by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
classical music, recordings


The End of Studio Recordings?

from the probably-not dept

Tyler Cowen points us to an interesting post on the future of the classical music market. Bill Stensrud predicts that the major record labels will soon exit the classical music business, leaving behind Naxos, a label that saves money by paying musicians very little. Stensrud urges classical musicians to give up on the idea of making money by selling recorded music, and instead think of recorded music as a promotional tool. He paints a pretty stark picture of the future of the music business, predicting that "live recordings will completely replace studio recordings."

It certainly seems like a reasonable prediction that we'll see growth in live performance relative to studio performance. But Stensrud's overall prediction seems unduly grim. There's plenty of evidence that the Internet has benefitted classical music by introducing more people to the genre. And it seems pretty implausible that studio performances will disappear completely. If there's a demand for studio recordings, someone is going to figure out how to meet that demand profitably, whether that's through an ad-supported streaming service or as a way to promote the sale of products like musical instruments. Also, we should remember that most major orchestras depend on charitable contributions, so if it's really the case that it will be impossible to make studio recordings profitably (which seems unlikely) the same wealthy patrons who subsidize orchestras now are likely to step up to help pay for the costs of some studio recordings. Perhaps we'll see fewer studio recordings than we did in the 20th century, but studio recordings aren't going to disappear.

Still, Stensrud's fundamental point seems sound: in the 20th century, many classical musicians supported themselves by selling copies of recorded music. In the future, that's probably the wrong approach. Instead, musicians should free their music in order to increase sales of other products and services, such as music lessons, live performances, and (for the most successful) product endorsements.

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  • identicon
    Ima Fish, 29 Dec 2008 @ 9:39pm

    "live recordings will completely replace studio recordings."

    But this would never work for Pop artists. How could the average no-talent Pop artist perform live if he or she had no studio recordings to lip-synch to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christopher Taylor, 29 Dec 2008 @ 10:43pm


    The flip side of this is that "studio" recording are getting cheaper and cheaper to produce. No longer is a 24-track studio necessary when a MacBook Pro with Logic will more than do.

    Studio recording will survive in all genres of music, just without the studio.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chunky Vomit, 29 Dec 2008 @ 11:37pm

      Re: Recordings

      If you have Logic, then you are a 255 track studio.


      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bubbles, 30 Dec 2008 @ 5:03am

        Re: Re: Recordings

        you do need a interface and a DAP that can handle those tracks. also you allmost allways want to recod more than two tracks at the same time.
        specially with live recording when you easily might use ca 32 tracks just to get the band miked. and then you are going to mic the audience too.

        and mixing with a computer mouse is a pain if you have more than 4-5 tracks. / channels.

        and even if you don't have a live room you kinda need a edit suite that a regular studio control room is.
        good speakers and well built room with acoustics you can use.

        check out roseland studios NYC. where portishead did her PNYC.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Clark Johnson, 30 Dec 2008 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Recordings

      it's not that studio recordings are getting cheaper to produce, it's that people are doing them on a smaller budget. the studio musicians are unionized, the property values aren't getting cheaper, the engineers & producers aren't getting paid less. it's that people are taking less time on each project. in the early 90s, it wasn't unusual for tracking dates to last a month. there are stories about how it even took some projects a month to get just the right drum sounds! today, tracking might last 2 weeks, but that is pop music

      and i would like you to walk into a studio with a bunch of classical musicians with your mbp w/ logic. besides many in the industry using ProTools so much that it has become the standard, the hardware isn't up to that level yet. you still need dedicated A/D/A converters, plus all the extra hardware of getting the mics hooked up, headphones on everyone, summing mixers and busses, etc.

      the studio will continue to live not just because of the equipment in it, but the people that work there. they have the expertise, not just to record, but to also do maintenance, wiring, client services, management. the big 4 labels will continue to book time because that's what they have allotted in the budget. if a studio is too cheap, then it is seen as inferior. same as a musician, or producer, or engineer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Erv Server, 29 Dec 2008 @ 11:11pm


    Artists could choose to record at Prince's house. Paisley Park Studios

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    reg, 30 Dec 2008 @ 5:56am

    yeah the enormous timpani market will carry all of these classical musicians, no trouble

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jeano, 30 Dec 2008 @ 3:31pm


    I can't always get to live performances - time and money considerations you know. So recordings are great - why should they be free?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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