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Leader: Electric Blues

Sam Inglis By Sam Inglis
Published April 2023

Electric Blues

Research by the Music Producers Guild (MPG) shows that studio booking rates are the same today as they were 15 years ago. High‑end studios such as Liverpool’s Motor Museum and Kempston Street Studios are fully booked, but there’s constant downward pressure on these rates, as labels demand more for less. At the same time, the costs involved in running a studio have spiralled.

The studio sector had barely found its feet after Covid before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a global energy crisis. An MPG poll has found that studios are paying between 250 and 400 percent more for their electricity now than they were in 2021. This has been a heavy blow, and it’s about to get a lot worse. If it wasn’t for UK government support, costs would have spiralled even further — and that support is about to end.

From April, the vital energy support scheme that UK recording studios have received is set to reduce drastically. The new scheme currently set to take over from April is split into two categories. Institutions that are considered culturally significant, such as zoos, museums and libraries, can claim the top tier of this new scheme. The discount is applied to 70 percent of the usage and can provide a maximum discount of £89.1/MWh for electricity customers. But studios have been told that they’re only eligible for the lower‑tier discount of 1.9p per unit.

To give you an idea of the potential impact, ARC Studios near Oxford are currently paying around £1100 per month just to power their air‑conditioning, which is vital to prevent equipment from overheating. From April, that figure could treble, meaning air‑con alone would be eating up nearly a week’s gross income for the studio every month. That’s not even considering the cost of powering equipment (and no, you can’t just turn an SSL off when you’re not using it).

Squeeze studios, and you choke the pipeline that develops new artists and producers.

But the thing is that studios are culturally significant. British artists Harry Styles and Wet Leg carried off multiple Grammy and BRIT Awards with projects wholly or partly recorded in Britain. Kempston Street (originally Parr Street) Studios invested three years of largely unpaid work into helping Blossoms blossom. Motor Museum has likewise been a linchpin of the thriving Liverpool scene, supporting local acts. If these studios are forced to tighten their belts even further, that risk‑taking will suffer. Squeeze studios, and you choke the pipeline that develops new artists and producers.

The long‑term cultural and economic value of Britain’s recording industry is far greater than the short‑term cost of helping it through our present crisis, and the Music Producers Guild are rightly campaigning to have studios recategorised so that they can qualify for the higher tier of government support. You can help by either joining the MPG or writing to your own MP and explaining just how much is at stake!

Sam Inglis Editor In Chief