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SF Chronicle article on declining/changing commercial studio business
Old 7th May 2003
  #1
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dave-G's Avatar
SF Chronicle article on declining/changing commercial studio business

Here's an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle and this one from yesterday ... both about the not-so-salad days of the music scene and declining/changing Bay Area studio business..

Obviously, not the most savvy articles ever written on the subject , but it's not a good sign when non-industry press finds this a subject worth reporting about... Especially in regards to my work's home-base.

-dave
Old 7th May 2003
  #2
Jax
Lives for gear
 

Agreed, these articles don't paint a pretty picture for local studios. They come off as if doomsday is already upon us, and blame most of it on Pro Tools (which is rather shortsighted).

Most local studios aren't on the level on the Record Plant, so our overhead is less and loss is easier to handle.

What really bugs me is the hint that the local music scene will never come back to the apex of it's creative explosion from the 60's and 70's. The fact is, the "crater" left by the dotcom invasion is actually being slowly filled in. The music scene is picking up again, little by little, here in the bay area.

The legend created in the 60's of this part of the world being a mecca for artists and musicians hasn't died. If it had, we wouldn't see so many kids from back east continuing to come over here, just because of what was. If they stay and start bands, all the better.

All that being said, I am still considering a move to LaLa Land within the next two years if things don't pick up, although I don't really know if LA can support a small, one man show, either. I'll have to check it out first.
Old 7th May 2003
  #3
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jax

What really bugs me is the hint that the local music scene will never come back to the apex of it's creative explosion from the 60's and 70's.
Speaking as somebody who bailed from the bay area a couple years ago, there's one major reason the music scene won't come back any time soon. The cost of real estate severely limits the talent pool to only people who don't need to earn their living from music.

During the mid '60s a relatively unknown band could earn their keep by playing a few gigs a month. Today the best a band can hope to do is to break even on their weekly gigs. My wife and I both moved to San Francisco for the music scene. It was very painful facing up to the fact that it has mostly gone away because the economic conditions that supported the scene no longer exist.
Old 7th May 2003
  #4
Jax
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Bob, I agree with you, but I have to say I don't think your studio and mine operate on the same level. "Upper level" studios don't seem to cater to the same crowd as us "lower level" guys. Small time bands can't afford the bigger studios, so that market is left to us little guys who charge a lot less. I don't know what level of studio you were working at when you called the bay area your home, but I would venture a guess that it was a level or two above my studio, given your experience.

Small time bands whose members work day jobs are the clientele of studios like mine, not somewhat or fully established artists who seek out production teams and studios with a staff of more than 3 engineers to work on the same project.

Bob, if you could share what level your studio was operating at when you were based here, and what level you're working at over there in Nashville, I would find it most helpful for the sake of comparison.
Old 7th May 2003
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
JohnnyTooLoud's Avatar
 

I care less about my studio business than the fact that the great pool of exciting people is becoming smaller and smaller. I'm involved with bands that'll never sign a major deal. They don't play that kind of music and that has allowed me to be involved with really exciting stuff. It has been a sad year watching a few more clubs go under and some great musicians leaving for Portland, Sacramento, and other parts.

---JTL
Old 7th May 2003
  #6
Jax
Lives for gear
 

What's up with the Paradise Lounge?

One month you hear it's going under and the next month it's still there. I want it to stay, but wtf is going on?
Old 7th May 2003
  #7
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

We had a meeting the other day with Sabam ... the belgian copyright protection organisation for performing arts / music / writers etc etc ...

I was glad to hear from them that they are taking part in a growing worldwide effort against piracy. They have fulltime teams of people scanning the internet / teams on the road with warrants to search places etc etc .... they showed numerous examples of cases currently in court. Most importantly ... they proved to me that their concern is definately not only the bigger fish. They go after everything.

Of course you can come up with the needle in a haystack story but I honestly came out of that meeting seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. It's going to be an ever changing and ongoing process and get rid of it will be impossible. But at least there is a growing fight agains it and it's going to have results. To what extend is an open question. But it will have result ....

the essentials are :
1. re-education of the population
2. re-education of record companies (yes they need to be re-educated too to survive)

IMHO piracy is at the root of the troubles in the music industry today. not Protools.

Another thing is that I strongly believe that there are just too many studios out there today. Both high end and Project and Home. Cruel ??? yes ... but the truth.

Fewer studios will hopefully mean that only the best survive. There's room for the best high end as much as there is room for the best home or project studios. But the room is limited.

