Sunday, April 7, 2013

Is Nashville's Music Row Over?

Music Row street signs image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
I just came back from presenting clinics in Nashville at SAE and MTSU (a hearty thanks to both for their hospitality) and was struck by how much the music business in the city's famed Music Row seems to be shrinking. While there are still more studios, publishing and management companies, and anything else connected to music that you can think of in a single location, Music Row no longer seems to be the heartbeat of the city as it once was.

Vanderbilt University is slowly but surely increasing its footprint on the row as it buys up available properties, while Belmont University tries to hold the line by buying any of the old classic studios that come up for sale (thanks to the generosity of Mike Curb). But the costs keep rising so many music related business now seem to prefer to have their offices in Berry Hill, which is also where you'll find the hot Blackbird Studios and The House of Blues Studios. Some are moving to the SoBro neighborhood, and others are moving 30 or so miles out of town to Franklin, where rents and general business expenses are much cheaper.

Part of this is due to the way we now do business. With so many engineers, producers and musicians now working in home studios, the camaraderie that we used to have in multi-studio facilities is all but gone, lamented by everyone who was lucky enough to have lived through the time when working in a commercial facility was the norm. We work at home now because it's sonically possible to (thanks to inexpensive yet powerful audio gear), and because it's much cheaper so it's easier to cope with the lower budgets. Same with Music Row. With email, Skype, Facetime and any number of other electronic variations, staying in touch with a client is just as easy as it ever was, even though we're not in the same proximity as the one we're interacting with.

This is the perfect example of our business and personal lives are changing in gradual and subtle ways. We're losing so much of the human touch that at one time was considered necessary in doing business, but nearly instant access is taking its place. No need to schedule a face to face meeting when you get the message in a text or iMessage. Maybe the one place that personal interaction still remains is in live music, but even that's threatened by new services like Concert Window, where live concerts are streamed online (written about here a while back).

All that being said, there's no use lamenting the passing of what's gone before. It's time to embrace what's here now. Our social media and online lives make for a different personal experience in doing business. It will probably be at least partially responsible for the eventual passing of historic icons like Music Row, but who's to say that's actually a bad thing? After all, we don't move forward by looking back.


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