Strongroom Studios on the return of recording sessions: 'People want to do the right thing'

Strongroom Studios on the return of recording sessions: 'People want to do the right thing'

Recording studios are opening their doors again with sessions taking place under strict social distancing regulations. 

As revealed in Music Week, studios now have a corporate membership option with the Music Producers Guild. The trade body will lobby on behalf of the sector along with UK Music.

Strongroom studios in Shoreditch has hosted recording sessions over the years from artists including Nick Cave, The Prodigy, Spice Girls, FKA Twigs and Rex Orange County. Here, Jake Murray, studio manager, opens up about the impact of Covid-19…

How are you operating at present, and what’s outlook for your studio?

“We’re operating at significantly reduced staffing, with management working from home when possible, and all other staff avoiding rush hour traffic where possible. Clients are covering cabs for the studio team in rush hour as well as ‘after hours’ in line with Covid-19 policy. We’ve been open since the beginning of July and, all in all, everyone’s been really good about keeping their distance, wiping down surfaces, wearing face coverings where necessary. People just want to do the right thing, and we provide them with information and policy links in advance of the session. 

“The future’s pretty uncertain, and we’re taking every day as it comes. There’s a lot coming out of the blue and the situation changes every day, but we’re working our best with what we’ve got. It’s hard to look far into the future in such a difficult climate, but we’re aiming to be in a good place by April next year when the government is likely to reintroduce business rates and who knows what else.” 

The studio environment is a creative shared space where personalities bounce off each other and happy accidents turn into magic

Jake Murray

Have you secured access for any funding such as the DCMS Culture Recovery Fund?

“Unfortunately not. Unlike some facilities, we were fortunate enough to reopen and resume trade, and although times are tougher than before, we’re not facing any immediate risk of closure. MPG studio membership can do so much even just by bringing owners and managers of studios together, and representing them at a government level. The biggest impact facing most studios is protection of staff, particularly as many engineers are freelance sole traders or sole directors of small companies; these people need continued support.” 

Can you do any recording remotely to the same standard?

“It is possible to record remotely to a similar standard, and we’ve had success running sessions with Audiomovers and Zoom so that producers and artists can feel as though they’re in the same room, but it’s not the same thing. The studio environment is a creative shared space where personalities bounce off each other and happy accidents turn into magic; in a remote record environment the most likely accident you’ll get is someone disconnecting the Zoom call!”

Has the situation improved since the beginning of the pandemic?

“I do think it has in some ways. We’re further down the path now and there’s a direction that we’re all moving in together. The frenzied panic buying of toiletries and spaghetti is over and now it seems most people have settled into a rhythm and have, or are preparing, re-entry to life before lockdown, in some form. Guidance from government and the MPG has provided an invaluable resource for studios to structure their workplaces with recommendations, and even live music promoters are experimenting with ways of bringing performances back at home and abroad. It will be a long road to recovery, but humans are a brilliant, adaptable species that can do incredible things when we work together.

“In terms of further government support: the furlough scheme needs extending for the arts and hospitality sectors as soon as possible. Additional grants specifically targeted at these sectors would be welcome; they should be broad-reaching and not just for businesses facing closure, but for businesses that are making difficult decisions on how to continue trading and providing essential support networks for their trusted teams, without whom none of us would exist. If the government wanted to inject stimulus into the economy, it could provide further grants for businesses that encourage investment into material goods, such as new computers, microphones and other valuable equipment for studios, so that businesses could grow from this challenging time while also putting cash into the economy, instead of worrying about how to keep the lights on tomorrow. Everybody likes shopping for toys, right?!”

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