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Are We Witnessing The Death Throes Of The Commercial Stu

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Kurt Foster, May 12, 2003.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Do all of you think that the commercial studio as we now know it will survive? What can those of us who have commercial studios do to keep the lights on? I personally think that we are witnessing a metamorphosis of the business with most pop music production moving into personal studios. I believe there will be a few (and I mean only a few) large studios left to record symphony, orchestras and film scoring, things like that. Even the recording artists in Nashville, traditionally a hold out for the commercial recording industry, are retreating into privately owned personal and project studios. Shrinking sales profits and reduced recording budgets are driving this move. What is your take on this? Kurt
  2. mixman77

    mixman77 Guest

    Hi Kurt,

    There is some truth to your thought that commercial studio's will declind but I realy don't think they will go away. You see, most really talented artist spend their time writing or practicing the art form. The problem with a lot of poeple today is they don't really know what they want to do, run a studio or be a great artist. There is not enough time for both in most cases. We own 4 large commercial/private studio's across the country and all are still very sucessful. If anything we have more business than ever. The most the artist we work with want is something very simply to lay ideas down with. Some like a little MP3 recorder, Minidisc or tape recorder. Ive been in this business for over 25 years and have worked with some of the worlds best. If you really study where the great songs are recorded you will notice they are still done in commercial studio's and rarely in a home studio. Good and even great recordings can be done in home studio's but but this is usually done buy a guy who has years of experience and has more than likely owned a large commercial studio in the past so he knows the tricks that take years to learn. There is only so much information that a great engineer will give up about recording because these are his 'stock in his trade', the very thing that seperates him from other engineers and also keeps him in a job. Engineering is a artform and does take many years to master. In owning stores that sell recording equipment we have seen for example a guy come in and buy a 8 track digital recorder, go home and record something then show up the next week bragging about how good his recordings are or maybe even going as far as to say "it's major label quality". This person is clouded by his own desire to be a great artist without spending the time or money to go into a commercial studio. He/she feels that if someone can agree with them they have done the right thing. It's a sad truth. So I feel the commercial studio's will be around for a long time to come unless they design something that can record, mix, master at major label quality all by itself. I also think the commercial studio that are not doing as good today have obvious problems. Maybe the way they are marketing themselves or they are hard to work with or they just don't do good recordings. Just MHO.


  3. Recording Engineer

    Recording Engineer Active Member

    Mar 4, 2001
    I agree, I think commercial studios will be around for a long time more. And yes, because engineering skill and talent is the big separator.

    However, in the sense that we know it today? Who knows in the sense of gear.

    My big questions are: How long will a majority of commercial studios mix with an analog console?

    How long will commercial studios find much use(even if simply as an "advantage" over home studios) of their large format analog console to justify keeping it around, even when a good portion or most of their mixing is done in the digital realm?
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I totaly agree with both of your comments so let me play devils advocate with this. Same scenario that I mentioned previously but the owner artist hires a recording engineer to assist him / her.

    I don't know if you saw the article I mentioned regarding Steve Wariner's new studio but it was quite an eye opener for me.. a very impressive home studio. Dweezel Zappa has recently refurbished the Utility Muffin Resarch Kitchen also. The Sony DMX R 100 with Radar, Euphonix R1 or Nuendo seems like it's becoming a real standard.

    I have also seen several different posts on other forums and some news articles that are pedicting the demise of the commercial studio as we know it. They site shrinking recording budgets / advances from record companies due to reduced sales as a reason for this.. thoughts???
  5. mixman77

    mixman77 Guest

    Hi Kurt and R-Engineer,

    I feel the console of any type will always be around even if its a big touch screen monitor. I work in both the studio and live sound field. Each has it's own appeal to me. I love the live sound because I get to work with great artist and feel the sound and watch people enjoying what we are giving them. However, in the live realm there is little time and no tolerance for mistakes so having a nice console like the Midas or Yamaha which I can get to everything quickly is a must. Also, having 40,48,56,etc. channels to work with gives me more alternatives to work with. In the studio is where I get to really get technical, take my time and try different things, within reason. I work on a MAC system running Protools and DP4. We also use the SSL6000's, Tascam 3500 series console and 1/2", 1" and 2" reels. I also have my little favorite Studiomaster Mixdown Classic 32x8. Only after a little while of working on my Mac do I miss the console and look forward to getting things going back through it. I think it will come down to what you are use to using. If you have never really worked on a console and only worked with a mouse or small controler then you wont miss the console. But if you have then you will always look for the things a console has now but only improved. So if I really had to guess I would say the console will be around for a very long time. They may change shape and form but will still be called and really will be a console.

