After roughly two decades, 7 South Studio—otherwise known as “the best hole in the wall studio in Santa Barbara”—is closing its doors this Friday, August 1. The cocktail of demise: a trendy and rapid increase in home recording technology, a worldwide decrease in record sales, a retirement, and the ultimate sale of the studio’s property.
Apple’s Garage Band and Didgidesigns’ Pro Tools are just a few of the software packages that are allowing musicians to cheaply and professionally lay down tracks from the comfort of home. Lo-fi acts like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti have never even stepped foot in a professional studio, and yet Pink has seen his basement-cultivated careers explode nearly overnight. And while iTunes and Rhapsody continue to force mom and pop record shops into extinction, so too are these programs driving independent sound engineers out of the biz. And the hit comes especially close to home with the end of 7 South Studio.
7 South can perhaps best be remembered for its innovative attempts to stay one step ahead of the game. When other larger studios suffered losses following the advent of CD burning (or duplication), the folks behind 7 South started offering a “Record Shop” extension of their Web site. The link was basically the 7 South mission statement, and it resulted in the sale of over 200 albums by more than 130 local and independent artists. This shop was instituted 11 years ago, but by today’s standards the idea has lost its freshness. Not only can bands now cheaply record from home, they can also easily self-publish online and generate sales sans outside assistance.
But it also puts folks like Paull Rubin, the head engineer at 7 South, out of a job. Much like its fellow establishments, 7 South’s closing is the result of a domino effect. The Powell family built the structure nearly 20 years ago and there, in unit 7, Steve Powell created what he considered to be, “a home studio that wouldn’t fit in anyone’s home.” After a long career and so many changes in the music industry, “Ed Layola and Steve Powell are retiring from active engineering and the Powell family [is selling] the entire building,” Rubin explained. Rubin, who has been successful in offering mobile recording services, will continue to freelance, but is obviously saddened by the loss of the studio he once called home.