New York, NY (February 23, 2004)–With the imminent closing of The Hit Factory in New York City, the media has been heralding the demise of large studios. But Kirk Imamura, president of Avatar Studios in Manhattan, calls that claim “very misleading and greatly exaggerated.”
Imamura commented: “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.
Imamura continued: “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. Artists who worked at Avatar in ’04 include John Mayer, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Franz Ferdinand, John Scofield, George Benson, Maria Schneider, Bebel Gilberto and 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, a sought after engineer and producer who has mixed projects for Muse, Audioslave and Franz Ferdinand added, “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.”
In addition, there are still plenty of projects that cannot be done “at home.” Multiple Grammy-winning engineer Al Schmitt, nominated for Best Engineered album for Diana Krall’s The Girl In The Other Room, recorded at Avatar, commented, “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.”
Engineer Jay Newland, nominated for the same Grammy for his work on Norah Jones’ Feels Like Home, also recorded at Avatar, agrees. “You still have to be able to set up a number of people in one room, a great sounding room and have them play all at once. This includes space for a 9-foot piano or a horn section or whatever. A band playing music together is still a very necessary part of making great and meaningful records. The great studios that we have come to know and love have their own certain vibe or energy that adds immeasurably to a project, i.e. Capitol, Oceanway, Abbey Road, Avatar. We still always need high quality 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.
“Avatar does not skimp on maintenance. In fact, we have been strengthening our maintenance department, which is on duty not just on call, working on innovative in-house projects to sharpen the skills and knowledge of our staff. Large multi-room facilities have the economy of scale to employ a full-time maintenance staff to make sure the equipment is maintained properly. In today’s environment, costs have to be scaled to meet current economic conditions. Getting rid of wasteful excess is a healthy process. Avatar Studios just opened a new room in November 2004 dubbed Studio G. The room is positioned as a mid-priced room designed to address the realities of production budgets today, and still provide the greatest bang for the buck to our clients. Even with mid-pricing, you still get a real analog console, a Pro Tools rig and a great sounding control room to listen back on.”
In conclusion, Imamura stated, “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.”