Insights Government publishes report assessing the state of the private, professionally-run music studio market in England


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) appointed Sound Diplomacy to undertake a market assessment of the recording studios, production rooms and rehearsal studios in England, (studio market). The scope was private studios that were professionally run, although the role and impact of home studios was addressed throughout and included both open and closed facilities. Sound Diplomacy’s aim was to provide DCMS with a detailed understanding of the studio market and the challenges and opportunities currently being faced. The research team used a mixed methodology of mapping, surveying, stakeholder engagement and analysis of the key findings.

The evidence showed that there is enough supply of music studios, barriers to entry are low and there are no signs of monopoly/oligopoly or any other market dominance. The market is responding to changes, such as technological innovation, and to new competition.

According to the report, democratised access to music production technologies have given rise to an increasing number of home studio users, at all levels of professionalism. Personal use including skills development and commercial means like project work are both evident, which can reduce demand and dependency on traditional studios. However, these spaces can also be used in tandem (57.1% of surveyed home studio users also use commercial studios).

The report states that the challenge now is for traditional studios to seek standards and sufficient added value to distinguish themselves from the alternatives. For instance, via specific production and creative processes, the reputation of studio professionals in terms of technical and creative skills, and by offering artistic development services.

The report also found that the studio market is principally invested in the music industry, but some studios have chosen to expand their business models into the audiovisual sector (e.g., films, TV, radio).

As for integration in the music ecosystem, the report finds that the growth in digital music distribution and democratisation of music production technologies have contributed to the disintermediation, i.e. “cutting out the middleman”, of record labels, music publishers and other traditional “vertical services” from the recording industry value chain.

Further, the report finds, record labels’ budgets and involvement in producing recorded music and in artist and repertoire (A&R) activities have declined with the advent of digital music distribution. Coupled with the growing number of self-producing/releasing artists who may in themselves struggle to make a living (partly attributed to low streaming royalties), there is now an overall reduction in budgets and, in turn, demand for studio services according to focus group participants.

The evidence also showed a disintegration between the studio market and wider music ecosystem. There is a low level of interaction between studios and other music stakeholders, poor perception from clients towards studio networks and a lack of contracted professional services (78% of surveyed clients have no support from other music professionals such as a record label or manager).

In addition, surveyed studio clients perceived live music venues as the most influential stakeholders in their success as artists/musicians, whilst studio professionals had an overall lesser importance (rated 3.8 and 3.4 out of 5 respectively). The evidence also showed both creative and professional links between studios and live music venues, specifically via rehearsal, but there were concerns about access and availability of live music infrastructure.

The survey was conducted between January and March 2021, i.e., during the UK’s third COVID-19 lockdown. The report analyses the effects of the pandemic on studios, as well as the effects of Brexit and real estate pressures. To access the report, click here.