Howard Schwartz Recording (hsr|ny), one of New York Cityâ€™s largest and longest-running audio post facilities, has closed its doors. The 22,000-sq. ft. facility founded by Howie Schwartz in 1975 has lost its lease, and ceased operations on May 13th.
hsr|ny was the home to dozens of staffers, 12 mixing/ADR/recording studios, and the visual creative agency Motive. The cost of maintaining a multi-room complex in the heart of midtown, in the famed Graybar Building at 420 Lexington Avenue, was unquestionably a major reason for the demise of hsr|ny, but other factors that affect survival in the pressure-packed audio post industry were also in play.
â€śHowie Schwartz is a pioneer in this business, so I think itâ€™s a blow to the industry for someone like that to close shop,â€ť says Tom Jucarone, President and Partner of the downtown mixing facility Sound Lounge. â€śThe audio post business has spread out a lot over many, many players, whereas there used to be much fewer places to do it.â€ť
In Jucaroneâ€™s view, the closing of hsr|ny in no way serves as an indicator that the days of all large-scale NYC audio post houses â€“ facilities such as audioEngine, Nutmeg Post, PostWorks, and Sound Lounge — are numbered. â€śIâ€™m sure in his location, the overhead was expensive, but when you lose key people and they take business away with them, the overhead looms larger,â€ť he notes. â€śWhether your facility is large or small, I think it all comes down the talent of your people. Howie lost quite a few people in the last couple of years, and that hurt him. As long as we can keep our people here, we can keep our business. Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about — not the size of the facility.â€ť
The steady migration of audio post work to other avenues including smaller boutiques, video editing firms, and in-house at advertising agencies, also took a toll on hsr|ny, which recorded its first music and radio spots in the John Storyk-designed Studio A when Gerald Ford was in office and ABC, CBS and NBC ruled media.
â€śThereâ€™s downward pressure on pricing,â€ť says Howard Bowler, President of Hobo Audio Company, a three-room facility in Manhattanâ€™s Garment District. â€śWeâ€™re aware of it, we deal with it, and itâ€™s a balancing act. Iâ€™m sure hsr|ny dealt with that. Thereâ€™s still a lot of broadcast production, but there is less of it, and content creation is splintered among various formats, from portable devices to Internet use.
â€śClients are also less inclined to put forth $1,000,000 for a spot. Theyâ€™d prefer to test it for a while, and in the economy weâ€™re in thatâ€™s understandable: You have to tread carefully and be confident that youâ€™re putting your money in the right place.â€ť
While Schwartz himself was a sometimes controversial figure in audio post, thereâ€™s no denying the scope of his accomplishment with hsr|ny. He steadily built his business from one room into a flagship for one of the worldâ€™s most fiercely competitive commercial production centers, serving as a training ground for scores of NYCâ€™s top mixers, ADR specialists, and audio engineers.
â€śItâ€™s like CBGB closing: an institution, a fantastic space with a deep history,â€ť Bowler observes. â€śHe put his heart and soul into the place, and it was very successful for many years. Itâ€™s an achievement I can only hope to come close to.â€ť
Howie Schwartz and a skeleton staff are currently in the process of breaking down the facility, which will be completely vacated by mid-June. â€śAfter 36 years, I have no regrets,â€ť he said.
– David Weiss