The Beatles' Abbey Road LP Cover
by Clive Young.
London (February 16, 2010)—Abbey Road Studios, the iconic recording facility made famous by the Beatles, has been put up for sale by cash-strapped EMI, according to published reports.
London’s Financial Times reported Tuesday that EMI has placed the recording facility on the market in an effort to relieve some of the debt accrued from private equity group Terra Firma’s buy-out in 2007. The investment firm swung the deal with $5.17 billion in loans from Citigroup; now it must raise $188 million by June to avoid breach of contract, which could result in losing control of EMI. While a quick sale of Abbey Road would undoubtedly make a dent in Terra Firma’s debts, few industry watchers expect that proceeds could arrive in time to meet the June deadline.
Arguably the world’s best-known studio, the building was built in 1831, and turned into a studio 100 years later when EMI purchased it for £100,000. Since then, it has housed sessions by artists as varied as Cliff Richard, Radiohead, Duran Duran, House of Love, Blur, and others; Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was recorded there, taping everywhere from studios to the basement canteen. Of course, the facility is best known as the site where the Beatles recorded the vast majority of their music, including the final album as a band, Abbey Road.
With the continued rise of home and project recording, and the ongoing depletion of recording budgets, large-scale recording facilities have become increasingly hard to keep afloat in major cities. The Financial Times quoted one unnamed “media lawyer” as noting, “What you have is a very, very expensive piece of heritage. If an artist goes to a label and asks to record at Abbey Road they will be met with maniacal laughter,” adding, “The brand is worth more than the building . . . anybody who wants the studios will want the brand.”
As it happens, Abbey Road has been making use of its brand in recent times; it offers a variety of services besides the expected recording and mixing, including mastering and online mastering; various plug-ins, hardware recreations and sampled instruments for recordists; asset management and supply; Abbey Road Live, which provides instant concert recordings at venues; and an online branded product shop of t-shirts and so forth, which is expected to open later this month on the studio’s website.
The news came only a day after the same newspaper reported that Terra Firma now estimates EMI is worth $3.1 billion less than the $6.6 billion it paid for the music entity in 2007.