This was supposed to be a note about Mix. About how we have new owners in NewBay Media and a new design with a wider format. A new column by longtime tech editor Kevin Becka and a new position and focus on our Big Three: Music, Live and Sound for Picture. New energy. New approach. New. New. New. But then I got sidetracked by New York. Something is happening there. Right now.
Look again at that cover. It’s the world’s most recognizable skyline in high-def—and it’s from a tracking room! Jungle City Studios, on West 27th in the up-and-coming High Line district, is a gem, no question. It’s a John Storyk design, owned and operated by engineer/producer Ann Mincieli, a born-and-bred New Yorker who has moved smoothly into her own digs and developed a forward-thinking studio model, all the while recording around the world and maintaining her association with the crazy-talented Alicia Keys. Mincieli is no newbie. She’s worked in nearly every studio in town during the past 20 years, and she has an impeccable reputation within the tech and artist communities. She can take apart and modify an SSL console, and she can co-produce the multi-Platinum Songs in A Minor. She collects gear like a pack rat, and she studied advanced guitar with Carlos Alomar. She talks balanced power as easily as she does grace note slurs. She can make this work. The bookings are there. People want to be in the City again, and that’s good news for the entire recording industry. New York has always been something of a bellwether.
There’s no question that the New York recording community hit a rough patch in the past few years. The closings of Hit Factory in 2005, followed by Sony Studios, Right Track midtown and a number of others were highly publicized, and the death knell for the recording industry was sounded by the mainstream media. There’s a maxim of journalism that says, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and it’s always easier to report on loss. But in the years following, not much has been written about all of the music still coming out of New York. Nothing about the wealth of musician-friendly studios in Brooklyn. Or the Grammy-magnet Stadium Red in Harlem, featured in this month’s “Class of 2011.” Or the efforts by Brian McKenna, Anthony Drootin, Vlado Meller, Glenn Swan and a host of other former Sony staffers to bring work back to the City. It seems, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of studio deaths were greatly exaggerated.
Mincieli would be the first to say that she’s not inventing anything. She’s just trying to resurrect the notion that New York City is the destination, a world center of so much art and culture, music included. She pays homage to the Germano family for creating the modern New York recording community in and around Hit Factory, and she remains friendly with former CEO Troy, who helped kick-start the rebirth when he opened the two-room Germano Studios downtown in 2008. And we still have Avatar, Quad, the Cutting Room, Electric Lady, Clinton, Manhattan Center—it’s not the heyday of the mid-’90s, but recording in New York is definitely on the upswing.
I had a good chat with longtime friend and consummate New Yorker Howard Sherman as we were putting together this issue. He said the energy is palpable. New buildings are going up, new businesses are opening, you can feel the buzz on the street. “I don’t know who’s paying for it,” he said, “but there’s stuff happening all around the city. Will Smith just bought a place on my block!”
Business cycles ebb and flow, entire industries reinvent themselves, and changes in the culture and in technology force many of us to re-examine the way we live and work. But if there’s one sure thing, one guaranteed bet, it’s that you can always count on New York City to find its own way, to come back stronger than ever.