Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Musicians staying home to record

The widespread use of near-professional equipment is letting musiciansrecord in their bedrooms, though the neighbors may still notice the noise

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , New York

As more musicians stay at home to make music, professional recording studios have suffered. Bill Tesar, the owner of the Toy Specialists, a large sound equipment rental company, said improved technology and smaller budgets from record companies have caused business with studios to decline over the past three years. His company, in business since 1983, closed last week.

"I'd say more than 60 percent of the midsize recording studios that were in business five years ago are now out of business," Tesar said. "That's not an inflated guess. There were literally hundreds of them in the New York metro area. Now, if there are 40 or 50, that's a lot."

Even freelancers are worried. Adam Kendall, who plays in an electronic music group and also records bands out of his apartment in Brooklyn, said the brisk work of the past several years is set to dry up.

"I'm the person big studios hate," he said. But he added that Apple's release of GarageBand "is my karmic return. I gave up hope for making money recording music."

Some musicians said home studios and computer equipment are making recording quieter. Richard Bernstein, lead guitarist for Rammstein, a German heavy metal group, said the recording process is less collaborative now, more a solitary plinking on a computer keyboard than a group playing effort.

"You don't have to listen loud anymore," said Bernstein, whose concerts feature feats of pyrotechnics.

Music today is "everyone is cooking in his own kitchen by himself," he said, in his New York home studio on the first floor of a former firehouse. "It used to be five guys playing together, but that doesn't happen as much anymore."

"You can do everything without other people's presence," Bernstein said.

Besides, says Kendall, "am I really making more noise than a guy on Sunday who is watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in Surround Sound?"

There are those musicians for whom such questions are not rhetorical. Howie Statland, the musician who lives upstairs from Mehler, said he cannot afford soundproofing and, even if he could, his neighbors' blaring music and yelling children would give him the right to make noise freely. He has a guitar amplifier in his bedroom and plays copiously. Drums were his one concession.

"The guy downstairs gets upset when I put the guitar too loud," Statland said.

A basic philosophy, however, prevails. "I've had people yell, `Shut up,' but they're out there, and I'm in here. What are they going to do?"

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