Could home recording doom professional music studios?
Inexpensive home recording equipment helps artists rise from outside the mainstream labels.
Rock-music lore is rife with stories of bands sealing themselves up in an expensive commercial recording studio for days, weeks, or months, refusing to reenter civilian life until armed with a masterpiece destined to be heard for generations.Skip to next paragraph
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Today, that scenario sounds more like an ancient fable. Major recording centers such as London; Los Angeles; New York; and Nashville, Tenn., are losing the studios that made them famous due to shrinking budgets at the big labels and the growing sophistication of home- recording technology. Now musicians can plug directly into their laptops and record digitally with greater ease than ever.
Software such as Avid Technology’s Pro Tools, Steinberg Media Technologies’ Cubase, and Apple’s GarageBand and Logic provide multitrack recording and editing, pitch correction, and access to a library of virtual instrument samples. They’re tailor-made for cash-strapped musicians and record labels seeking quick and affordable alternatives to the studio model that flourished in the 1970s and ’80s, when lavish recording complexes were built to suit demand. Back then, massive record sales helped keep private studios solvent. But following the downturn in music sales this decade, many studios are struggling or simply have closed their doors.
The list of shuttered studios includes landmarks to music history. In New York City, the industry lost the Hit Factory – home to prominent albums “Born in the U.S.A.” from Bruce Springsteen and “Graceland” from Paul Simon – and Sony Music Studios, where Nirvana recorded “MTV Unplugged in New York.” Several historic London studios closed recently, including the Olympic, where The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton recorded some of their most famous work. Half of the studios in Los Angeles have reportedly closed as well. Meanwhile, recording sessions are shifting into the home, where veteran engineers can produce clients at more affordable rates due to lower overhead, or where musicians are trying their hand at self- recording, using not much more than a mouse, a USB cable, and a piano keyboard.
“Year by year, it becomes more accessible to anyone,” says Roger Robindoré, director of technical services of Apogee Electronics, a digital audio company in Santa Monica, Calif. This fall, Apogee Electronics launched GiO, a new hardware interface that enables guitarists to plug directly into their Apple computer. Using a series of foot pedals, guitarists can access hundreds of virtual amplifiers via GarageBand without ever touching a mouse, a dynamic meant to further simulate the traditional experience.
Mr. Robindoré says GiO is designed for both hobby guitarists and professionals who don’t have the time, storage space, or bank account to haul “a truckload of equipment” that might be needed to achieve a specific sound.