Too many would be fantastic producers / engineers / etc etc out there. Hell maybe I'm one of them ... who knows ...
Old 7th May 2003
  #8
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by C.Lambrechts
IMHO piracy is at the root of the troubles in the music industry today. not Protools.
have you been brainwashed? that isnt the root of their troubles. they are their own root of their troubles.
Old 7th May 2003
  #9
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
have you been brainwashed? that isnt the root of their troubles. they are their own root of their troubles.

I think and I can agree with you ... that's why I mentioned in one of the essentials the THEY need re-education too. Probably more then the rest. THEY need to realise that the world has changed and learn how to deal with a whole new approach to the music industry.

at the end of the day I think you can twist and turn it however you like and blame whoever you like. Piracy will allways end up being a keyword. THE keyword.
Old 7th May 2003
  #10
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

THE as in THEm... THEY are responsible for piracy, THEY created piracy, THEY ripped off consumers for years, THEY were the ones who resisted until it was too late, THEY are the ones in trouble, THEY only have THEMSELVES to blame.
Old 8th May 2003
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Another thing is that I strongly believe that there are just too many studios out there today. Both high end and Project and Home. Cruel ??? yes ... but the truth.

Fewer studios will hopefully mean that only the best survive. There's room for the best high end as much as there is room for the best home or project studios. But the room is limited.

Too many would be fantastic producers / engineers / etc etc out there. Hell maybe I'm one of them ... who knows ... [/B]
Too many studios? Yes, I would agree, but too many 'fantastic' producers/engineers? I don't think so.

The growth in music technology has diluted the recording industry to the point that ANYONE with very little capital can set up a 'commercial' studio. The proliferation of information on recording has also meant that the very same people set up shop with very little experience. Hence the the wonderful excercise of undercutting competition. It's a completely unregulated, and in the true sense of the word, unprofessional industry, in that there is no governing body protecting standards, and no rigorous qualification programme either. If you want an example, just look at solicitors and lawyers, loads of them on every high street, probably more than society needs, but they ALL charge a minimum £150 an hour. And they get it, because the poor punter has nowhere else to go. And they all live happily ever after!

In our industry, we are constantly competing with cost-cutting, and musicians don't really have a clue whether they are getting a good recording for their money, and money it seems, is the only factor thay are interested in.

The best WILL survive, whether there are fewer studios or not. But the best are an ever shrinking minority, and those who aren't quite there have an uncertain outlook as technology takes over.

As for the music industry, well I agree with Alpha. It's got what's coming to it. The party's over.
Old 8th May 2003
  #12
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

shit, music isnt the only unregulated industry. i deal with it constantly with graphic design work... the big difference however, is good work is easily noticed and can be AFFORDED by companies whereas musicians are just a bunch of poor schleps.

whats funny too, comparing apples to oranges... none of the software i use for design seems to even worry about copy protection other than serial number and registration. how strange. wonder why the music industry bitches and moans about it so often?
Old 8th May 2003
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
fishtop_records's Avatar
 

Great point about the community of musicians.
There has been too much written about
ProTools and Priacy as killing the music business,
along with all the pretty and talentless
pop stars. But what caught my attention
was Bob's comment: "My wife and I both moved to
San Francisco for the music scene. "

To have a scene, folks have to earn a living
at music. Play it four hours a day on stage,
and practice and compose a couple more.
Bands have to form, gig, break up,
reform, etc. The members have to be able
to either afford a place, or find crash space.

There was more of a "music scene" in
Blacksburg VA (population 10000) in
1971 than there is in DC (population
7 or 8 million) today.

Maybe we have to blame it on video games.
No one is willing to "take some time, and
learn how to play"
Old 8th May 2003
  #14
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by crispy
Too many studios? Yes, I would agree, but too many 'fantastic' producers/engineers? I don't think so.
I wrote too many WOULD BE fantastic producers/engineers. There is a slight (read 'important') difference.
Old 8th May 2003
  #15
Gear Nut
 
duende's Avatar
 

Hey Dave!

Yeah... saw that article. The Chronicle (an embarassingly bad paper by anyones standards to begin with) is three years too late with it's article. It would have been better for it to have came out when Toast went under. As for the Record plant... who cares. They made very clear from early on that they only really care about major label clients and could care less about any of us local musicians. ( I know, I remember them smoozing me, but we opted to go with Praire Sun) They made their bed now they can sleep in it. Yesterday, while mastering an SF compilation double-CD of 47 SF mission bands, I had the chance to discuss that article with a few other engineers. Basically, our conclusion was that we were all extremely swamped with work and thought the article was a bit archaic, and no longer really accurate.

