The Hit Factory, a paragon of music recording studios during the last 30 years, announced its closing this weekend as a result of shifts in the music industry as a whole.
This industry landmark located on West 45th Street in New York City was the epicenter of many of music’s most remarkable, memorable and shocking moments.
Ground-breaking albums such as Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” and Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the USA” were recorded there.
Acts such as The Rolling Stones, Madonna, U2 and Jay-Z used the studio to record songs or parts of records. Lennon’s last night alive was spent working in the studio. 50 Cent was also stabbed near its steps in 2000.
The studio’s contribution to 41 Grammy nominated tracks in 1994 is still a record. And you can even thank the Hit Factory for Whitney Houston’s sublime rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” It’s sad, but we all know the words and try so hard to hit the notes on the chorus.
The Hit Factory took music in a new direction, forcing artists to rethink their methods and their craft as an art form. It was a birthplace of musical innovation and craftsmanship. Ironically, it was the changing musical industry it helped fuel that led to its demise.
The downfall of this iconic institution lay in the “cribsification” of the music industry – the growth of in-home recording studios of many artists as seen in the MTV show “Cribs.” It creates a dueling effect where artists maintain their status in the game with the quality of their private studio.
In an effort to keep up with the Jones’, every artist’s home seems to include the massive cars, the “bling,” and the basement studio.
Technology has allowed these studios to create scaled down and cheaper versions of their predecessors. So, faced with economic hardships, the industry cut costs by encouraging artists to work in their own homes, instead of the more traditional and higher quality professional studios, which are slightly more expensive. But we still do get all those great promotional tours with artists hocking their records like newsboys from an earlier era and other wild unchecked financial excesses.
The six story Hit Factory compound with its seven studios, five mastering rooms and two-bedroom apartments for its artists was and will remain a temple containing the essence of music. Its sound has touched the ears and changed the minds of millions of listeners, even if they did not know the source.
The future of recording may be uncertain, but the Hit Factory’s place in music’s past is secure and impressive.
Allard can be reached at email@example.com.