A pal who deals in pro audio recording gear (some good shit) sent an email our way complaining about people recording with cheap gear at home and the inevitable loss that this presents to the pro audio industry. My response:
Look on the Tape Op Message Board and gearslutz and you'll see many people that are figuring out that (most) cheap gear doesn't sound all that great and they are looking for better stuff. People educate themselves, and good magazines, websites and good products are part of that. If there are more people recording at home with crap gear, there are more potential consumers of non-crap gear.
I could go on and on, but keep in mind that things in the real world are not so cut and dry as you might be thinking. I know so many bands that have built up small recording setups in order to have a space to make records that fits in their budget, amortized over multiple albums. These same bands hit the road, sell albums and can make a small living. We are seeing more "middle class" musicians than ever before, and more of my pals in Portland are making a go of this changing market than ever - without having to wash dishes or sign to a major label that will fuck them all to hell if they don't sell 500,000 records.
And hey, John Baccigaluppi and I both started with basement studios and low end consumer gear. We could have stayed in that vein, making a handful of decent, low-key records every year, or we could go "pro" in tiny, affordable steps as we both did. If I was still recording in my basement on cheap gear I'd still be making good-sounding albums (you should hear what John used to achieve in his studio!) and I'd be buying a few pieces of gear a year.
Do you think every XXXX sold is in a pro studio? There's something to think about. A XXXX introduced in 1975 would have sold a few thousand if you were lucky. Why do you think all the classic gear is so rare? There was the tiniest market for this stuff!
People look back misty-eyed at the heyday of pro studios in the 70's and 80's. I don't know what they remember, but what I saw then as a musician in 1985 was studios I couldn't even dream of affording to work in - and if I had it'd have been on some major label's budget where I'd have no way to recoup unless it went Gold. So if that's the glory of professional studios - pricing out artists who have something to say - then I say more power to all the changes that have happened.
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.