With home studios flourishing, the availability of music making software increasing, and the ability to make professional-sounding music from home becoming easier and easier, you may be wondering, alongside many others in the music industry, “What’s going to happen with traditional recording studios?”
Are recording studios really dying?
No – recording studios are not dying off. In fact, they’ll probably be here to stay for many years to come. Here’s why.
What do you mean by “recording studio”?
When we talk about a traditional “recording studio” in this article, here’s what we mean:
- Fully equipped, specially designed, commercial-level facility for sound production and engineering
- Staffed by professional producers and engineers with real-life industry experience
Here’s what we DON’T mean:
- A bedroom studio that has not be designed as a specialized recording space, used for making music as a hobby or side-job
It’s important to distinguish these two studio types, because each serves a different purpose. And neither is dying off.
In most recent stats from the U.S. Census Bureau showed a positive outlook for recording studios in America. In 2017, there were 1700 recording studios in the U.S. – the third highest amount next to 2007 (1729) and 2008 (1793), right before the Great Recession. That means that in the past decade leading up to 2017, recording studios have only been increasing in number.
On top of that, market stats from IBISWorld for US audio production studios from 2015-2020 show an average industry growth of -0.3%. While that isn’t a positive number, it’s hard to say that it’s a dying number by any means. 2020 was a disruptive year for most industries, in light of COVID-19, and certainly disruptive for in-person recording studio sessions.
It is also very difficult to gauge an accurate trend for the audio recording industry, as many studios are run by freelance producers and engineers.
So if recording studios are still alive and well, what’s the point of them? Why aren’t they going anywhere?
Are recording studios even relevant anymore?
Not only are recording studios still relevant, but they offer services that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in the average home studio.
For example, recording studios offer the “all-inclusive” experience and luxury of having a variety of gear to pick from for a project. The best mic for you, an extensive chain of recording and mixing hardware, different guitars, drums… the list could go on. Now you could argue that this is available to anyone from home (with a big enough wallet for it), but arguably more important than the gear itself is the fact that recording studios have the professionals who know which gear to pick for your project (and why) and how to use it to capture your best performance.
One of the other upsides of traditional recording studios is the specific design of the space. These buildings and rooms are built with one sole purpose: to make it sound incredible to record an instrument. You don’t need to worry about re-constructing your sound or doctoring up the audio from a recording, which is something you would likely do from a home recording – it’s going to sound amazing right out of the recording session.
In other words, certain scenarios, like the need for a large selection of equipment, hands-on professional guidance, and sessions with large groups would benefit from recording studio sessions.
“But what if I don’t use live instruments or need to record any instruments? I just use sound libraries.”
Good question, to which I’ll ask, “Where did your sound library come from?”
Chances are, many of your favorite sound libraries, sample packs, or other VSTs were either recorded or designed in a recording studio. For example, I love using any of Spitfire Audio’s VSTs, especially their strings. And I love the luxury of having access to a full orchestra of professional strings players, right on my computer, because I don’t have the space (or the contacts) to make that happen in real life. That luxury wouldn’t be possible for me (and millions of other producers) without Air Studios, a recording studio where many of Spitfire Audio’s sound libraries were recorded at.
The same could be said about plugins – take the Abbey Road reverb collection from Waves. These beautiful reverb sounds and qualities wouldn’t exist without Abbey Road Studios.
As more and more sound libraries, sample packs, and plugins continue to be developed, the need for recording studios and spaces from which to reference and create these can’t be undermined.
What about the rise of home studios?
Even though we’ve answered “no” to the question, “are recording studios dying?”, we could ask a slightly different question.
“Are recording studios thriving?”
Based on the stats we looked at earlier, it’s safe to say, “no, they are not thriving”. However, home studios, whether a simple bedroom setup or a more sophisticated and intentionally designed space, are certainly thriving. If you’re making music, that’s a fairly unanimous observation.
Home studios have many benefits over traditional recording studios. Here are some to consider:
- Smaller space requirements (don’t need to house as much gear or large hardware setups)
- Much cheaper start up costs (you can easily put together a good quality work station for ~$1000)
- You can learn so much more about the recording process from simply doing things on your own
- Similar to the first point, but plugins (that are readily available to home producers) are much cheaper and take up less space than large analog processing chains (and sound pretty darn similar nowadays)
It’s easy to see how home studios are much more accessible for the average musician or producer today. The need for scheduling sessions at a larger traditional recording studio are most times simply not required anymore. The quality of home studio equipment, plugins, and other gear can absolutely provide professional results. At the end of the day, both studios serve different purposes and have different roles, depending on your project and your needs.