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Home Studios Are Becoming Hubs for the Next Generation of Media

by Dan Daley • in
  • May 2019
  • The Last Word
• Created: May 7, 2019

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Professional audio is one of the more difficult markets to measure. Drummers buy sticks and guitarists buy strings, but at a time when every guitarist, keyboardist, drummer, and vocalist is also his or her own engineer and/producer, buying a microphone or computer interface cuts across the old boundaries. Pro audio and MI are intertwined like never before.

A recent market survey by U.K. firm Futuresource Consulting underscores that synergy. Home studios, of the sort that musicians set up for themselves, make up 21 percent of total pro-audio market revenue. But what’s more interesting – and unexpected – is that those same studios account for more than half – 54 percent, by Futuresource’s reckoning – of what ends up in broadcast and related media, such as streaming.

And to raise eyebrows further, 26 percent of survey respondents creating content in their home studios did no music at all. Instead, they are creating media like spoken-word podcasts, which are often scored using library music rather than original recordings.

In other words, the home studios that can seem so hobbyist are actually becoming hubs for the next generation of media. And the people who own them are already your customers. You knew that, but now we have a better idea of what they’re doing in those spare bedrooms and garages.

What we also know is that this new cohort of entrepreneurial home-studio users buy a lot of stuff. Futuresource’s research indicates that more than 40 percent of them own at least one pair of professional-grade headphones. When it comes to microphones, nearly 60 percent of them are using USB mics. That’s a product category that barely existed a decade ago and now has new and familiar brands scrambling for a piece of it.

Furthermore, almost 90 percent of audio-mixer unit shipments to the studio/broadcast industry are now attributable to the home-studio segment. That’s at a time when conventional studios, which tend to shop at more specialized pro-audio retail outlets, like Dale Pro Audio or Westlake Pro, are actually dispensing with hardware consoles and increasingly doing their editing, mixing, and mastering “in the box” – i.e., inside the computer/software environment.

Applied to NAMM’s numbers, this market survey underscores both pro audio’s robustness and its inherent ambiguity. The organization’s 2018 annual report shows what it regards as the “pro audio” category as basically flat from 2017, with multitrack recorders – long considered a signature product under that rubric – down nearly three percent. Yet the separate computers and recording products rubric saw a five-percent increase in sales for the year.

So while the pro audio market presents somewhat murky metrics, it does seem clear that recordists are doing a lot more than music with that gear. Podcasts, which have skyrocketed in popularity and diversity – leading podcast producer Midroll Media estimates the number of people in the U.S. listening to podcasts at nearly to 68 million in 2017, up 45 percent from 2015 – likely have a lot to do with both sets of survey findings: they require less-sophisticated equipment, and even those that do use original music recordings can easily accomplish professional results on the growing array of table-top multitrack devices like iZotope’s Spire Studio. And musicians are using them in innovative ways, such as to promote themselves as educators and influencers.

MI retailers can and should leverage this trend. The home studio, which for the past 20 years or so was mostly an adjunct market for MI retail, is in the process of becoming a portal to a much larger media business that their existing customer base is already moving towards. Let them know that you know where they’re going, and that you’ll be along for the ride.

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