Can Big Studios Survive?

Large-Tracking-RoomOne of Nashville’s most iconic and historic studios, RCA Studio A, on Music Row had a close call with closing its doors this month.

The RCA Studio A has been a recording space for countless major artists for 40 years. And last month, it looked like new developments on Nashville’s Music Row might see the historic recording space closed for good. Thankfully, the builders relented after an open letter was published by the studio’s main vendor, Ben Folds. But the event raises the question as to whether big studios are capable of surviving anymore in the digital age.

Here are the three main challenges big studios face in tomorrow’s music industry:

Cheaper Better Gear

By far, the greatest threat to big studios has been–and will continue to be–the advent of recording equipment that is better sounding and more affordable. As artists producers are able to create great recordings and mixes in their homes and the cost of gear becomes less than the cost of renting a big studio space, it’s easy to see how big studios will struggle to attract enough business to stay viable.

Less Profitability in Recorded Music

Another challenge for big studios is the shrinking budgets for recording projects. This due to the fact that recorded music just doesn’t make as much money for artists and labels as it used to. While much of this is due to pirating, services like Spotify and Youtube have essentially provided free ways for fans to listen to music with very little kickback to the creators.

Better Samples

The proliferation of high quality samples, along with better MIDI programming interfaces, has also meant that some instruments can now be programmed where they would have once been only recorded. Naturally, as artists want to lay down a harp part, for example, they’ll be much more inclined to use a sample rather than book a musician and a recording space.

While these are three big obstacles in the future for big studios, it’s also important to recognize that there’s still a strong movement for bands to record live on analog gear. Because analog is more expensive and requires more skill to record with, this movement has found using professional big studios to be the best way to capture the real organic nature of what’s being recorded.

Moving forward it’s likely that many big studios will be forced to close their doors as the demand for big budget recordings drops off. But, there will always be a need for large spaces to record ensembles, bands and other artists who want the most human performance as possible in their mix.