torstai 29. marraskuuta 2012

Studio Kekkonen five... no, SIX years this month!

Well, well, what have we here? A finished blog post to celebrate our five-year journey THAT I FORGOT TO PUBLISH!

Yes, I am retarded, thanks for asking.

So here it is, our 5th anniversary blog, scheduled to have been published 16.11.2011. but worth a read anytime! For example now - to celebrate our sixth anniversary! A year goes by quickly these days...
This month we have a reason to celebrate! Studio Kekkonen in its current location in Vallila was officially opened in 2006 - five years (edit: SIX years) ago! 

In the grander scheme of things, five years isn't actually such a long time when compared to studios like Finnvox (since 1965) or Abbey Road (since the dawn of time, more precisely 1931). However, five years is nonetheless a milestone and in today's turbulent state of the music industry, we're fortunate enough to celebrate it - during the time at least three big studios in Finland have closed before reaching the mark. And what the heck, it's also a great excuse to have a party! (Shocking pictures will appear in this blog and on our Facebook Page!)

During the past five years we've recorded and mixed dozens and dozens of albums, singles, EP's and whatnot. Our goal since the very beginning was to run a studio where the first and foremost goal is to deliver excellent work. We've worked hard to keep that high standard and raise the bar constantly as we go. Initially we invested an awful lot of time, money, effort and good will of close friends into building the studio itself into what it is - a place where technical excellence meets a vibe and mood that make artists feel comfortable. Since then we've invested even more time, effort and money to constantly expand our collection of gear and further sharpen our skills and widen our horizons. A recording studio is an ever-evolving creature that's never truly finished. It's always in motion. (That also means it's always pretty heavy on the wallet, but let's not go there!)

It's been a great five years. We've had the continuing privilege to work with some of the brightest, most talented and influential artists and musicians of our time. There have been countless priceless, inspired, breathtaking moments within these walls. Stuff I used to dream of as a kid. Things I will never forget, however demented I may become. I may only speak for myself but Mikko and Janne would agree.

And speaking of Mikko and Janne, it's been a true privilege to work with and around them for the past five years, and I'm equally looking forward to following years. I could not imagine better studio partners (especially now that even Mikko makes tasty coffee!). I love you guys. <snif> <Cue: "We are the world">

Of course it's not all gone like in the movies. It's an unforgiving line of work to be in and running a studio in the 21st century isn't the easiest of tasks and as said above, the fact that we're still here is worth a little celebration. It's been a combination of hard work, stubborn determination, good relationships with our clients, colleagues and friends, moral support from our families and of course - sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time in the right circumstances.

But to elaborate more on the subject of what makes it hard to run a studio these days, I give you a short(ish) view on the state of things in our world:

The past five years (and much longer of course, but we zoom in to the last half a decade now) have marked a big change in the music and recording industry: record sales have dropped from poor to alarming to near-catastophic, digital sales has picked up too slowly, low-revenue streaming services have made something of a breakthrough to further ridicule professional music-makers, recording budgets have diminished - as has the number of major label projects each year. Many fine small record labels have called it quits, fallen into catatonia or have been swallowed by the majors, which are currently in the process of becoming a trio

The structure of the business has changed. The focus is not on the music or the record, but on things like merchandise, publishing, product placement, marketing, shareholders' interests, etc. Naturally, those are not new things and have been on the agenda for long, but the emphasis seems to have shifted to that direction quite a bit too much.

At the same time, more music is being made available than ever before. While the business side of music shrinks and changes shape and artists (and everybody else for that matter) look for new ways to make it possible to do music for a living, the actual need to communicate with the world through the means of recorded music has not disappeared anywhere. Nor has the will to listen to music (or "consume" it, as number-crunchers like to call it, that's a rubbish word).

Also, the miniaturisation and even further decreased cost of recording equipment has really brought recording tools of seemingly acceptable quality to the masses. The latest addition being Garageband for iPad and iPhone - a production studio available in your pocket immediately for 4€. That's really somehting that was beyond imagination in 2006 (not to mention 2001). That's real democratisation. Equal opportunities. Whether it's a good or bad thing in terms of music is a subject that's out of the scope of this blog, but the discussion goes on wild in all sorts of other places. But the truth is that bedrooms, rehearsal spaces and all sorts of smelly cellars have filled with Chinese-made recording equipment that allows recording at semi-acceptable quality (very much acceptable in the right hands!).

Audio software and hardware developers are catering for the home studio users to sell huge quantities of less-than-ideal products. It's more about how the GUI of a plug-in looks like than what the audio sounds like. Impression is everything. Quality, reliability and musicality of gear is secondary to cost and instant availability of a huge number of ready-made solutions ("Just add water!") and cheap shortcuts to somebody else's ideas.

All of the aforementioned things have affected the recording business directly. Many artists have given up, many studios have closed down, many engineers and producers have moved to healthier sectors of the business or changed careers completely. Competition has become tougher, average prices per studio day has been pushed down as hobbyists and semi-pros compete of the same clients who have less and less money to spend. Time spent in professional recording studios has decreased and more emphasis has been given to post-processing and production work (in the aforementioned grotty cellars).

Am I painting a grim picture of the state of our industry or what? 

Honestly, all of the above may sound like moaning, but it's really not meant as that. On the contrary, I'm actually quite content with the way things are. The fact that a lot of music is made and an increasing amount of it independently produced is not at all a bad thing for us. It has its good and bad sides, just like the old model of the majors producing and funding records in their own ways.

I'm happy we've made it this far, it's sure been one hell of a ride. Also, it looks very much like we're not going anywhere for the time being. I'm sure there will be demand in the future for a bunch of guys doing a great job recording, producing and mixing music. As far as we know, music's not going anywhere and as long as there is any point in putting it in recorded form, there is a good chance that someone will want to work on it with another one who shares a passion for it. A person with a work ethic, professional pride, ambition, musical sense, a whole lot of creative madness, common sense, great ears and lots of experience. A person a lot like us.

Business models change, client bases change, styles and fashions and economics and hairstyles and tools change, as do a lot of other things, but the essence of music and the love for it are not likely to change. 

And if it will, I reckon it'll take a lot longer than another five years.

Happy (sixth) birthday, Studio Kekkonen!