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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Recording Sites On Sale Block

Recording Sites On Sale Block By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter Recording studios clustered in the East Valley are being sold or are closing at unprecedented levels in response to the lackluster performance of the music industry in the past several years. While several of the owners say they are finding that record producers and artists are interested in buying the studios to continue using them to work on music, some of the facilities have been sold to developers. “There are more for sale than there ever have been at one time,” said Ellis Sorkin, owner of Studio Referral Service, a Calabasas-based firm that helps artists and producers find studio space for rent, lease or purchase. Sorkin, who has helped connect studio owners and musicians and music engineers for 24 years, said he has seen a dramatic jump in the past six months to a year with about 10 studios on the market out of some 50 that were operating in the area as of the end of last month. Several studios have already either closed or changed ownership in the Valley, he said. Among those are Master Control in Burbank and the Bakery in North Hollywood. The number of studios closing their doors for good is growing, Sorkin said, although he said “business has picked up a little bit” recently. And although current owners are trying to market the studios to music business professionals, some of the studios have already ended up in the hands of developers. SoundChamber in North Hollywood was sold to R & B; artist Raphael Saadiq, while Canoga Park’s Rumbo which was sold last year went to a developer who was looking to build either a condominium or a nursing home on the site, said Adam Beilenson, co-owner of Paramount and Ameraycan studios. “The real estate is attractive,” Beilenson said. One studio for sale, including property and recording equipment, is Third Stone Recording, owned by Paul Ricchiutti. Ricchiutti said he didn’t think it made sense from a business standpoint to continue to stay in business. His business, however, caters to a niche within the recording industry rock musicians who make music on vintage equipment. “It really doesn’t make sense for me to keep my money in this business,” Ricchiutti said. “There’s very little satisfaction.” He blames an industry that has more engineers than artists and said he firmly believes “in the future, it will be independent labels that will be operating studios.” Ricchiutti’s 5,000-square-foot studio features “vintage” equipment, more suited for rock musicians who use analog equipment, as opposed to digital equipment that is preferred in just about all mainstream genres of music today. Ironically, Ricchiutti once was a designer of professional audio equipment and maintained consoles and recorders. He began accumulating the gear, set it up at a friend’s place and eventually installed it at Third Stone. “Any money I’ll make here out of this venture is from real estate investment,” Ricchiutti said. “My gear is all paid for and it still has quite a bit of value.” With all of the disappointment in his speech, Ricchiutti remained objective about the value of recording studios. They are still in demand, he said, “as all the people I had come through” are in the music business, he said, “not people trying to lease an office building.” “I had to think of capitalization,” Ricchiutti said. “The reality is that rates are always going down, and equipment prices are going up. It’s not the smartest way of investing money.” Cut in budgets Eric Bettelli, publisher of the Music Connection, a Studio City-based magazine for musicians and songwriters said there is not enough business in the industry to keep it going. “The budgets are not what they used to be.” Bettelli’s account manager Brian Stewart said he has noticed an increase in classified and display advertising in the Music Connection from studio owners. Stewart said the ads are an indication the record industry is off. He said some of the larger studios are advertising services such as music gear repair, which is not what they had done before. That’s in addition to a surge in the number of ads for studios large or small available for lease or purchase, Stewart said. “At the moment, we have probably about 40 percent of larger studios that are restructuring or up for sale,” Stewart said. At “smaller studios it’s up about 20 percent” over a two-to-three year period. Part of the reason for the increase in the studios on the market is digital technology. It has dropped in price over the past several years and an increasing number of musicians are finishing professional-quality records out of their home studios, said Sorkin. Recording studios are not facing extinction, however, according to Beilenson. “We’re doing fairly well,” Beilenson said about his Ameraycan and Paramount studios. The two studios offer services, however, that many smaller studios can’t match. His 10,000-square-foot facilities are considered “comparable to most higher-end” facilities, Beilenson said. For that reason, he often finds them in demand by producers and audio engineers who put the finishes touches on the work of marquee pop artists, including Neptunes and Macy Gray. And even with all of the bad news, Music Connection’s Stewart is staying optimistic about the studios’ presence in the Valley. “A lot of people know that the room itself is an instrument,” Stewart said. “That’s why studios will never go away.” Beilenson echoed: “The larger commercial studios will survive the question is how many.”

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