Work to expand and upgrade Abbey Road Studios has commenced following the recent granting of planning permission, head of brand and marketing for the studios David Allen has confirmed. The construction and renewal project will ensure that the famous north-west London facility “remains competitive” while propagating “the next legacy of great artists and great works”.
Although he wouldn’t reveal the exact amount of cash injected, Allen noted that it is the largest single investment the studio has received since it was built – 84 years ago.
The most important addition to the facility is the creation of two rooms for writing and developing “rock and pop”. The garage that backs on to Studio 2, and the editing suite at the front of the Abbey Road building, will be converted and made available as short-to-medium-term lets. “These reflect where the market has gone,” says Allen. “People are mixing ‘in the box’, budgets are smaller and a live space is no longer needed.”
Several spaces within Studio Two (pictured) are also being reworked: a new lounge is being constructed next to the control room, and a couple of isolation rooms will take the place of a tape room and a store room – currently used for some of the in-house restaurant’s catering equipment. These renovations are important to meet clients needs, increasing relationships with A&R and remaining competitive, says Allen. “It’s important the next legacy of great artists and great works come through the studio, in a visible way.”
Abbey Road No 5 (the house next door, but part of the premises) has been refurbished to include office space for the Abbey Road Institute and Hothouse Music Productions, a critical listening room and – in recognition of the studio’s appeal to tourists – a gift shop. (“We’ve always wanted to do that but it’s been an issue with the council and the neighbours in the past.”)
A dedicated Dolby Atmos mixing suite will be constructed in the garden (“…It’s not Pinewood!”), complementing the ‘mini’ Atmos system already in place in the Studio 3 control room.
The investment has come from Universal, who have ploughed “an incredible amount of investment” into the studios, says Allen, as well as deploying a team to oversee the work. Universal acquired the world-famous studios when it purchased EMI in late 2011. Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal, said at the time: "This is an historic acquisition and an important step in preserving the legacy of EMI Music."
Planning permission was first sought for the expansion in late 2014, and was granted in July, following the obligatory due-diligence checks and public meetings to reassure local residents. While 391 people were consulted, only six objected. “There was some concern about the garage conversion – people coming and going at all times – but that’s not the plan for that.”
It was, again, the gift shop that caused most concern: but an agreement to open the store during normal trading hours has assuaged protestations.
David Allen adds: “I’m most excited about making the studio accessible to rock and pop acts.”
Building work is expected to last for around 16-17 months – just in time to record the Christmas #1 for 2016, perhaps.
+ Longstanding studio manager Colette Barber will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pro Sound Awards on 24 September at the Ministry of Sound