Abbey road re-brands to appeal to up-and-comers
Abbey Road Studios has been a fixture in London since it opened in 1931 and has been used by artists from Pink Floyd to Lady Gaga. The recording studios are most closely associated with The Beatles who recorded most of their albums between 1962 and 1969, famously naming one of their final albums Abbey Road.
In 2010, the studios’ previous owners, EMI Group Limited, put Abbey Road up for sale, causing concern among music fans that the building, and a piece of music history, would be demolished. Universal Music later took over ownership of the building and Abbey Road received English Heritage status as a historical landmark, meaning the new owners can only make limited modifications to the building.
However, the studios do not make a profit from music fans who visit the area to recreate the famous Abbey Road album cover, and the building itself is only open to the public for special events. Kory Grow of Rolling Stone recently covered the studios’ “user-friendly makeover,” detailing how, in an effort to attract musicians beyond the “upper crust,” the studios have become more affordable for up-and-coming artists. The studios’ Twitter feed attempts to highlight both its past and present, featuring grime artist Novelist as well as heavily featuring The Beatles and Nile Rodgers.
The studios’ rebranding, an attempt to attract more diverse artists, also reflects how social media has changed the music industry. Many artists have been discovered through YouTube, like Awkwafina, or through other nontraditional routes. Rapper Cardi B was notably an “Instagram celebrity” and former cast member of the reality series Love & Hip Hop: New York before signing with Atlantic Records in 2017.
Additionally, the prominence of streaming services like Spotify has made it easier for music fans to find artists that appeal specifically to them, rather than limiting them to artists featured on radio or television.
Abbey Road’s rebranding also reflects the difficult position of music labels navigating a rapidly changing industry. According to a report from The Guardian, the music industry essentially collapsed in the mid-2000s with annual revenues falling from $14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion in 2009. Abbey Road’s previous owner, EMI, was notably in debt when the studios sold in 2010. Labels are losing their influence in the music industry, as the popularity of streaming services has allowed artists, like Chance the Rapper, to become successful without signing to a traditional label.
The Guardian’s Sam Wolfson discusses the career of JONES, a British alternative pop singer signed to the independent label 37 Adventurers. While JONES’ debut album did not make the Billboard Top 200, she has been streamed over 70 million times on Spotify. JONES has been able to make a profit and reach a large fanbase without a Top 200 album, something that would have been nearly impossible for artists in the recent past.