I'm not sure I have any practical answers for that. I have some ideas on new business models for studios, but they all take money. If I had the money to do it, there is no way I would spend it on studios.
I will say that I think we have put way too much emphasis on buying and owning gear and facilities. The equipment should never be the focus. It should always be the people. Most studios promote the gear as if it knows how to make a record sound great. None of them promote the quality, service and creativity of their staff.
Good point Craig. I don't think anyone wishes to spend money on studios right now and at that I am not so sure it is even wise given the state of the industry. I absolutely love all the studios I have had the honor of working over the years, but to be totally honest, all the people I work for are just not booking them like they used to. I feel so sorry for the plight of the major rooms but there is absolutely nothing I can do to "make" my clients work at a commercial room. I haven't met one person this past year or two who has told me their budgets are going up. Quite the opposite, and that is true even with major artists. Once they discover the cheaper alternatives, it doesn't take rocket science to figure out... declining sales = declining budgets = work in project based studios or the spare room.
I think engineers and studio owners would like to think that people value the difference that can be obtained from using higher quality equipment and more talented engineering, but so many have come to believe that it doesn't make sense from a budgetary standpoint when they can afford to get their own DAW and do it mostly themselves.
So, with that being said, what are the studios and engineers to do? Bemoan and gripe? That is natural I guess, but for me, I want to find ways to keep making and recording music that is both good for the artist, the budget, the mortgage company and Kroger.
If we want to make the same quality record we did in the 90s for half the budget, studios and collaborations are the first things to get cut.
I think the cream will still rise to the top. Studios have lost the advertising work, the demos and the vanity projects that used to pay a lot of their bills. Still collaboration isn't dead. Studios need to start promoting recording with ensembles of musicians. They aren't going to get work that can be done in a bedroom but there's still plenty of stuff that can't be done in a bedroom.
Nashville's greatest resource are the musicians who live, record and tour out of here. There is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world. Studios that sell the ability of great musicians to collaborate will do just fine. Studios that sell access to gear are in trouble.