The past year, there’s been a lot of talk about the closing of several major facilities in Los Angeles and New York. It usually goes with the lament about ever-shrinking record budgets, the lack of quality acts and the move toward personal, producer- and artist-owned home-based studios. Some claim it’s a sign the revolution is in full motion and the days of big studios are over; others see it as confirmation that the five-year slide in record sales had finally trickled down to the production community. We don’t feel either explanation is correct.
Certainly, large multi-room facilities are having a tough time booking acts for extended periods, but at the same time, The Village, Record Plant, Ocean Way, Hit Factory Criteria, Right Track/SOS, Avatar and others report solid bookings. And for every facility that closes, new ones pop up, albeit not on the scale of the build-outs during the ’80 s and ’90s.
The entire recording industry is in transition, in terms of facilities, workflows, distribution, design, mastering and countless other ways. Traditional methods of creating projects are being challenged, and pros are finding new ways of working with these new types of projects. Around the Mix offices, we often say there’s more audio out there in the world than ever. You just have to know where to find it.
Each year, we editors pause for a moment to tap into the pro audio zeitgeist, with our annual “theme” issue. On the heels of Napster (as the mainstream press predicted doom), we presented “What Can Save the Music Industry?” in 2003. Twelve months later, we tackled “The New Means of Production,” followed by last year’s “Who Cares About Quality?” This year, with the bona fide establishment of videogames, ringtones, cell phones, iPods and numerous other mobile devices as new distribution destinations, we ask the all-encompassing question: “Where’s the Money?”
The savvy engineer, Kevin Becka tells us, is a versatile engineer, one with talent for recording and, increasingly, one who goes out and finds the talent. Studios that survive are those that, depending on their market, either fill a specialized niche or diversify into a variety of services. Meanwhile, manufacturers must look for economies of scale as the industry is cemented in a hybrid hardware/software world. Live sound offers countless opportunities, though Keith Clark cautions that you never give up your core constituency. We also offer up success stories from the online world, the distribution channels and the traditional studio. But start it all off with Blair Jackson’s excellent essay on just where you might find audio (meaning money) today.
Keep reading, and write and let us know where you make your money.
Note: We’d like to introduce Bud Scoppa, our new L.A. editor, whom many of you might already know from his musings in Rolling Stone, Paste, Hits Online and countless other places. Turn to page 130 and you’ll find out quickly why we’re excited to have him covering that monster market we call Los Angeles.