New York, NY (February 24, 2016)—One of the last legendary, large-scale recording facilities in Manhattan, The Magic Shop, will close on March 16, 2016. Owner Steve Rosenthal announced the closure this week, signaling the end of a protracted battle with both the studio’s landlord and the changing face of New York City.
Rosenthal set up The Magic Shop in 1988 on Crosby Street, back when the block in Soho was considered a dicey part of town. In the early Nineties, the studio gained its calling card—an impressive 1970 Neve Series 80 console, previously owned by the BBC, that was later updated by Rupert Neve himself. In the years since, numerous classic albums have been recorded at the site, including David Bowie’s last two collections, The Next Day and Blackstar. But while creation was taking place within its walls, the neighborhood outside was being recreated as well; today, it is a district of ultra high-end shopping and condos intended for the exorbitantly wealthy.
Last year, using a clause in his lease, Rosenthal attempted to buy the studio’s two floors for a reported near-$3 million (with funding backed in part by Dave Ghrol of Foo Fighters). Nonetheless, he was turned down by the building’s co-op board—a move perhaps not surprising in a neighborhood where, as the New York Times noted in a studio profile last fall, private parking spots go for $1 million.
Despite the loss, Rosenthal is hardly leaving the business. In recent times, he has increasingly focused on audio restoration and archival work, and that will continue despite the studio's demise. As he noted recently in Pro Sound News, discussing his work on the recent Erroll Garner box set (for which he received a “Best Historical Album” Grammy nomination), restoration has been “a part of my work that I’ve really been enjoying,” adding that “considering how unhealthy the studio business is, this part of my business is very healthy. It’s really been a fascinating adjunct to what goes on at the Magic Shop.”
As word of the closing spread, thousands, from musicians like Suzanne Vega and Steve Wynn to former interns, fellow engineers and friends, went to the studio’s Facebook page to pay homage to the Magic Shop and Rosenthal’s efforts to keep it afloat.
Producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), who had to close his own facility, Madison, WI’s Smart Studios, in 2010, remarked, “You have given so many artists an amazing sanctuary to record in, and you always made every one of us feel special. I know how hard it is to close a studio that becomes such a part of your life...but you have a legacy and history of incredible music that will always be with us.”
Meanwhile, Tony Visconti, who produced Bowie’s last two albums at the Magic Shop, wrote, “Steve, I am almost as saddened by this news as I was by my friend passing on. Everything comes to an end. I was expecting both to happen but was never fully prepared. I cherish the many hours I spent in your palace of music. I only wish I knew about it earlier.”
The Magic Shop