In this series, I am going to detail my examination of thirty major recording studios across the United States. During my review of these recording studio facilities, I tried to find places that have been in business prior to 2000. A few of the studio facilities that I have examined have had their doors open for business for more than sixty years and have been the places where some of the greatest hits in popular music have been recorded. This survey I think is useful for those who are interested in creating their own recording studio facility, have a desire to become more familiar with the equipment that was used to record the music of the past or for those who wish to see the difference between what is possible in a large-scale commercial recording environment, versus that of a home recording studio.
The thirty major recording studio facilities that I have examined across the United States were selected using two critical criteria: the number of major acts over time that have recorded in the facility (including the number of hit songs) and the ability of the facility and its management to adapt to differing trends over time in the professional music industry. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and there are a number of extraordinary facilities that I did not examine, however, this does make for an interesting cross section of facilities to study and each one (with one notable exception) is a major facility in an important music market including: Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle and Austin. None of the facilities are museums— another important criteria was that each facility has to be working at full capacity for it to be examined. For each facility, I examined the following hardware and software elements: consoles, monitors, cue systems, microphone lockers, recording systems (digital audio workstations and or analog tape machines), dynamics processors, microphone preamps, equalization units and reverb and effects units. Also, I examined the number of rooms, the number of employees, and whether or not the facility had amenities or provided instruments for their clientele. I felt that it was important for me to also examine who owns each of these facilities, as well, if that information was publicly available to me.
What have I learned? The trend that I am seeing favors the very small studio on the one hand, and the extremely large one on the other. Many of the facilities that I have examined have three or more rooms— and are astounding facilities in both operational size and scale. Most of the facilities offer a variety of services and not just music recording. Most of the facilities also have a full-service staff of assistant engineers and technicians— given the landscape, this fact was a bit surprising to me. No single facility, as you will see throughout this series, stood out in-terms of the gear or the equipment that it possessed. Some of the facilities are historic. The mean year for a facility in the survey having opened its doors was 1986. The oldest facility has been a recording studio since 1950— while only a few of them have been open since 2000— for a point of comparison. As I will point out, some of these facilities have been places where some of the greatest hit-makers in the history of popular music have recorded their great music. Also, some are historic facilities that have changed their names a number of times. I have worked in a number of them, so this list is admittedly a bit Nashville or even Austin-centric. As I go through this process, it is worth noting, too, that the information that I have to conduct this research with is solely based on what has been provided by the recording studio facilities on their websites, and of course, this is always subject to change. At the end of the week, in the next post in this series, I will tell you about the consoles that are located in these magnificent facilities. In the future, I will also conduct an examination of recording studios in Europe and in other places around the world, as well. I will provide a list of the studio facilities and their websites below, so that you can feel free to check out all of the information for yourself at your own pace, if you wish to be able to do so. Let’s learn about them together— enjoy….
The list is broken down by location, or metro area—
El Paso (area):
New York City:
Los Angeles (area):