Abbey Road update

Abbey Road update


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2010

There were more than a hundred tourists milling outside the studios in the noonday rain, a few minutes ago. The magnetism of the place is indisputable and, though the wise heads at Terra Firma, are talking of marketing an Abbey Road brand, once the place is closed to musical activity there will be nothing left to attract the crowds.

What draws people to Abbey Road is the cover of the Beatles album that they mimic in posed foursomes on the famous zebra crossing. But they are also drawn by the wisp of a chance of seeing a celebrated musician arriving for a session. When the music stops, Abbey Road will revert to real estate and the tourists will find another site for souvenir shots.

The latest reports have it that the National Trust is considering buying the site, adding it to the Liverpool boyhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon that it already owns. The Sun newspaper – which this morning reports us steaming to war with Argentina – is backing DJ Chris Evans’ campaign to save Abbey Road. The Daily Mail – not yet fully mobilised – opposes any intervention.

The optimum solution is a sale that would convert the building into a national House of Music – part museum, part venue for live performance. Even a hedge fund analyst (and I’ve met a few) ought to see the potential there for rights ownership and profit. 


  • AVI says:

    I simply can’t agree. Turning Abbey Road into some sort of mausoleum, albeit with some live performance, wouldn’t help anything. Finding an alternative use doesn’t really count, I don’t think, as a third way between continuing running it or selling it off for apartments – just because there would still be music going on doesn’t mean the new venue would have any real relationship to the Abbey Road we all know and love, and this suggestion, while having immediate appeal, is probably a bit of a sideways step.
    As it happens, I suspect that AR is a viable business in its own right. I doubt that it is much of a profit-maker, but equally I suspect that it doesn’t make a loss for EMI either. The sale is more likely due to the need to quickly raise a whole bunch of cash, rather than flogging off under-performing assets.
    I don’t, though, think that AR makes sufficient profit to justify either buying it as running it as a going concern with a view to repaying the debt of the buyut [ie c.£30m] (otherwise one would have thought EMI may already have seen a management buy-out team looking around for financing publicly); nor do I think that it could do so in some other format such as part museum, part concert venue (and anyway, aren’t there already enough small live concert venues trying to keep going, without another?).
    Indeed, if there was any decent income to be had from visitors or tours, I would have thought AR would have done so already – they’ve had enough non-musicians at the top of the show running it by the accountant’s book rather than the artists’ for long enough to have already explored most of these opportunities (for examples, see Abbey Road cables, plugins, etc). That suggests that they are better off financially as a recording studio, not as part this, part that, part the other.
    If I am right in its operation not making too great a loss – or likely a small profit – then it is plausible that someone with great connection (say, Sir Paul M) might wish to purchase AR for nostalgia value, and simply allow it to carry on and develop. This – or a foreign consortium for similar reasons and with a similar plan – is the only way I can see that AR will be ‘saved’ and continue doing what it does best; any other solution (including the idea of the National Trust, or English Heritage, or any sort of public funding) won’t manage the result, and we’ll all be worse off having contributed a bunch of money to AR’s demise.

  • Gavin Greenaway says:

    Mr Lebrecht – The best solution for all the hundreds of people who rely on Abbey Road studios for employment (session musicians, engineers, technicians etc) would be for it to stay open as a recording studio. The thousands of tourists who visit the site are not the issue here. Abbey Road studio 1 is one of only 2 studios remaining in London capable of recording a full symphony orchestra with state of the art equipment. Without this facility many Hollywood film scores which are currently recorded in the UK would go elsewhere, to the detriment of the UK economy and musicians in particular.