As far as the local music scene is concerned... I think the real problem with it, is that the audience is more hip to the DJ phenom... or the techno/laptop groups. Live rock music just doesn't have the monopoly it once did. Guitar Center sells more Technique 1200's than guitars!

As for the Paradise lounge.... I think most bands get tired of that place once they realize the owner's more concerned about doing lines with his buddies than actually paying his live entertainment.

Spam away!
Old 8th May 2003
  #16
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dave-G's Avatar
Alex,

It's good to read your voice!

Quote:
Originally posted by duende
Yesterday, while mastering an SF compilation double-CD of 47 SF mission bands, I had the chance to discuss that article with a few other engineers. Basically, our conclusion was that we were all extremely swamped with work and thought the article was a bit archaic, and no longer really accurate.

Well, while that is a hopeful sign... where were you doing this mastering? I'd imagine it was in a studio not named "The Plant" or "Fantasy", et al... I'd suppose that makes for further proof that the health of the industry lies outside the traditional studio infrastructure. And I think that's a good thing in many ways, but would seem at some level to reinforce the conclusions of this naive and dim Chronicle article.

Quote:
As far as the local music scene is concerned... I think the real problem with it, is that the audience is more hip to the DJ phenom... or the techno/laptop groups. Live rock music just doesn't have the monopoly it once did. Guitar Center sells more Technique 1200's than guitars!
Yes, the cloned "dude" with DJ gear and an 001 in his bedroom is the modern equivalent of the "dude, I'm in a band" dude with a pointy guitar and serious hair from not so many years ago. I tend to like what's happening now in the overall comparison, but there's still a stifling amount of sameness going on... and what the hell is a performance anymore?

we're still just as screwed if any member of the Arditti Quartet dies.

Quote:
As for the Paradise lounge.... I think most bands get tired of that place once they realize the owner's more concerned about doing lines with his buddies than actually paying his live entertainment.
That place has "almost closed" far too many times indeed. I haven't been there in years.

In the meantime, Joyce is in the other room, way pregnant and teaching Destiny's Child's "Survivor" to a young student at about 20bpm. I always wonder what, if any musical output these kids will have as they get older. What forms will be synthesized from the influences of contemporary popular music, so much of which is in an emulative or recycled form already..

Jesus. I think this post may represent my brain moving one increment irreversably into Grandpa Simpson mode.

-dave
Old 8th May 2003
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally posted by C.Lambrechts
I wrote too many WOULD BE fantastic producers/engineers. There is a slight (read 'important') difference.
Sorry Chris!

Yes, I see it now you've emphasised the meaning. Still seems strange you've included 'fantastic', which is what threw me off scent. They don't quite go together to me.
Old 8th May 2003
  #18
Jax
Lives for gear
 

Duende, the Guardian on SF Weekly will probably say something about the 47 SF bands compilation, but this kind of stuff is always too underground. It happens and if you're even a fledgling participant in the 'scene' you can easily miss it.

Where/when/how can I pick up a copy of this compilation? I'd be very interested in hearing it.

If you or Dave G, Dave R, Mixervixen, or any other local(-ish) GSz are interested in comparing studio life over a beer or at my studio (in San Rafael) with beer, let me know!



ps - Friends are cool, but you can talk about shit that matters with a gearslut.
Old 8th May 2003
  #19
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

can I hide behind the fact that english is not my native language ... it's only my third language really.
Old 8th May 2003
  #20
Jax
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Chris, your English is better than that of some Americans I know. Don't think twice about it.
Old 9th May 2003
  #21
Gear Nut
 
duende's Avatar
 

Dave,

It definitely wasn't at Fantasy, although it would have been fun to see the look on George's face when confronted with this project...

We did it at a new studio called 'Closer'. Very very very rushed job, as you can imagine.

The compilation is being put out by "The Dietch Project". They are an art gallery house based in NY. It's part of an art project by local artist, and friend Chris Johanson (Witney/Moma artist)

Jax...

Thanks for the invite! I'd love to check out your studio!

Alex
Old 9th May 2003
  #22
Lives for gear
 
dave-G's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by duende
Dave,

It definitely wasn't at Fantasy, although it would have been fun to see the look on George's face when confronted with this project...
I can see it clearly heh

Hey, I'm in town this weekend.. I'll give you a call.
-dave
Old 9th May 2003
  #23
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by crispy
Sorry Chris!

