Metropolis still the masters13 July 2016
Ninety per cent of the commercially trading studios in London have disappeared in the last 10 years. Sarah Sharples finds out how Metropolis Studio has managed to survive and thrive
Metropolis Studios has been through a torrid time in the last decade and CEO Ian Brenchley (pictured) is not afraid to admit it.
Many famous albums have been recorded, mixed or mastered at Metropolis, including the The Verve’s Urban Hymns, Grammy Award winners Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as well the Live Aid and Live 8 DVDs. But Brenchley says the studio had not been profitable for a decade, until last year.
“Studios as a model: it doesn’t work, it’s dead, not dying, and it died a while ago,” he asserts. “But we, through hard work, through I’d like to think some innovation, certainly trying lots of different things, kissing lots of frogs and diversifying our business we are still here and we are doing pretty well, “ he says.
“We are very profitable this year, in fact we are having the best year in over a decade, so that’s great news.”
Last month, Metropolis hosted an event called The Sounds of the Future, inviting clients and friends along to the Chiswick facility to watch the Euro 2016 England vs Wales match, and to highlight a £250,000 refurbishment of their studios with equipment from Genelec and PMC, who are celebrating 25 years of operation.
Studio A, home to seminal recordings from Winehouse to Queen has upgraded with PMC QB1-A monitoring system. Studio B, recently host to iconic artists such as Will.i.am and Adele, now enjoys Genelec 1236 and 8351 monitoring systems.
The investment is testament to Metropolis’ ability to pull through the tough times. Back in 2008, when Brenchley started at Metropolis, there were 96 commercially trading studios that could be compared like for like, with either multi-rooms, mastering facilities, recording studios or a combination.
“It’s very sad to say that there are less than 10 now in London that you would compare like for like, with what we can do now, and actually of this size. We have 19 rooms here (and) by my calculations that certainly makes us the biggest in Europe and possibly one of the biggest in the world – there are not many of those left,” he says.
This year, Metropolis’ record label will make more money then their studio business, says the CEO. “So that’s not a bad thing, that’s a very good thing, because the label (and) the publisher, it feeds the studios and the mastering, so everything we’re doing is very true to our core ethos and our core values which is sonic excellence,” he says.
But Metropolis has diversified, with new business including the label, an academy that launched last year offering courses in contemporary songwriting and artist development and music production as well as artist management.
In particular Brenchely has focused on bringing in international business and partnerships, which he believes offers the biggest growth. Earlier this year, French music recording studio Studio Grand Armée announced a partnership with Metropolis.
Brenchley says the deal is key to increasing Metropolis’ footprint in Europe: Grand Armée’s French clients can record and mix and then send the tracks are to the London studios for mastering.
But there are bigger plans for the partnership, such as a content play, including a French version of a TV show called Vinyl Metropolis. Originally called On Track and shown on Channel 4, the programmes sees contemporary artists record four tracks live to vinyl in front of an intimate audience, with the fourth track including a performance by one of the artist’s heroes.
“So we had the Temperance Movement on episode one of series three and they had Ian Paice playing on the fourth track from Deep Purple… we have got the rights to] the next series and that’s something we want to do with Studio Grand Armée, [where] we partner up and get a French TV channel like TF1 on board but with a series of six with French artists here at Metropolis.”