EMI have moved – very slowly, after a week’s deliberation – to deny that the Abbey Road studios are up for sale. Since the original reports were planted on the Financial Times by EMI’s owners, the hedge fund Terra Firma, today’s denial has to be seen as an exercise in testing the market – an attempt to see whether the site might fetch a higher price than the £30 million which EMI now admits it was offered last summer.
As property prices in the NW8 postal district continue to heat up in rising inflation, it is only a matter of time before Terra Firma is made an offer it cannot refuse. In the meantime, the firm is discussing ‘revitalisation’ of the studios with ‘interested third parties’.
So far, the most interested party to declare itself is Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose interest tends towards self-promotion. Sir Paul McCartney made some vague noises and English Heritage made sure that the block could not be turned into luxury housing.
All agree that Abbey Road will require ‘a substantial injection of capital’ to keep it open. Terra Firma may think it can capitalise on a wave of popular sentiment to claim public funds from the National Lottery to restock and refurbish its ailing facility.
This is not altogether a pipe dream, but if such money were to be granted it must be on the condition that the studios are opened to the public, as I and others have proposed, as London’s museum of music. That concept is so compelling and so long overdue that I am putting together a proposal and a costing for the next government, due to be elected in May.
The combination of archival display and live performance coculd make Abbey Road a magnet for music lovers of all genres.