time. If you don't need 80 hours per song to do basics and fix mistakes and only need 20 hours with digital recording, big studios are losing out on 60 additional billable hours.

So Now What?

The paradigm has changed. The old way of analog and big studio recording was too rigid and inflexible. We are now an industry of individual production. We see this with new artists emerging out of the EDM genera who produce their own music and are more successful than established bands working in the old label paradigm. What we can see however is that there is still a need for experienced mixers and mastering engineers. With the resurgence of vinyl record sales, the back end of the production process is still thriving.

The need for good sounding mix rooms is still driving most new construction but the purpose is more for mixing and mastering, not for recording. This might not be a bad thing, but recording studios need to adapt to the changing market, or find themselves facing extinction in the production market. 

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