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Riding Out The Storm…

More on the state of the studio scene Due to a number of factors, including the growing Latin music market, the migration of many East Coast hip-hop artists

More on the state of the studio scene

Due to a number of factors, including the growing Latin musicmarket, the migration of many East Coast hip-hop artists to warmerclimes, and the existence of a fabled lifestyle “scene,” some Miamistudios seem to be riding out the storm relatively unscathed. Accordingto manager Trevor Fletcher, who’s worked at Criteria Studios, inone capacity or another, for 20 years, the upper echelon market inMiami remains strong. “There are more people than ever making records,”he states. “It’s just a matter of where. In the ‘70sCriteria was booked six months in advance, at rates comparable to whatwe’re charging now. In 1980, everything took a tailspin. This isdefinitely the biggest downturn in the industry that I’ve seensince, but we continue to do well. I believe that’s because wehave a good foundation, and because we have an intangible that’sself perpetuating: We make Platinum records. Our best isworking on a record that sells 10 million units. People look at thatand say ‘I want to go there.’”

Fletcher does acknowledge that what is nowHit Factory Criteria has been offering more [services], especially inthe area of project coordination. “When people come here they expect tobe taken care of. There are not a plethora of coordinators in Miami, sowe’ve taken on some of that capacity. Part of the value we giveis that, because we’ve been doing this a long time, we know howto deal with the whole spectrum of recording. If somebody says,‘We’re mastering in Paraguay in 15 minutes, we need to getthese AIFF 24-bit mixes there,’ we can do that.” 

It’s no secret that the Latin market has been good toCriteria. “Proximity to your clientele—you can’t discountthat,” Fletcher says. “Because of where we are geographically,it’s been an extremely important marketplace for us. Butyou’ve also got to understand the kind of commitment that’sbeen made here. You can’t just start a facility like this thesedays; it’s not economically feasible. The basic structure washere, and when the Hit Factory purchased Criteria in 1999, they sunk anenormous amount of money into the facility. The legacy of the studioand the records made here, the personnel, the vintage and newgear— it takes all of it to keep us on top.

Another prime location—in musician-rich Marin County,California—has helped keep The Plant in Sausalito going foralmost 30 years. But a great location, and even a star-studdedclientele with chart topping albums, doesn’t guarantee that astudio will make money. “A lot of people have called me in the lastyear to ask if it’s true that The Plant is closing,” admits ownerArne Frager. “I suppose the reason is that we’ve had three lousyyears. It’s been very difficult, but we’ve just completed anew financial arrangement that allows us to strengthen and expand thebusiness. So we’re very much alive.”

What’s Old Is New Again…

Old recording gear is like real estate—it retains its valuebecause there’s a limited supply. Many studios with classicconsoles are holding their own. Of course, it also helps to be in anarea where the cost of actual real estate, whether you’re rentingor buying, is relatively reasonable. Just over the bridge fromManhattan, a burgeoning music scene has spawned some economical upstartstudios. One of them is Brooklyn Recording, a one-room facilitydesigned by John Storyk. Brooklyn boasts a 60-input console combinedfrom two Neve 8058s, Pro Tools HD, and both 16- and 24-track 2-inchStuder analog machines.

Owner Andy Taub, originally from Brooklyn, had worked as an engineerin the Bay Area and New Orleans before landing in Austin, Texas, wherehe built a studio. In 2001, he moved his operation back home. Hepurchased 4,500 square feet of office space in an old carriage house,making him, as he says, “immune to the rent hike.” The studio’sniche is live music; both Taub and outside engineers tend to work onlong term projects for artists and producers who want what helaughingly calls a “borderline vintage” sound. “People have to keeprecording, although not necessarily for major labels,” he says. “Bandscan’t sit at home, play together and have good mics foreverybody.”

Building the studio and rebuilding the console were lengthy,expensive processes. Except for those major endeavors, Taub has kept atight eye on the bottom line. “The only thing that motivates me to buygear is if I’m getting a great deal,” he states.

Brooklyn’s jazz and rock music scenehelps keep people coming in the door, and the studio’s proximityto Manhattan makes the studio convenient for clients who live there.”My business has always been based on personal relationships withproducers and artists,” says Taub, “some of them dating back to my daysas a second engineer. If I have a philosophy, it’s to just worryabout what you do, and not what everybody else is doing.”