The Changing Face of New York Studios

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By David Weiss



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Alex Moulton, Expansion Team creative director, conceived of a “studio without a studio.”

Alex Moulton, Expansion Team creative director, conceived of a “studio without a studio.”

“There is a lot of downward pressure on overall recording budgets,” acknowledges Kirk Imamura, president of Avatar Studios. “With the different kind of rooms and resources we have in our recording complex, including mastering, we offer a complete set of options for multiple stages of production to match clients' budgetary requirements. We might do basic tracks in the big room, do overdubs in smaller ones, edit in the Pro Tools suite, and then mix and master with quick iterative revisions. By keeping a project under one roof, the flow is not interrupted, the quality is maintained and projects are completed quickly and efficiently.”

New York City is undeniably blessed with many of the world's best live tracking rooms, still an essential ingredient for orchestral recordings, Broadway cast albums, symphonic sessions and bands that like to record while playing together in the same place at the same time. Rooms at other larger-scale studios such as Clinton Recording Studios, KAS Music, Manhattan Center Studios and Sear Sound will always have jobs to bid on, albeit with tighter budgets in tow.

“The primary advantage for us is the size and number of our tracking rooms,” Imamura states, referring to such spaces as Avatar's 2,496-square-foot Studio A and 980-square-foot Studio C. “There are fewer and fewer large rooms available for large ensembles, orchestral dates and cast albums in the city. These are sessions that you simply cannot do at home or in small project studios.”

A Sharper Focus

Both Dave Amlen (Sound on Sound, Legacy Recording Studios) and Troy Germano (Hit Factory) used to be at the helm of huge New York City facilities. Today, however, the two can be found running a much different type of studio than their multi-room complexes of before.

Each now runs a two-room studio — significantly more tightly focused operations closely overseen by these seasoned studio executives. The eponymous Germano Studios, opened in 2008, is in the stylish NoHo neighborhood, featuring a pair of 48-input SSL Duality rooms. Amlen founded Manhattan Sound Recording and opened in June of this year, converting the already-pleasant compound previously occupied by the Manhattan Producer's Alliance into two extremely well-equipped Digidesign C24 recording and production suites.

“The world has changed and the ‘boutique’ recording facility is what is most desired,” says Germano, owner and president of Germano Studios. “The bands and artists want the highest level of privacy, and that is impossible in a four- or five-room studio. Fortunately, there are not many multi-room studios left, so leaner is the answer. My plan has only been to open numerous smaller studios in different cities — locations that artists would be attracted to, not necessarily locations that musicians have now become bored of. When the [Germano Studios] space in NoHo accidentally came to me, the size and intimacy put my ideas in motion.”

Amlen notes that running the relatively compact MSR feels much different than his previous studios. “With a large facility, there are more opportunities to charge for services,” he says. “Conversely, there are more monthly obligations in staff and infrastructure costs. I think my new studio is a strong statement about the direction and needs of my clientele. The new direction is more personal attention. I think once you grow past two or three rooms, you lose the personal connection. Ultimately, many two- and three-room facilities are the goal, whereby each facility will have its own unique personality. The financial beauty will be in the sharing of back office and technical resources. We [Manhattan Sound Recording] are not there yet, but I hope we will be sooner than later.”

The final key to running these sonic sports cars is keeping two steps ahead of everybody else — or is it? “As for keeping ahead of the curve,” says Amlen, “I think you always need to be aware of the curve, but never on the leading edge because the financial pitfalls are hard to recover from, unless you can force the work during the learning stages while the equipment stabilizes. Most of us are not that fortunate.”

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