These days, no analog-only studio should still exist. But they do. Why?
When brainstorming the Prism idea, I was politely discouraged at just about every turn. But I think there's room-- room in the economic pond of music production in upper New England, but also room in the artist's toolbox for some fundamentally different tools and methods.
When people ask 'why analog?', the three things I come back to are:
- Preservation of Sound
- Preservation of Masters
- Preservation of Process
In response to the question 'why now?', my feeling is that our society is finally coming out of a digital convenience coma. Vinyl engagement has soared in the past several years and shows no sign of slowing. This is a great analogy to the analog studio because, again, there is no reason a person in 2016 should buy, maintain, and consume space with a turntable, let alone spend vast amounts of money on LPs (each of which costs at least twice the monthly subscription fee for an all-inclusive music streaming service).
But people are doing it! Mostly because it "sounds better" but equally because of the ritual of listening to a full album (or at least half of one), handling the physical media, interacting with the art and information of the sleeve, and limiting the choice of what to play. If I have 60 LPs, it seems like a lot, even though I might have unlimited streaming with Apple Music. A turntable also needs connection to a "proper" stereo rather than, say, an iPhone dock, so now we are dealing with other, frequently vintage, stereo components and separate speakers which are wonderfully heavy, bulky and inconvenient-- another reason it "sounds better", but also a deeper push into the analog chain. A deeper push into craft and process. Discreet decision-making based on manual, tactical, and physical constraints (I have 60 LPs to choose from, I need to get up after 20 minutes to change the record. I need to clean the record. I'm listening to the songs in the order intended and they are forming a whole, as intended).
Looking beyond music, a return to more manual processes and craft production seems to be taking root everywhere, not least in Portland, Maine. That's why Prism Analog chose the East Bayside neighborhood- a veritable incubator of craft processes: brewing, distilling, fermenting, coffee roasting, baking, and artists' collectives to name several.
Whether it's manual transmissions in our cars, manual coffee makers, cooking from scratch at home, knitting, or shaving with double-edged razors, we have come to realize that a fully automated and virtual experience has fatigued us and stolen the satisfaction and reward afforded by doing things ourselves. We want to be a part of the process again. We are waking from the digital convenience coma and reaching beyond our microwave for our toaster oven.
Coming back to the studio experience, I would suggest that having the pure convenience and limitless choices of the modern digital studio has come at a similar cost and the establishment of analog-only studios is a natural reaction. Like a pour-over. But different.