For Sale: Avatar Studios

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This is NOT a scoop: Avatar Studios is for sale.

Unarguably New York City’s signature audio facility, Avatar was first rumored to be available via a minimalist Billboard article that ran on Friday, September 25th. Then, the story officially broke on the New York Times three days later, in a well-researched article by Matt A. V. Chaban.

The current owners will need a very particular type of buyer — some might say a very peculiar type of buyer: They will have to care a lot more about music than money.

Going Public

Because really, that’s the choice, if you saw the statements in Avatar’s press release about the matter.

Avatar's Studio A is one of the few Manhattan rooms that can hold a 60-70 piece orchestra.

Avatar’s Studio A is one of the few Manhattan rooms that can hold a 60-70 piece orchestra.

Yes, you read that right! In an industry where changeover, transactions and  shutdowns are almost exclusively top secret operations, Avatar Entertainment Corporation’s owner Chieko Imamura and its president, Kirk Imamura, have engaged a full-fledged PR operation to announce the sale.

Why do it out in the open? Because no one has ever doubted the Imamuras’ dedication to maintaining Avatar as the flagship of New York City audio production. They want it to continue on as a great recording studio, even if they’re not involved anymore. The more people who know Avatar is available, the more their wish may come true.

The best of the best record and mix at Avatar Studios, all the time, and they have ever since the studio was originally launched by Tony Bongiovi as The Power Station in 1977. For artists, audio professionals, and music fans alike, it’s impossible to not be excited by this song epicenter – whether you’re fortunate enough to be inside its rightfully famed studios, or just as lucky to be listening to the thousands of hits recorded here.

The Imamuras don’t say in their official statement why they’re selling Avatar now, after being its faithful stewards for exactly two decades. But it’s fair to state that the recording industry has changed significantly since 1995. It seems almost impossible that the business could be as profitable now as it once was, if it’s profitable at all.

A renowned Solid State Logic 9000J 72 input console controls Studio B.

A renowned Solid State Logic 9000J 72 input console controls Studio B.

Meanwhile, what once was Avatar’s most comforting asset to the audio community – owning their own building and therefore being immune to the threat of a hostile lease-ending landlord – has become its burden.

The disparity between its value as a recording business and as a piece of Manhattan real estate is far too large to ignore now (sign up for the 441w53rd Website to see what’s truly at stake here in DeveloperSpeak).

Stress about profitability forever more…or cash in on the gold that is your land and ride off into the sunset? What would you do?

Reality Show

The questions that unfold from here are fascinating.

Will Avatar continue on as a studio or not? What fate awaits the irreplaceable recording spaces, and the iconic consoles and gear inside? What other choices do big-room clients – like orchestras and Broadway cast albums – have in NYC?

How about the many engineers, mixers, and support staff employed there on a full-time or freelance basis? And what of the many small businesses that hum within the complex: producer rooms, composer studios, mastering suites, music licensing firms, and more? And what might the ripple effects be on all the other facilities, large and small, in the New York City area?

SonicScoop will be answering many of these questions, and more, as we delve deeper into this real-life recording miniseries, set to take place before our eyes. Will an impassioned benefactor swoop in to preserve Avatar as a classic recording studio? Could it be massively reimagined, preserving what’s so historic while simultaneously becoming a profit center? Or will the siren song of The Big Apple’s land values prove too entrancing to the current owners, or whoever comes next — leveling it for condos in one fell swoop?

Stay tuned. Or start thinking about it – if you are reading this, you may be fully qualified to play a role in Avatar Studios’ only-in-NYC audio drama. No matter what comes next, we should all be psyched to have a front-row seat.

  • David Weiss
  • Gh

    Apple or Spotify should buy it.

  • Kyle

    So v true

  • Nicely done, David:)

  • Nic Hard

    David, can we get a crowd funding thing happening to keep Avatar as a part of the NYC music scene? It will be a tragedy if we lose it.

  • Thomas Maguire

    The downward trajectory of the NYC studio scene perhaps from as far back as 1979 has been relentless and their contribution to overall production in related media completely overlooked. It is exasperating that the locus of communication and media lacks the commitment to maintain the production infrastructure to create the content. Self preservation, acknowledgement of interdependence, industry action and government regulation have all miserably failed to maintain those magic thresholds throughout the City, crossed by musicians daily to deliver the goods. Therein lies another relationship, the density of musicians and their dynamic interaction say in the NYC Studio scene around 1980, was very similar to highly advanced educational models, honing each player in semi familiar groups against charts and producers often simple and mundane but every bit as serious as a train wreck. Followed by a bit of exercise running for the next gig. Wind a player up like that, relentless group playing, and the creative frustration just pours out whenever they get a chance.

    It’s more like a conservatory of music and it produced people like Gordon Edwards, Will Lee, Tony Levin and Neil Jason each a freight train of bass. Back in the day, if I saw Paul Griffin, Alan Rubin, Arnold Edius etc. playing on a date, I would find a place out of the way to put an ear on what they were playing raw. When Bowie’s horn section was in town on the Serious Moonlight tour, they stopped in to play on Robin Clark’s sessions and were razor sharp. Even the best musicians are better when they are playing more and interacting with varied peers. The NYC studio scene, Radio Registry, Artists Service, Local 802 and the availability of “Artists in Residence” leases for industrial lofts created a perfect storm for musical and recording excellence.

    Forces in real estate have attacked this from both sides by attacking studio owners with gigantic interior construction investments with untenable renewal rents, while displacing musicians, particularly young musicians from obtaining a residence without devoting all their available time to paying the rent, often with non musical pursuits. Live music venues are under the same pressure yet New York City government has been a willing advocate to this cultural neutering not only supporting real estate but piling on taxes and removing protections. The idea that someone smart enough to have made a lot of money lacks the vision to see what we are losing and that the various educational, broadcast, production and artist community lack the commitment to hang on for dear life to the teat of this cultural cow numbs me. Don’t let another studio die.

  • Danwriter

    Apple already bought the Jackson Highway studio in Muscle Shoals. They don’t need anymore studios.