With a strong TV landscape, divided into public broadcasting and the private sector, which also reflects on the studio business, the German recording industry is pretty distinctive. Jake Young takes a look at the current situation:
Timo Wildenhain, senior marketing manager for pro-audio at Steinberg, thinks the number of professionals working ‘in the box’ is the most significant way the German studio market has changed in the past five-to-ten years. “Apart from very rare and high-quality devices, many studios have sold their outboard equipment over the past decade, as working inside a DAW is so much more comfortable and efficient,” he says.
“In general, producing audio today means being able to deliver the content in several formats, in compliance with different technical standards and in various multichannel configurations. This is linked to the variety of broadcasting audio content, be it via online music portals, streaming services, classic CD, as part of a film, for TV broadcast, website animations, for computer games, or the creation of advertising spots. Broadcasters and media distributors need to service many old and new channels with tailored content, requiring studios to deliver in various formats. On the business side, audio budgets are still tremendously low compared to picture budgets.”
The market has recovered slightly from a period where studios were forced to close, however there is no secret ingredient for success. “Traditional music production studios now offer a broader range of services, especially in areas where picture plays a role: post-production, advertising, game audio, and ADR/speech recording stand a better chance of coping with rapidly changing market demands, compared with those studios only offering music services,” explains Wildenhain. “On the other hand there are also advantages for studios specialising in a certain field. Investments in modern studio infrastructures, as well as more efficient production techniques, are still happening.”
There is always a demand for studios providing quality services and modern production techniques. Although the need for new, large commercial spaces might be limited in Germany, it’s not only real estate that makes the difference, but the people and their expertise.
Wildenhain continues: “Producing, especially in an audio-to-picture context for the various channels and industries, still offers a chance to start off well within this business. But one has to be very flexible, one has to be at the pulse of the market by understanding the latest trends and production techniques.”
Management of rights is still a major topic. “The position of collecting societies is very strong in Germany, which is good for the owners of rights, but it needs to be considered when audio is sold or distributed over the increasing number of media channels,” comments Wildenhain. He believes industry-inherent regulations, such as the EBU standard, are affecting production techniques in the day-to-day production business much more.
According to Olaf Stepputat, director of 3D audio solutions provider Barco Audio Technologies, the market for post-production studios in Germany is in good condition. “The large public and private broadcasters are providing a healthy environment, mainly for TV post production,” he reveals. “In terms of cinema post, Munich and Berlin are especially strong with many studios based there.”
There have been some changes to the market, though. Cost pressure has increased, for example. “Creatives have shown strong commitment to innovation, for example in the field of surround sound or the role of sound in storytelling,” explains Stepputat. “They had to adopt a high degree of flexibility as structures have become more decentralised.
“The role of copyright law has become more important in the past few years. Also, multi-platform compatibility has become a topic for broadcast, internet, cinema, and other fields. Broadcast is also faced with new standards for loudness regulation.”
Looking ahead, Stepputat’s goal is to make Barco Audio Technologies Barco’s portal to new sound dimensions. “We want to further enhance and customise our object-based immersive sound technology offerings together with Barco and our partners at Auro 3D,” he says. “In the long term, we want to spread the use of our technologies from cinema and entertainment to other applications in which Barco is already successfully providing visualisation products.”
According to Johann Scheerer, owner and producer at Clouds Hill Recordings, the market for recording studios in Germany is not so healthy.
“During the past 10 years, many studios in Germany closed down. Just a few survived,” he reports. “As equipment is affordable for almost anyone, many small studios opened up to compete with the smaller professional studios. That isn’t possible because nowadays you can easily build your own nice studio environment while investing less than £10,000 for OK quality,
which is enough for the consumers these days.”
Scheerer predicts that there will be a need for quality recording studios in the future. “The big spaces will close. Only a very special few will survive. The rest will be personal producer studios,” he predicts. “Tape and good quality will survive or come back. Like vinyl did.”