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Was SLUTTING the demise of Recording Studios?
Old 29th June 2009
  #1
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Was SLUTTING the demise of Recording Studios?

I have to ask this question because it seems like a probability. Most pictures of studios shows tons of beautiful pieces of the best there is to be had. The one things that stuns me is that during the heydays of the record business that to diversify would have been wise or buying your suppliers or investing in the real estate and doing something to prepare for the future. I invested as last year the Marine business was adequate and now with the economy, my facility isn't doing anything. It seems that now that record sales are down 40% compared to several years ago tallies, the business is scaling back. The "FOR PICTURE" arena is stronger and more promising (at least that is what I was told during a tour of an SAE facility). It just seems that if as a business, studios concentrated on covering as many revenue sources as possible as opposed to buying every new piece, that probably isn't THAT sonically advantageous over the stalwarts, to feel SLUTTY, would be the wiser choice. I hope I haven't offended as I may not have any stature whatsoever but always seek to understand and rationalize my decisions. I hope we all make it whether we compose, record, produce whatever it is that floats your boat other than having every toy that surfaces. I am resolved to a pair of Neve, API, 1 Urei, a decent converter and hardware eq's and a few good mics and one great tube condensor. The song is what matters and if you can tell me what pre, converter was used, or what platform was used I would be surprised! Do we need to abstain for our own good?
Old 29th June 2009
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antoniosolo View Post
I have to ask this question because it seems like a probability. Most pictures of studios shows tons of beautiful pieces of the best there is to be had. The one things that stuns me is that during the heydays of the record business that to diversify would have been wise or buying your suppliers or investing in the real estate and doing something to prepare for the future. I invested as last year the Marine business was adequate and now with the economy, my facility isn't doing anything. It seems that now that record sales are down 40% compared to several years ago tallies, the business is scaling back. The "FOR PICTURE" arena is stronger and more promising (at least that is what I was told during a tour of an SAE facility). It just seems that if as a business, studios concentrated on covering as many revenue sources as possible as opposed to buying every new piece, that probably isn't THAT sonically advantageous over the stalwarts to feel SLUTTY, would be the wiser choice. I hope I haven't offended as I may not have any stature whatsoever but always seek to understand and rationalize my decisions. I hope we all make it whether we compose, record, produce whatever it is that floats your boat other than having every toy that surfaces. I am resolved to a pair of Neve, API, 1 Urei, a decent converter and hardware eq's and a few good mics and one great tube condensor. The song is what matters and if you can tell me what pre, converter was used, or what platform was used I would be surprised! Do we need to abstain for our own good?
The demise of the recording studio has been greatly exaggerated.... There are tens of thousands of studios all across the country. The demise of the MEGA-STUDIO is a more real phenomenon... places like the Hit Factory and Sony closed due to 1. Real estate values and 2. Music business issues/ profits.

Nothing to do with gear lust.
Old 29th June 2009
  #3
Led
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I can only speak from my personal experience, I know nothing about other studios and am not talking about them, but I began as an assistant at a big shop. I was into programming and computers (sequencer plus anybody?) said to one of the owners in the late 80's that it would be cool to set up a room where people could work on their own stuff at home and then just bring in a disc and pump it all out through a high end system. He said to me "that home studio stuff will never catch on". So in that particular case I think an aversion to change contributed, but only a fool would overlook declining budgets as the main reason, along with the general devaluation of music as an artform. There is no way that place could operate the way it did then in today's circumstances. I still think there was some 'burying of heads in sand' that I personally saw.
Old 29th June 2009
  #4
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Slutting

But at $80/hr it takes 65 hours or so to cover a $5,000 which isn't that huge a price tag for the best of the best. 6,240 hours in a year so it took 1% of the gross to cover that one piece. If you budget $50,000 per year, that could be up to 10% of your gross with one room. Then you add rooms hoping to multiply your earnings. All businesses find a good model that runs best, I only ask should that room be replete or miniscule as possible to maximize profit? Can Slutting really be only a distraction? Could those thousands be a labor of love funded by other lines of work, as am I?
Old 29th June 2009
  #5
The only major studio i can think of where this might apply is the Power Station before it got auctioned off and turned into Avatar.

