EMI hopes to raise around £30m by selling the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London. The music group recently announced a £1.75bn annual loss for 2009.
Built in 1931 by the Gramophone Company, which the same year merged with Columbia International, Ltd to form EMI, the studios have acquired legendary status over their lifetime, welcoming the cream of the world’s musicians from the outset. Sir Edward Elgar opened the studios, conducting his own Land of Hope of Glory; the following year, in 1932, he recorded his Violin Concerto with a 16-year-old Yehudi Menuhin.
Classical artists who recorded at Abbey Road over the years included the pianist Artur Schnabel, who made his legendary recordings of all 32 Beethoven Sonatas there, soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, as well as conductors Herbert von Karajan and Sir John Barbirolli.
With the advent of pop, The Beatles helped put Abbey Road on the map, recording almost all of their albums in Studio Two between 1962-69, and naming their final album after the studios.
Abbey Road remains the world’s largest purpose-built recording studio, with Studio One able to accommodate a 110-piece orchestra and a 100-piece choir. However new technological advancements in digital recording, along with the rise of cheaper competition from recording facilities abroad, has made it increasingly harder for record labels to maintain large recording studios. After announcing its 2009 loss, EMI’s private equity owner, Terra Firma, has asked investors for around £150m to bail out the company.
Since the announcement of the sale, hundreds of Abbey Road fans have urged The National Trust to save the studios. ‘It’s not often that the public spontaneously suggests we acquire a building,’ says The National Trust in The Times. ‘Abbey Road Studios appear to be very dear to the nation’s heart – to the extent that we will take soundings as to whether a campaign is desirable or even feasible.’