    Also, with the web people can go and download artist material without having to purchase it. This has hurt the industry in a great way. I know that the government is really comming down on this as it is directly against federal copyright laws. The 'file share' term is being crushed in congress and people will begin to be punnished for this as what it is, a crime. If you use sites like Kazaa or Audio Galaxy you will be receiving a notice warning you that you are basically taged and the big brothers eye is on you now. If you continue to do this you will be charge with copyright infringement. This is all ready under way and will continue to increase in it's efforts for several reasons. One, the artist has the right to sell, give away or do whatever they want with their material because it belongs to them. Just like a manufacturers patend. Also, it's a way for the government to make money which is an ongoing thing and always will be. The major record labels will not lay down to this either as they feel they are the one who invented all this, and really they are. So I feel things will rapidly begin to change over the next year or so to get things back where they were when all of this started, years ago. Let's just hope it's fair for all.


  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I grew up using consoles and in my studio I had a large format automated MCI 636. I have to say I don't miss it a bit as far as a work surface. I miss the sound but I am learning how to work around that with high end mic pres and music recording channels. But as far as mixing, I am very happy in the box. Actually I love that I can turn off the DAW and come back in a week and turn it back on and everything comes back up exactly the same. Or I can work on another song and the return to what I was doing before and it is exactly the same. Effects, dynamics everything. I wouldn't want to mix a live show that way though. I would still want a nice desk to do that ... Kurt
  7. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    We have seen a wild dissemination of ALSIHAD workstations . Lots of people record at home and go for a big facility to record lead vocal, drums , strings sessions or in a better scenario, mix the whole album.

    Here in Brazil the market shrank a lot, no matter if it is a nice place with SSL9000J, full-blown PT HD station or a small to medium studio like mine, using 02r/d8B and PT Mix systems.
    Most do their stuff at home, with crappy digi 001´s or cracked copies of Sonar, Nuendo, etc.

    At The 90´s and now at early 21st century lots of crap is being released. When I look back to the albums I bought in teh last few years, it mostly goes to bands that have been performing more than 15 years, like Tears For fears, Toto, Rush and so.

    Hey, Kevin, do ya have a place for me?
  8. NolanVenhola

    NolanVenhola Guest

    As a project studio owner myself I have to put in my input.

    You have to look at the project in the way a project studio owner does. It isn't practical to call over a drummer, bass player and singer and get playing/recording any minute of the day. I own a project studio so I can record my ideas/demos/full blown songs anytime of the day, alone or with a friend or two.

    However, if I wanted to record a professional album? Professional studio. No questions asked. Unless a small indy band has $20,000+ laying around to create a professional quality studio, they will go to a studio.

    But we must look at acts like Joe Satriani or Wes Borland who recorded their last albums in their own homes. A lot of big names are going into recording on their own. For the reason I mentioned before, they have more time, therefor more control.

    As everyone has mentioned, pro studio's won't dissapear, the skill required to record a great sounding song will always be in the hands of the pro.
  9. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Kurt, Business is business. Investment vs return. I agree that a world class engineer is irreplaceable, but it is definitely less of the gear and more of the ear.
    The bottom line here what will joe schmoe buy and say "that sounds good". I think that the majority of listeners audition music on sound systems that would not reveal subtle differences from format to format, or studio to studio.(engineering a constant)
    If you could invest 50% less in a record and still receive the same return, wouldn't you?
    Commercial studios many advantages, but are these obvious to the end user?
  10. Smooth

    Smooth Guest

    There is absolutely no question that the big studio's will stay.

    There is absolutely no question that the others are doomed to loose a good part of their business. In the past there was no choice--you had to go to a studio--now you dont. Think about it--most sucessful artists have their own studio--so the only thing they need is to pay for the ears.
    Is it better to go to a studio?--hell yeah
    Do people realize this?--hell no

    most recordings are demo's--only a handful of albums even make the airways--so your basically catering to about 10 people who need quality and the rest have no money. So they're gonna take the cheap route--at home

    Plus you got rap and hiphop(which dont use real drums most of the time)--so they dont need the big studio.--and are Protools oriented---again, home studio stuff
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    A lot of the equipment has become affordable and the black magic of room design has been worked out by a lot of people. As we all know, there are actually a lot of personal studios that are capable of producing some very good records. With the advent of DAW mixing, quality input and monitoring is really all that is needed and the requirement for a $150,000 plus console and $50,000 multitracks has been negated. Along with that, the need for the real estate to house these items is no longer a requirement.

