By Peter Lindblad
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How much is Abbey Road worth?
If reports are true that EMI is putting the famed London recording studios up for sale to ease its debt problems, the world could find out soon.
The Financial Times reported Tuesday that EMI is, indeed, putting Abbey Road, one of the most hallowed studios in music history, on the market. The Beatles, of course, named their final album after the street of the same name, and after the LP's release, the studio was renamed Abbey Road.
So far, according to the Financial Times, EMI is being tight-lipped about the possible sale of the St. John's Wood property. Muddying the waters further is the question of whether EMI would sell the Abbey Road brand with it.
In 1929, EMI purchased the house at number 3 Abbey Road for £100,000 ($160,000), and it would later house the world's first custom-built recording studios, according to the Financial Times.
Long before The Beatles entered the picture, Sir Edward Elgar recorded "Land of Hope and Glory" in Studio One in 1931 with the London Symphony Orchestra. During World War II, the British government and BBC Radio used the facilities for propaganda recordings.
However, it was The Beatles who made the studios famous, recording almost all of their records there between 1962 and 1969. And when it came time to remaster the entire Beatles catalog for release in 2009, EMI used Abbey Road studios.
After The Beatles broke up, Abbey Road didn't sit dormant. Pink Floyd recorded its seminal Dark Side Of The Moon LP there, and in more recent years, Radiohead, Oasis and Blur have used the studios to record many of their albums.
Reportedly, the reason EMI is considering selling the property is to alleviate some of the debt the company was saddled with as a result of Terra Firma's 2007 leveraged buy-out. That's according to the Financial Times, which also reports that Terra Firma wants $188 million from investors by June to avoid breaching covenants on $5.17 billion of loans from Citigroup. Chances are, however, that any sale of Abbey Road would not happen soon enough or bring in the kind of money needed to have a great impact on EMI's debt problems.
Abbey Road's significance as a recording studio has waned in recent years as technological advancements have allowed artists to record more cheaply on their own using laptap computers. The same goes for a lot of record labels who, in the past, have used their own expensive recording infrastructure to record acts.
Still, Abbey Road does have one advantage: It has the facilities to accommodate full orchestras, and that's made it attractive for producers looking to score films like "Lord Of The Rings."