Yes, I see it now you've emphasised the meaning. Still seems strange you've included 'fantastic', which is what threw me off scent. They don't quite go together to me.

I just woke up my girlfriend for this (it is 2.30 am so you better apreciate this) .... actually you're right ... she was trying to figure out what I was saying too ...; I should have said : 'too many WANNABE fantastic engineers / producers'


sorry for the confusion ... now I'm going to bed ... trying to make up for waking her up for this (she's native english btw ... she's an american)
Old 9th May 2003
  #24
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by C.Lambrechts
she's native english btw ... she's an american
Well which is it? a native English speaker or an American speaker? There's an ever-widening difference, you know...

That doesn't matter, though - she apparently didn't injure you for waking her up to answer a grammar question, so you have a winner!
Old 9th May 2003
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
JohnnyTooLoud's Avatar
 

Hey Jax,

I'll cross the water for gearslut gathering.

Alex,

I did some work for Asphodel in an earlier lifetime before it switched owners. How are things there? You guys have some great stuff on the label.


--JTL
Old 9th May 2003
  #26
Gear Nut
 
duende's Avatar
 

JTL,

When did you work for asphodel??? I've been here for 10 years now... And Mitzi and Naut still own the company, and always have.

Strange, maybe you're referring to the closing of our NY office which happened awhile back. (we had to close it for highly dubious reasons concerning our label manager at the time)

Anyways, I'd be interested to hear from you. And thanks for the compliments!

regards,
Alex
Old 9th May 2003
  #27
Gear Maniac
 
JohnnyTooLoud's Avatar
 

I've been tossing around the idea lately that people just don't dig live bands as much as they used to. People are so used to comfort and isolation that to be shoulder to shoulder in a hot club ain't fun. Now I'm talking general populace here and not niche scenes that only exist for hot, loud clubs (dance, punk).

It seems that most folks are used to hearing manufactured music over 6-speaker car systems or paralyzed in front of MTV. Video games, cell phones, and computers have only exaggerated the isolation. Always alone but on the phone or on the Net. Even couples who live together seems distant (like the time I'm in traffic crawling along and the guy and girl in the car in front of me are BOTH on different phones).

Call me old fashioned but I like live music and the vibe from 30, 50, 300 folks all having fun to the music.

And now we have the economics of the Bay Area. A friend of mine says it is an evolution. He feels if artists can't live here than it is time for them to go elsewhere and make new communities there. That otherwise they become stagnant themselves and stop being exciting because they become part of the non-art around them.

I feel that artists maintain the soul of a city. Good, bad, successful, and unsuccessful artists. Every note, scribble, painting, photograph, and performance becomes part of the electric vibe that provides for the artist.

OK - I'm drifting a bit here but all told - SF has always been hard on commercial studios. Partially because there have been project studios in this town for the last 40 years. (24 track set-ups in the basements of ailing Victorians in parts of town where people wouldn't park their cars). The real story is the loss of music and art.

--JTL
Old 10th May 2003
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 

I love live music but hate harsh sounding PAs. Not a whole lot of opportunities to have one without the other, but I'm always looking.
I think the theory about clubs catering to popular cliquey bands, regardless of the appeal to the guy off the street, and losing a lot of potential clientele, is accurate as well. I for one am not often willing to take a chance on an unknown band because too often it is just too painful. You don't have to be an AE to find harsh sound unpleasant.
Old 10th May 2003
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 

Actually, sad to say, I am unlikely even to take a chance on a band I know I really like, unless the genre is such and the venue that I can expect pleasant sound, or no PA at all. So often I find myself saying "Oh wow! the So & So's! But at the Such-a-place... man..."

When I finally get my trick earplugs I'll take more chances. Most people don't realize it's the sound reinforcement, they probably think the bands themselves sound harsh. Some of them do!
Old 10th May 2003
  #30
Lives for gear
 
heinz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
shit, music isnt the only unregulated industry. i deal with it constantly with graphic design work... the big difference however, is good work is easily noticed and can be AFFORDED by companies whereas musicians are just a bunch of poor schleps.
OT, but Alpha if you don't me asking what area of graphic design are you involved with? I am an art director on X-Box games at Microsoft (my group does all the Mechwarrior & Mechassault stuff), and have worked in the graphic design biz for over 10 years.
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