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Avatar President Kirk Imamura Speaks Out

Commercial Recording is Alive and Strong in NYC

In light of New York recording studio the Hit Factory’s closing, which has prompted many to assume an early death for large studios, Avatar president Kirk Imamura, joined by a handful of New York City–based producer/engineers, issued the following statement:

“Calling the studio business dead is very misleading and greatly exaggerated. We are sad to see the closing of one of New York’s major players. However, we reject the general indictment of large, multi-room facilities and the implication that albums are no longer being recorded at professional studios. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“While it is true that business dropped off after September 11 (what business didn’t?) and the music industry has been going through consolidation and cost cutting, the recording side of the business has been steadily growing over the past two years since new releases are the lifeblood of record labels. Lately the recording scene in New York has been extremely vibrant. Avatar Studios has been booked solid for the last three months. The holiday season and first quarter are not typically busy times, but there also seems to be no shortage of projects by major and independent labels. Furthermore, 24 of the projects nominated for the 2004 Grammy Awards were recorded or mixed at Avatar Studios. Artists who have worked at Avatar in ’04 include John Mayer, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Franz Ferdinand, John Scofield, George Benson, Maria Schneider, Bebel Gilberto and even the host of the 2005 Grammy Awards show, Queen Latifah.

“The rise of inexpensive digital audio workstation equipment does make it less difficult for professionals and non-professionals alike to make decent recordings in pretty much any environment. The digital studio gives people more options. However, it is not the only option.”

Rich Costey, an engineer and producer who has mixed projects for Muse, Audioslave and Franz Ferdinand adds, “While the advent of inexpensive digital recording has had an impact on the recording business in many ways, it has also cemented the niche for high quality analog studios. There will always be artists, engineers and producers whose ears demand the finer aspects of recorded sound, and as a result, there will always be a need for top end analog facilities.”

Multiple Grammy Award winning engineer Al Schmitt, who recorded Diana Krall’s The Girl in the Other Room at Avatar, states: “Things that I do simply cannot be done at a home studio. I deal with rhythm sections and horns and we need space to record them. You can’t get the vocal quality you want from a little home studio. There will always be a need for good, professionally run studios.”

Imamura continued: “What is important today is for studios to provide real value. The nature of production has been definitely shifting with controlled budgets and recording efficiencies a must. Tighter budgets make advance planning a necessity and the recording process must be well coordinated. People who are interested in recording must look at the TOTAL COST OF PRODUCTION instead of making decisions based simply on hourly rates. In the studio, if the assistants are not proficient or if the equipment does not operate properly and consistently, you will quickly find that the hours of unproductive time add up. One would have been better off paying a slightly higher hourly rate but have a smoother session, which may translate to better performance and having more time and options to capture better sound, not to mention less stress on those involved in the creative process. Even at the same rates, rooms are different. You only get to record once. For the same rate, you might as well record in a studio where the acoustics are superior and get better results. That is why you have to look at the total value of a studio during the selection process.

He concludes, “If you can find one, a professionally run studio like Avatar can provide a bargain with superior sounding rooms, reliable equipment and a competent staff. Your efforts will be completed in less time, actually affording you a savings for your projects.”

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