Why the BBC is selling its iconic sound studios

The Beatles, David Bowie, and Adele all left their mark on London’s Maida Vale Studios.

Published : Aug 17, 2023 14:36 IST - 3 MINS READ

Sold! The BBC is parting with its music studios in London’s Maida Vale district   

Sold! The BBC is parting with its music studios in London’s Maida Vale district    | Photo Credit: JONATHAN BRADY/EMPICS/PICTURE ALLIANCE    

The BBC announced in London that the buyers are a partnership of German film composer and Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, his longtime business partner, Steven Kofsky, and British producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. This will allow for a “bright, vibrant future of music making in this iconic building”, said BBC music director Lorna Clarke. Bevan and Fellner have promised to continue the BBC’s legacy at Maida Vale.

Zimmer, who has composed scores composed scores for dozens of hit films including “The Lion King”, “Gladiator”, “Top Gun: Maverick”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean”, also emphasised the historical value of the venue. “The first time I worked for the BBC at their Maida Vale studios was 45 years ago,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian. “I still remember the strong pull, the desire to touch the walls, as if that would somehow allow me to connect to the artists whose extraordinary music had resonated against these walls on a daily basis.”

Legendary performances

The studios have hosted thousands of performances by pop and rock greats such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Dusty Springfield, Beyonce, and Adele. The BBC has documented some of them on its website, including a legendary live performance by the British act Florence and the Machine in September 2008. The series “BBC Music: Introducing Maida Vale sessions” makes these great concerts accessible once again.

Also Read | Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre: Culture as spectacle

In the mid-1930s, the studios housed the BBC Symphony Orchestra. And for a time, they were home to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which, among other things, created the famous theme music for the science fiction series “Doctor Who”, one of the first electronic music pieces ever used on British television.

The Maida Vale Studios are located in an impressive building in the northwest London district of the same name. The British public broadcaster used them from 1967 to 2004 to record, among other things, the legendary “Peel Sessions” hosted by the late radio presenter John Peel, whose show ran for four decades on BBC Radio One and is credited with launching the careers of countless recording artists.

From roller skates to rock music

The building was constructed in 1909 as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club, which had seating for 2,650 audience members and had its own orchestra balcony. But that use only lasted three months before a host of other businesses moved in. The BBC bought the structure in 1933 and converted it into sound studios.

During World War II, the studios served as temporary quarters for the BBC Radio News Service, which made it a target of the German Blitzkrieg. The building had to be completely renovated following a direct hit during an air raid. That and other chapters of the studios’ history can be read about on the BBC’s website and blogs.

Also Read | Chennai Sangamam: Taking performing arts to the people

More recently, BBC Maida Vale offered room for more than 150 musicians, a 100-person choir and an audience of 220. It houses seven music and radio play studios. In 2007, the BBC announced it would start producing live music events in Stratford, east London, saying that the Maida Vale studios were “wholly unsuitable for the 21st century”, and that it had problems including asbestos.

Huge significance for popular culture

The Guardian reported that, when the building was historically listed in 2020, the BBC objected to the decision, arguing that it could lower the property’s potential value. Now, the broadcaster has said it plans to move to a new location, which will have recording studios and rehearsal spaces, by the end of 2025.

Lorna Clarke, the director of music at the BBC, told The Guardian, “Maida Vale has played such an important part in the BBC’s history, and its significance in popular culture is huge.” The new owners plan to preserve that legacy by renovating the studios and to expand on the building’s influence by creating a non-profit education facility. The sale price for the historic building has not been revealed.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment