NEW YORK, NY—A legendary studio by any measure, New York’s Avatar Studios has gone up for sale. One of the last surviving big recording facilities in Manhattan, the studio was founded in 1977 when industry legend Tony Bongiovi bought a failed TV soundstage—itself a former ConEd power plant—and converted it into a recording facility, christening it The Power Station. Since then, more than 400 Gold and Platinum records have been recorded at the site.
Studio A at Avatar Studios has delivered thousands of priceless recordings, but the site itself may be worth $27 million in New York City’s red-hot real estate market. A brief run-down of artists who have made the trek to 53rd Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues to record includes Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Nile Rodgers, David Bowie, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Diana Krall, John Mayer, Donald Fagen, Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, Muse, Trey Anastasio, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, My Morning Jacket, Paul Simon, Roxy Music, Dream Theater and Cyndi Lauper, among countless others. Numerous Grammy-winning albums were recorded at the studio, and it has won 10 TEC awards over the years—five as The Power Station, and five as Avatar.
The current owner, Chieko Imamura, purchased and renamed the facility with her mother in 1996 after the original Power Station went bankrupt; her husband, Kirk Imamura, is the studio’s manager. The pair told the New York Times—which estimated the site to be worth a minimum of $27 million—that they would strongly prefer selling to an party that will keep the studio going, with Kirk Imamura noting, “We would take less from someone in the industry, of course, within reason. We are hopeful they are out there, but only time will tell.”
Kirk Imamura, who served as president of SPARS from 2011 until this past June, has long been a supporter of the city’s recording scene. When nearby Sony Music Studios was sold in 2007 to make way for condominiums, Imamura told Pro Sound News, “I want to make sure that people from other parts of the country and internationally know that there is still enough activity in New York. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a very rich music scene. There are tons of indie bands here, and it’s still vibrant, so people shouldn’t write off New York.”
The jewel of the facility’s offerings is Studio A, which was specially created for orchestral recordings, and is able to accommodate 70 or more musicians at a time. As a result, Avatar remains a popular place for recording Broadway cast albums—recent efforts include Finding Neverland—but it also has become known for recording advertising jingles as well, including music for a recent popular Snickers ad based on the 1970s TV comedy, The Brady Bunch. That’s not to say that album production has vanished from inside Avatar’s walls—last year’s Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga album, Cheek To Cheek, was recorded there, and the studio also hosted a High Res Audio listening event that debuted the album as well.