Renowned French studio facility on the market for _2.7m

FRANCE: Michel Coustillas, founder and owner of Studio du Manoir, which is set in the picturesque residence of Manoir de Laguens, has announced that both the studio and the actual site are now on sale for _2.7 million, writes Guillaume Schouker.
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FRANCE: Michel Coustillas, founder and owner of Studio du Manoir, which is set in the picturesque residence of Manoir de Laguens, has announced that both the studio and the actual site are now on sale for _2.7 million, writes Guillaume Schouker.

Located in Leon, SW France, Studio du Manoir's client list reads like a 'who's who' of international and national music, and includes The Wailers, Siouxsie, Rita Marley, Salif Keita and the Gipsy Kings. But this hasn't been enough to maintain the 150sqm studio, which has three soundproof ISO booths and two lock chambers, and was designed by celebrated French acoustician Christian Malcurt.

To maintain the studio, the Manoir de Laguens site is also used as an affiliate guest house at certain times of the year by Les G_tes de France. However, the revenue from this venture has been growing weaker over time and has been a contributing factor to the sale. Other factors include record labels cutting production costs and the expense of using good, experienced staff.

"The four majors have lowered their development budgets considerably, concentrating their business on television or radio co-productions, on re-publishing or compilations of existing products," Coustillas told PSN-e. "This allows them to maintain a certain turnover on much lower production budgets, hoping that the judicial imbroglio related to the internet download problem comes to an end."

The industry is changing, he says. "In parallel, we can see the creation of an increasing number of new independent record labels again that take over from the majors for artist development, based on much lighter ways of functioning. Even if those new businesses offer an interesting approach, they function with reduced budgets, [which make it difficult] to maintain a recording studio business at this top-end level of services. I always thought that, even if I admit it is wrong today, a residential recording facility of this kind of state-of-the-art range had to keep up with a large and solid team," he says.

"I refused to have my collaborators made redundant, except [those with secretarial] duties, [and I have used the same people for] 15 years. They were an efficient and motivated [team] who were the power in the company and who have contributed, along with me, to build up its serious and professional image.

"Contrary to what's done more and more nowadays in the industry, such as assistant engineers who are interns and are most often badly paid, badly trained and consequently not motivated and often inefficient, I have difficulty in imagining how by lowering the salaries and skills one can reach success in the end.

"Consequently, thanks to our tourist/guest-house activity and tighter relationships with emerging labels, the company continues to pay its tradesmen and employees today, but it can't afford the payment of its managing director," notes Coustillas.

At the time of going to press, Coustillas had received several bids to buy Studio du Manoir. But Coustillas told PSN-e that the separate companies managing Le Manoir du Laguens and the studio will cease their activities by the end of June, and that the site, which is owned by Coustillas himself, will be sold as real-estate.

The future will see Coustillas working in a freelance capacity. "I will be continuing my freelance activity, of course, certainly with the already settled local partners in the profession, offering my experience and professional contacts at the same time to any potential projects."

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