    But I always thought that "Major Label" releases would patronize the big room and therefore keep the doors open. It also seemed (to me at least) that Nashville was a real hold out for large studios and large studios were well entrenched and would not be dislodged soon. But as Kevin pointed out,

    Kevin goes on the say that there is pending litigation underway to address these problems but for the moment the damage is done and the Record Labels are feeling the pinch. Recording budgets have been slashed to as low as a $10,000 advance and artist's have no alternative other that to find less expensive solutions. But all the small and mid level studios have been run out of business by high taxation and costs and a shrinking customer base due to home recordings impact on the demo market. There simply are not too many demo studios left!

    A famous studio in Sausalito CA, a San Francisco suburb, that used to host Metallica sessions at $5000 per day, has confided that Metallica recorded their last release at their own personal rehearsal facility on a Pro Tools rig. The band used to spend 7 or 8 months a year in this studio. The owner was quoted as saying,
    I bet he does!
    This studio has countered the movement by opening a $500 a day room equipped with a Pro Tools rig .... But how long can a facility of this magnitude afford maintenance, lease payments and tax’s on an SSL 9000 and analog tape machines? Not long at $500 a day. At that point the studio is running just to pay the Tech!

    Even in Nashville, with artists like Clint Black and Steve Wariner building (albeit very nice) personal studios, the pinch is beginning to be felt. I personally do not greet this changing of the guard with any amount of joy but rather with great trepidation. I love walking into an expansive control or live room equipped with a jumbo sized console, a couple of 2” analog recorders and racks of vintage outboard. I love the smell of 456 in the morning! It smells like, MUSIC!

    There will always be a few big rooms just as there are still a few large theaters and concert halls in spite of the development of home hi fi and television. But I am afraid the writing is on the wall. To ignore it would be sticking ones head in the sand. I could be wrong, it has happened in the past. But I don’t think so … Kurt
  12. paul lani

    paul lani Guest

    i must throw in my 2 cents also.
    i really think that the studio biz is over. as a producer,
    the budget i get to do an album are nothing like what
    ive gotten before. every music label it seems is
    up for sale . i hear a new story of a big studio going
    under at least every 2 or 3 weeks. or at least getting
    sold. money is on everyone's mind- from labels to
    managers to the artists themselves. i am still pleased
    to go to a major studio and see a beautiful girl with
    a nice rack ( not outboard gear) to happily take
    messages and calls for me. im happy to have a
    great 2nd engineer and runners to take care of all my
    clients and my needs. security parking is great too-
    as is a great tech to lend a hand. but i can't afford
    that stuff anymore unless i am working with people
    who have crazy $$$. i do believe that if a group of
    musicians want to record and jam all in the same room-
    they will go to one of the few rooms left in the city to
    do great tracking. or to do a string date. but other
    then that , its all going to be overdubbed, and mixed
    in the box - paying myself as a studio owner- and
    being at home more with my family. i actually prefer
    to mix in pro tools rather than a SSL K. i am in
    shock to even hear myself say that. i am rather sad
    about all this. and also people don't really care
    anymore about great engineer chops anymore.
    the unfortunate thing is that with everyone coming
    up the ranks NOT in the big real studio enviornment,
    all the great engineering knowledge is not there
    anymore. a chimp can now record an album - it
    just doesn't matter any more - as long as you have a
    great mixer to bring closure to your project. MHO
  13. lang_dave

    lang_dave Guest

    7 or 8 years ago I would have agreed that the musician should stay out of the studio business.

    In fact, I came to that conclusion myself at that time.

    Back then I had a Fostex board, some mics, and a TEAC 80-8. I had no clue. The only compression I used was tape compression. It was fun, but I didn't really like the sound we got - the noise floor was way high.

    The next band I was in went to a studio. Not great gear there either, but a big step up for 1996. AKG 414 mics. 24 tracks of DA88. Some real compressors. A big drum room. And best of all, Nintendo soccer in a room filled with shelf after shelf of weird vinyl records.

    I sold all my gear immediately and decided that I was a musician, not a studio owner.

    But a few years later something else happened. I wanted to make a CD of a bunch of old 4 track tapes I had as a Xmas present to a friend. I bought a decent sound card and fired up the 4 track. Dumped all the tapes into the PC and used sound forge with the stock sound forge plugins to "master" the songs.

    And you know what, everybody loved how it sounded. When I listen now I cringe but it did salvage something from the even worse sounding 4 track tapes.

    Things just went from there. I can't imagine not having some kind of studio of my own now to record my own work. And it seems a shame to let the nice gear collect dust sometimes so I like to record other folks, too. And all of a sudden it looks like I may only be a year or two away from quitting the day job.

    It's a paradigm shift. For some folks, using a DAW is more intuitive than the old console / tape machine methods.

