The Abbey Road studios are to be sold by the EMI group, in a notably hard-headed attempt by the company to reduce the debt burden it acquired during a leveraged buy-out three years ago.
The sale – which has not yet been confirmed by the group – might be expected to raise more than £10m, which would, even so, make only a small contribution to the private equity firm Terra Firma’s need to raise £120m by June, to service a £3.3bn loan from Citigroup.
The studio’s worldwide fame – in contrast to other much more anonymous recording studios – rests squarely on the legacy of its Beatles’ recordings in the 1960s, specifically the Abbey Road album of 1969 with its celebrated cover picture of the group wandering across the pedestrian crossing in the road outside the studio.
Although the crossing has since been moved, slightly, it still attracts fans from across the world and the company repaints the fence outside the studios every month to obliterate the latest graffiti posted there. The 1831 villa became the world’s first custom-built recording studio in 1931 with Sir Edward Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Land of Hope and Glory.
One of its advantages is that the studio is large enough to accommodate a full orchestra. In the new, hi-tech world in which bands can record on laptops, however, its studios are said to have become too expensive. A media lawyer said: “The brand is worth more than the building … what you have is a very expensive piece of heritage. If an artist goes to a label and asks to record at Abbey Road they will be met with maniacal laughter.”