Rockfield Studios - Coach House

The Future of the Recording Studio

As consumer music technology continues to open routes into recording and mixing release-quality music at home, what role does the venerable recording studio play for the next generation of producers?

Rockfield Studios - Coach House
Coach House Control Room – Image courtesy of Rockfield Studios

As we recently highlighted in our analysis of the live music sector, the Covid pandemic has hastily accelerated negative trends across the music world. Resultantly working musicians and professionals of all stripes have had to adjust. The live industry has had it particularly rough, with the twin-headed blow of both pandemic and spiralling Brexit-based complexities making touring both financially and logistically burdensome.

But, what of that central workplace for music technology professionals? The once-hallowed recording studio. After twenty years of persistent speculation on the studio’s role and relevance, as software and home-recording technology in general has accelerated, it’s not unjustified to ponder whether the pandemic has all but sealed the fate of this once vital space.

While many artists and producers still advocate the studio as an integral part of the landscape of the music making world, others weigh up often hefty fees, limited time and high-pressure that working in a pro studio can sometimes bring. Particularly, when compared to spending time building projects as-and-when in a home studio. While even a decade ago, there would be a marked sonic distinction between work made in a studio and that made elsewhere, the results of a track built in the project studio of 2022 can be aurally indistinguishable from those that have utilised high-end hardware and analog large format mixers.

This all sounds pretty doom-laden, but we’re not here to sprinkle dirt on the face of the recording studio. Instead, we want to illustrate how studios have expanded and survive in the face of a reduced clientele. They’ve diversified their offerings, working in tandem with music technology innovators to remain key spaces for music professionals. It’s a fantastic thing that more people can now make release-ready music with the right application of commercially available software. We’re not sparking an either-or conflict here. No, we think that – with the right approach –  studios can still draw in the next generation of music technology personnel, rekindling that spark of magic that the studios of yesteryear evoked.


Time was, access to such studio icons as the Neve 1073, Roland RE 201s and even a decent pair of studio monitors, such as Yamaha’s reference standards, the NS-10s could only be granted by spending time and money at a recording studio. And, for instruments such as guitar, piano and drums, getting a professional-sounding capture using pro-end amplification and the keen ears of a mic-situating recording engineer, a trip to a studio was all-but vital. Thankfully for many, these days it’s entirely possible to inject the qualities of all of the above without leaving your own home.

Universal Audio  has lead the way in providing immensely accurate software emulations of top-tier hardware. This means that you no longer need to fork out for access to the original kit. To emphasise that point, at each year’s NAMM show, UA demonstrates the effectiveness of these plugins at their ‘Audio Comparitorium’ blind-testing area – allowing us listen close to their plugins in action, and make the choice of which version of the recording is using the real gear, and which is using the software emulation. It’s always – nigh-on always – completely impossible to tell. Pro monitoring and reference headphones allow detailed mix examination at home, 1,000-track+ DAWs have obliterated the need for room-filling analogue mixers while building those impressive, characterful guitar tones or sophisticated piano sounds can be ably handled by amp sim software such as IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube and pro piano-based packs like Native Instruments’ Definitive Piano Collection. All in all, it’s a superb time to be a creative musician, working at home in a home studio environment. Studio access is certainly no longer required to craft, record and release the best music you could ever make.

However isn’t this idea of a solitary, home studio-based future just a little bit… lonely. Part of the appeal of working within a recording studio isn’t just about access to technology and space, it’s about working alongside seasoned producers, knowledgable engineers, astute mixers, wildly talented musicians and other personnel. It’s also about building *your own* professional identity. Honing your creative communication skills. This could also be – potentially – better for your mental health in the long run. Last year, a culture grant from the City of London allowed music mental health charity Key Changes to provide free songwriting, production and performance opportunities for those suffering from prolonged isolation, depression or anxiety in the midst of the pandemic. The Studio Connect program encouraged participants to write and record at the charity’s EC1 studio. CEO, Peter Leigh, said “This exciting programme offers an opportunity to develop an identity as a musical artist and a new way of knowing yourself. You’ll build resilience, feel freer from the limitations of your mental health and more aware of your true potential.”


While the prominence of home studio-based music-making has been gradually growing over the last twenty or so years, impacting differently-sized studios more slowly, the sudden jolt of the pandemic meant that studios were suddenly staring at an existential threat. Early in 2020, the MPG published research that indicated that almost half of commercial studios faced closure without government support. Thankfully, studios were able to re-open and operate as commercial operations as the pandemic continued. In November, following the government’s decision to allow studios to remain open, UK Music’s Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said “I am delighted that ministers have recognised the huge amount of work that has gone into stringent measures to ensure that our studios are Covid-safe environments where work can and should continue. Studios are a key part of the ecosystem of the UK music industry that contributes £5.2 billion a year to the economy and employs 190,000 people.” This allowance was, as Phil Kear of the Musician’s Union stressed, testament to the excellent health and safety work undertaken by the UK’s studios, doing everything in their power to remain open. Though unprecedented and unforeseen, what the pandemic illustrated is just how precarious a great many studios’ futures are at the moment.

To maximise income, many studios have diversified their offerings beyond the music production world, and now offer voice over, podcasting, writing spaces, post-production, mastering, video production and education. Last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published research into the recording studio sector, and revealed some fascinating details. Emphasising that democratised access to music production technology has reduced demand and dependancy on studios, they optimistically revealed that; “Many now see [diversifying] as a means to increase revenue streams and promote resilience in case of any future threats. New services such as education and training, and technological innovations such as remote working, were key examples.”.The recording studio serving as a hub of music production education, in particular, is certainly a way in which the environment can endear itself to the next generation of musicians.


While the ability for anybody to be able to record and produce the music they want to make at home, utilising state of the art technology is undoubtedly a great thing, the studio still holds a special allure for professionals. It’s a creative space wherein you can fully invest in the music production process, without distraction, it’s a technological playground that presents a gamut of options. Working at a recording studio also provides that most vital ingredient – human collaboration. This can ultimately shape and sculpt music to a much superior degree than anything you could do alone at home.