    I don't know - I still don't have a clue - but I like it!

    take care,

  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Dave, Thanks for that insight.. and welcome to RO! kurt
  15. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    I disagree that anyone can record a great record these days. Maybe I don't know enough about "great engineer chops", but I do get great results, and my clients tell me that my services make them just as happy as some big studios they have recorded in. This takes a great deal of knowledge and thought.
    We recently purchased some gear from a studio that went under, and part of the purchase were two adat xt 20's. The engineer also gave me a ton of tapes, and before formatting them I gave it a listen.(was that wrong? I was only curious?)
    Anyway, this guy went to school and had ten or fifteen years experience. I swear to god that the untouched tracks on my very first recording(also on adat recorded in a high scool music room) sounded a hundred times better.
    He was a nice guy and I don't want to cut him up, but in all seriousness I think that careful thought, a full understanding of what is going on outside your range of hearing, and a creative, open mind at the mixing console, will soon replace the big expensive studios with ones that make more sense fiscally.
    I have devoted my life to music (although still in my 20's)and I do not consider my studio a jaw dropper, nor do I claim to be a "great engineer. I will let my work speak on my behalf.
    I too am saddened by the current disruption in the music industry, but I see opportunity for talented business savvy engineers with studios that cost less than $100,000.(not much less though ;)

    "The worlds failures are those who did'nt realize how close they were to sucess, when they gave up."

    Thomas Edison.
  16. ddavid

    ddavid Guest

    One of the things that has not been discussed is how all studio owners need to become more "versatile"...
    Like any other business, the more versatile you are, the more successful you are.
    We are having hard times up here BUT:
    we have gotten into commercials, post for video, renting out rooms for lessons, children's programs, cds for children etc etcetc///
    my .02
  17. Mark Burnley

    Mark Burnley Guest

    :D :D

    That's the funniest thing I ever heard......

    But I know what you mean ;)


    "Oscillators don't, amplifiers do....."
  18. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    there are lots of untalented folks out there, no matter if they are shower singers or mousers. There are also untalented, horribly tasted and semi deff big names out there.

    Just to laugh:

    > hey, how do you say you are a recording engineer if you do not know how to use AUTOTUNE?
    > hey, how do you want to be a singer if you can´t sing?

  19. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    :) Some places have a person or persons who do nothing but marketing. It seems to do the trick. Maybe you have to have a competent sales force bringing in the business, along with flashy literature, a web site with sounds, and discography, whoever they are.

    I think I saw the writing on the wall here a while back, maybe 2 years. One of the best known locals were selling out. Along with this came their clients. It sounded too good to be true, purchasing an active studio, and having the client base to get started with. It was, the clients migrated to smaller medium priced operations.

    If you think 456 smelled good, have you ever used Capitol II back coated tape? :d: Just like Christmas.

  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I guess I got to say something about this.And yeah, like Kurt I miss that industrial district smell of tape shedding on the machine.And the behive-in-a-cave kind of feel during a long session of tracking a band.Which brings me to my thoughts.
    It seems that its the mid-sized studios that are going to suffer most in these times.Places with a so-so room and good gear are not going to be able to keep their clientele at the prices they have to charge to maintain their gear and a good engineers services.The clientele has only to be moderately successful in order to be able to afford their own digs and a DAW based setup.And like anyone, isnt it more comfortable and profitable to work in your own home? Its why I have studio gear in my home.Well, that , and I'm a slut for the gear itself....("Hello my name is Dave and I'm a gearslut")...Anyway...
    The advent of the Protools and protoolslike formats has created a place where the Artist can now do much of their own work at home and take their disk or harddrive to a high quality room and add what they need there and then ship it to a room that specializes in mixing from any given format.This makes the record company happy as there is a much smaller budget to deal with.Whether this is good or not, I can't say.It has created a market for specialists as far as engineering goes and has left a void in the creative process of Artists developing some kind of talent.Its much easier to fix things now with these computer-driven formats than it was previously.In this aspect, the mid-sized studio, who in the past could spend some time helping a particular artist develop,will have nothing to offer todays instant stars.
    The big rooms with amazing sound will always survive.But the projects will be different than before.A lot of the great rooms will still be the places to track, but from there the projects can be taken home or to less expensive rooms and their specialties.Much like mastering rooms have developed over the years, so must studios develop a specialty that everyone wants or needs to use.
    If i had the money, I would put together a completely DAW based room with great acoustics, and access to every format available.An SSL K and outboard for miles, maybe a couple of booths for dubbing and a very small room with a great piano.Most of the work would be for indies mixing projects done at home or elsewhere.Seems there would be a great market for this kind of place.
    dog gear slut

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