If any business came crashing down it was the studio leasing companies especially when dealing with consoles. When these studios would flip million dollar consoles for the latest and the greatest to keep up with the joneses, it was the leasing companies that would take the hit.
Old 29th June 2009
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antoniosolo View Post
... 6,240 hours in a year so it took 1% of the gross to cover that one piece.
Huh??! Not as I would reckon it.

If you assume 24/7, then that's 8,760. Not many studios are available (much less booked) 24/7/365, so a lower figure is probably more realistic - however the figure you're quoting apears to corrspond to either 17/7/365 or 24/5/365, neither of which makes much sense for any of the studios I know of, and especially not ones that are charging $80/hr.

A more tenable "maximum possible billable hours" would likely be 4,160, and for most studios 3,000 would closer to the mark - and that's in a in a good year. So to generate a $50k gear budget at around 10% of gross, a studio would need to be billing more than twice the rate you are basing your calcs on.

That aside, you seem to be suggesting that 10% of gross may be too much to be reinvesting in a business and doing so may have in some way contributed to the failure of the industry. I wouldn't agree on either count. In a business that depends heavily on technology, spending 10% of gross seems more than reasonable. To spend less would be more likely to contribute to the demise of the business than the reverse.

AFAICT, it is not good business practice in any industry to suck a business dry for profits, never putting anything back into the business. There is no surer way to "kill the golden goose".
Old 29th June 2009
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antoniosolo View Post
I have to ask this question because it seems like a probability. Most pictures of studios shows tons of beautiful pieces of the best there is to be had. The one things that stuns me is that during the heydays of the record business that to diversify would have been wise or buying your suppliers or investing in the real estate and doing something to prepare for the future. I invested as last year the Marine business was adequate and now with the economy, my facility isn't doing anything. It seems that now that record sales are down 40% compared to several years ago tallies, the business is scaling back. The "FOR PICTURE" arena is stronger and more promising (at least that is what I was told during a tour of an SAE facility). It just seems that if as a business, studios concentrated on covering as many revenue sources as possible as opposed to buying every new piece, that probably isn't THAT sonically advantageous over the stalwarts, to feel SLUTTY, would be the wiser choice. I hope I haven't offended as I may not have any stature whatsoever but always seek to understand and rationalize my decisions. I hope we all make it whether we compose, record, produce whatever it is that floats your boat other than having every toy that surfaces. I am resolved to a pair of Neve, API, 1 Urei, a decent converter and hardware eq's and a few good mics and one great tube condensor. The song is what matters and if you can tell me what pre, converter was used, or what platform was used I would be surprised! Do we need to abstain for our own good?
The biggest problem I have seen with alot of studios is that they seem to operate outside of the laws of normal business practice. As if somehow the music business is special and unique! In my opinion it is not and every studio should be worried about where their next job is coming from and be proactive about it.

That said.. Being a business ( Just like any other business ) And being a technical business, you have to provide a certain level of service/equipment in order to attract clients and compete with the competition in your area/town.

Of course a studio should be careful about what they buy, don't over invest. Only a fool in any business would over stretch themselves. Buy what you need to get the job done really well and compete with your neighbours. At the end of the day.. its about results.

With regards to the mega studios. We still need them. Where else will John Williams record his scores?

Investment in equipment in any technical industry is the key to success. But not at the risk of defaulting on bank loans. Invest wisely and in small chunks.

Odey
Old 29th June 2009
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Odey View Post
...Investment in equipment in any technical industry is the key to success. But not at the risk of defaulting on bank loans. Invest wisely and in small chunks.
Agreed. It makes sense to determine a workable % of revenue for reinventment and then apply that to the previous year's actual returns to arrive at the budget for the current year. That way you're not spending against the hope of money that may never materialize - but you're still investing substantially in the business and creating a future.
Old 29th June 2009
  #9
Umm!

