Thinking inside the Box

Responding to market trends, Real World has streamlined its recording operations and consolidated its studio, label and festival businesses on one site, writes David Davies.
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Responding to market trends, Real World has streamlined its recording operations and consolidated its studio, label and festival businesses on one site, writes David Davies.

For nearly 20 years, Peter Gabriel’s Real World complex in Box, Wiltshire, has been synonymous with the most luxurious sphere of residential recording. But as record company budgets continue to dwindle, and the industry’s focus shifts away from recorded towards live music, the Real World group has decided to streamline its studio operations and “consolidate” various interests on one site.

A process of conversion and refurbishment across the complex began in earnest in June. Equipment from several former studio spaces, including the Production Room and the Work Room, has been deployed in the Millside Studio, the ‘flagship’ Big Room and a new edit suite.

In addition, some of the space freed up by the changes has been used to accommodate the WOMAD festival business and Real World record label, previously housed elsewhere. This consolidation of group interests on the one site is expected to further enhance Real World’s profile in the supply of both library and production music.

Following the revamp, the complex now has two principal recording rooms. The Wood Room is primarily a live room to be used in conjunction with the Big Room, but it can be used in a variety of configurations thanks to a portable recording rig. Meanwhile, the Big Room has been equipped with a surround monitoring system, projector/screen and a rail track for the SSL console that enables it to be converted from a music recording room to a film mixing studio in approximately two hours.

“Although we always knew it would be difficult to get post production projects out of Soho, we are finding that there is a strong TV and film industry to tap into in the South West “, studio manager Owen Leech tells PSNE. “As more and more people come to own high quality sets, TV sound is going to become increasingly important and budgets for TV foley will have to rise.” New acoustic treatment and foley traps have been added to The Rehearsal Room, and foley for two major film projects has been recorded in the facility over the past couple of months.

A new room for producer Steve Osborne has also been added to the Real World complex, which accommodates a total of four separate rooms for independent producers as well as Gabriel’s own personal studio facility.

“We remain a world class studio operation and see the recent changes as a positive response to broader industry trends,” says Leech, adding that the studios have been “chock-a-block” throughout the autumn with clients including Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Kanye West.

Leech admits that the restructuring “hasn’t been without its pain”, but is confident that the Real World studio operation is now more in keeping with an austerity-minded music business that is still undergoing a massive paradigm shift.

“We are optimistic about the future,” concludes Leech. “The studios are already booked through the first quarter of next year with a healthy mix of music and film post-production. The [underlying] ethic of the place remains absolutely paramount and strong, and the consolidation of the Real World businesses on the one site will certainly create a tighter working relationship within the group.”


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