Another Brick in the Wall: Nashville's Battery Studios, part of the Zomba music empire, closed its doors in early April-another casualty of Nashville's increasingly tight studio and music production market. The facility opened in July 1992, and its initial sessions included Mutt Lange, a Zomba writer, who was producing a record for his first wife, the decidedly un-Shania-like Stevie Lange.
Studio manager Lee Groitzsch, who had been with the facility from its beginning, attributes the closure to many of the same factors that have led to other studio closings in Music City in the last several years: the decline of country music's sales and market share, an overbuilt studio base and its subsequent rate-cutting, and Nashville's inability to consistently attract non-country recording artists to more than a handful of studios. In addition, Groitzsch says, the facility's overhead suffered when it bought two vintage Neve 8060 consoles, modified them and joined them into a single large console two years ago. That fact alone underscores the tenuous cash-flow situation at many facilities, agrees Groitzsch: "It's not that it was a lot of extra money a month. But it was enough to be a burden under these sorts of economic conditions."
Groitzsch also notes that the trend toward producer-owned studios in Nashville is accelerating. "Three producers and one engineer who were all regular clients [at Battery] have now all opened their own studios," he says.
Zomba still operates three other Battery recording facilities, in London, New York City and Chicago. In addition, Zomba continues to expand its corporate activities in Nashville, where it has taken a significant position in the Christian music market. During the last few years, it has acquired ownership stakes in several Christian labels, including Reunion, Brentwood and Benson Records. However, Groitzsch says that Zomba wanted the recording studio to operate autonomously and did not actively steer Christian recording artists and producers-a market that historically has recorded in small or personal studios commensurate with its relatively low budgets-toward Battery on a regular basis. "They didn't want to lay an edict down that you had to record at Battery," Groitzsch says.
Zomba also will continue to operate the Nashville location of its equipment rental company, Dreamhire, in the Battery building. Dreamhire will expand upstairs into the space that the studio occupied, making room for an expansion of Zomba's music publishing company, which also is in the same building. The present control room will be converted into a Pro Tools/RADAR II suite, allowing Dreamhire to provide services such as editing, transfers and formatting.
Battery's extended Neve console was reportedly sold to artist/producer Ricky Skaggs, who has a personal studio in nearby Hendersonville. Groitzsch says he did not have plans for his own immediate future but says he would prefer to stay in the studio business in some capacity.
Nashville studios continue to consolidate. But bucking the trend, Recording Arts owner Carl Tatz and Emerald Studios owner Dale Moore have failed to come to terms on a buyout of Recording Arts' assets, which include one of the few SSL G Plus consoles in Nashville. Emerald has been on a year-and-half-long acquisition tear through Nashville, acquiring Masterfonics, among other properties, and Tatz says Moore had approached him about the possibility of purchasing Recording Arts' equipment complement. The final offer that Emerald made, however, was "just not in the ballpark for what the studio is worth," says Tatz, stressing that Recording Arts would continue operations as usual, although he is open to options regarding the long-term future of the business.
Moore says that had he and Tatz struck an agreement, Recording Arts' G Plus would have been moved into The Parlor, a studio joint venture-announced in this column several months ago-between Emerald and Nashville publishing company Best Built Songs.
In any case, Emerald is making modifications in other areas. Moore says the facility is expanding its 2-year-old broadcast division to include Webcasting and content development, and Emerald has installed a Euphonix System 5 digital console in the Mix Room in Emerald Building Two, the former main Masterfonics building. The new digital console will replace the room's SSL E Series board, which is fitted with the only major-facility installation of the DISQ system digital core, AT&T's short-lived venture into professional audio technology. The Mix Room will get interior design treatment, and near-field surround monitoring will be installed, but there will be no significant acoustical renovation of the studio, Moore says: "It's been one of the most popular mixing studios in the country for years, so it wouldn't be a good idea to mess with that."