The Changing Face of New York Studios

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



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Germano Studios’ Studio 1 features an SSL Duality, and reflects owner Troy Germano’s business plan of opening smaller “boutique” studios.

Germano Studios’ Studio 1 features an SSL Duality, and reflects owner Troy Germano’s business plan of opening smaller “boutique” studios.

We Live in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Canarsie, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights, Greenpoint, Coney Island, King's Highway, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Mill Basin, Flatbush. Get the point? There's a lot of room for music to maneuver in the borough whose Dutch name means “Broken Land.” With many professional and semi-pro musicians and audio pros — for more than a generation now — in flight from Manhattan's high prices and cramped lodgings, critical mass has been reached and then some in Brooklyn.

Jamin Gilbert opened ishlab, a studio/licensing/music supervision concern in the artsy/industrial neighborhood of DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in 2000. “There has been a continuous and growing influx of musicians and artists toward New York City, and to Brooklyn in particular,” Gilbert observes. “New York has always been one of the greatest music Meccas of the world, and Brooklyn has risen as one of the strongest creative communities. The eclectic space and architectural elements provide a recording scene that inspires collective creativity and healthy competition, both necessary components of a growing artistic and musical environment. Being in the heart of this community for a decade has definitely allowed us to observe the ebb and flow of the music — we're lucky to have been in Brooklyn long enough to fully understand the dynamic of the environment here.

“It's important that the industry find other ways to make money other than as a traditional recording facility,” Gilbert continues. “By helping to carve out niche music communities that do things differently, we can all work together to promote the local recording industry. We are embarking on a couple of great opportunities right now, capitalizing on the emerging trends of audio sensory branding for commercial activities. Our background in recording, mixing and DJ'ing allows us to understand the local market, as well as trends around the globe, and turn this into opportunities for our artists and commercial clients.”

Virtually Existent

Keeping that big globe firmly in mind, and the need to be everywhere at once — beyond the comfy confines of the five boroughs — is another formative factor for New York City music professionals. His company's headquarters are on a SoHo cobblestone street, but Alex Moulton, creative director/partner of busy commercial music house Expansion Team, refers to his M.O. as a “studio without a studio.”

Instead of carrying the overhead of a dedicated recording facility, Moulton and his clients are happy with the results from a decentralized global composer network, capable of working efficiently together on projects. “We have a business model that puts creativity first, and I truly believe that musicians create better music when they work in comfortable surroundings, with players and engineers they love,” says Moulton. “These days, that means recording at your personal studio and not having to come into the office. Since we work with composers all over the world, we get the benefit of all of those rooms and session players.

“When you add it up, it just doesn't make sense to have a central studio facility in New York City,” Moulton continues. “Instead, we have a simple but beautiful mix room that's great for clients, but doesn't require all of the gear necessary for recording. The fact that this business model has kept our overhead down is secondary to me, but it has definitely helped; it's allowed us to grow organically and we're able to pay our composers well. The only challenge we face is in the misconception that not having a studio means that the music-making process is more complicated or slower. In fact, we all share a central server and we're able to keep working around the clock because of the different time zones of our artists.”

“Going into 2008, most people were expecting growth, and by the end of the year it was obvious that we'd taken an entirely different direction, to put it mildly,” says Moulton. “Rates and fees are down and competition is much higher, and there's no telling when things will level out. But it's not just the music industry — it's true for nearly everyone I know. It's a different landscape now, with smaller financial returns but increased opportunities for creativity. And New York City is still at the center of those creative opportunities.”

David Weiss is Mix's New York editor.

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