Slutting may be the only thing thats keeping this studio afloat, without the genuine vintage parts, I would not have been able to make a signature sound and get the kind of work I have been able to secure.
With heavy pressure all around from businesses that are thankfully more desperate than mine.
I tend to buy broken and repair as much as possible, I hardly ever buy new, its just not interesting to me anyway.
But then I have been here since 1986 so I have seen a few changes.
Old 29th June 2009
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmec View Post
Slutting may be the only thing thats keeping this studio afloat, without the genuine vintage parts, I would not have been able to make a signature sound and get the kind of work I have been able to secure.
With heavy pressure all around from businesses that are thankfully more desperate than mine.
I tend to buy broken and repair as much as possible, I hardly ever buy new, its just not interesting to me anyway.
But then I have been here since 1986 so I have seen a few changes.
Nice observation. I concur.
Old 29th June 2009
  #11
In my opinion, I really don't see the old "studio" business model working anymore. These days it seems the studio has to be able to make products for itself as well as acting as a commercial space for others.

EastWest and Oceanway come to mind. I guarantee Oceanway will (or maybe has) make 10 times the money off it's drum sample library than it does off renting out the studios to other clients.

Here at Megatrax, we own a studio which used to be called King Sound. Bruce Hornsby and Don Henley are two of many notable artists that have recorded here back in their heyday. But, since Megatrax purchased the studios, we are no longer a commercial studio. We don't "rent" out the studios except to the occasional friend of the owners. The studio is 100% dedicated to making music that we, in turn, license in TV and Film (and other media).

When I first started working here 8 years ago, I was trying to bring in sessions for artists on Capitol and Blue Note and Universal. Every time I would try to book something, I would get a big "NO! we are way too busy." Eventually I was pulled aside and told, while it's nice that I'm trying to bring in money for the company, If we rented out our studio A 7 days a week for a whole year. No days off, no holidays, clients booked all day every day at a rate of $2,000/day the total WOULD NOT even equal 1/10th the amount of money we make off the music we record for ourselves in the studios. So it's more advantageous for the company to leave the rooms unbooked by outside clients that way we never have to schedule around anyone else.

For people that have an "in demand" product like EastWest... buying Cello is a really smart business move. They now have a "famous" space to record all of their new libraries in. While they are also continuing to rent it out, I would imagine the money they make off their "United Western/Cello" sample libraries are going to generate exponentially more money than the studios themselves from rentals. How many of us would love to have a Jazz orchestra library recorded in EastWest's Studio 1 (where sinatra recorded a lot of his hits) or a drum (or construction kit) rock library from studio 2 where bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and System of a Down recorded? I think EastWest's "Fab Four" plugin is a good example of what I'm talking about. Any of us who have been recording for a while will say, "gear doesn't make 'A Sound', the room does." Having worked in a lot of rooms, the rooms have a signature all their own. If you setup a drumset over at NRG in the same room that Linkin Park records their albums... it will only take you a couple minutes to realize, "wow, even with a different drumset it really sounds similar to the drum sounds they get". But, the same drumset, mics, preamps, EQs and converters setup in a garage will never sound anything like the linkin park albums.

Studio owners who can realize this and capitalize on it, will be the ones that stay successful (in my opinion). Especially these "mega-studios" that are still left. If they aren't booking that many sessions, they should put their staff to work making products for the studio, whether it be a music library or a sample library or whatever...
Old 29th June 2009
  #12
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Slutty

Sorry, used to be in real estate/mortgage so 52 x 40 hours per week gave me 2080. My bad. Still seems like the increasing cost of gear is outpacing the increase in hourly rate for having "the best". I guess I would need to be truly scientific to assess the inflation of top gear to the stagnation/deflation of the daily rates to compete with the at-home incentive of production savings.
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