Nashville, TN (July 9, 2021)—With the pandemic finally in decline, live music and events are coming back in a big way. Live Nation has already booked twice as many shows for 2022 as it did in 2019, and many industry watchers expect that kind of demand for concerts to spill forward into the coming years. That’s just fine with artists and production pros, however; they’re ready to get back to work and pack audiences into arenas around the world—and that’s a problem.
Traditionally, major tours descend on the schedule’s first arena a few days early, run rehearsals, hold opening night and then load out, but as productions get increasingly complicated, “a few days” isn’t enough time any more. “Even before the pandemic, it was getting harder to get that dark week before the first show,” says veteran touring sound pro Eric Elwell. “The band comes in, you’ve got three hours of show and 500 to 1,000 cues that include firing video content, lighting, all kinds of stage gags, pyro, articulating trusses and more. You can’t just throw it together in the first arena for a few days and hope it holds up—people can get killed if there’s a failure. Increasingly shows need three to four weeks of prep time; they need a dedicated home where they can build it right.
The answer, says Elwell, is Elevation Studios, a new 26-acre multi-purpose creative campus he’s founded on the outskirts of Nashville. Set to break ground in August, the secluded, green property is expected to eventually house eight massive sound stages, as well as a 40,000-square-foot operations office as a central hub, all built with the express aim of gestating tours, events, livestreams and more in a secluded, private setting.
Early plans for the facility envisioned it as a mixed-use media center, catering not only to live productions but also TV, film and streaming. “One of the mandates for the design team was to make these spaces arena-sized—70 feet to the low steel and you can hang a million pounds off it—but it’s got to be TV-studio quiet. As far as I know, we’re the only stages in the world that are going to meet the kind of specs that we’ve laid out.”
Two sizes of buildings are planned, with the larger stages measuring 200 x 150 feet, ensuring tours will be able to see how they fit into the floor space of a typical arena—which is to say, the buildings will be big enough to fit an NHL hockey rink with some extra wiggle room for good measure.
One thing the soundstages will not be, however, are big, boomy spaces. Noted acoustician Steven Durr of Nashville’s Stephen Durr Designs is the acoustical consultant on the project, bringing to the table experience gained from tackling acoustics in venues like Austin City Limits Performance Theater in Austin, TX and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, as well as meeting the acoustical needs of major artists, having designed studios for Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Leon Russell, Lenny Kravitz, Zac Brown Band and others.
The result, says Elwell, is that Elevation Studios’ soundstages will be designed to help FOH engineers pull their mixes together: “We said, ‘Let’s try and eliminate as many low-frequency standing waves as we possibly can.’” As a result, the buildings will be lined with an eight-foot- high bass-trapping cancellation system, helping to both deaden rooms and ensure sound doesn’t spill into neighboring soundstages. “Today, you’ve got acts that are carrying 36 double-18 boxes; if you put that inside a cement building and don’t treat that properly, you’re going to have problems,” he laughed.
Elevation Studios expects to open its first soundstage in the fourth quarter of 2022, and has plans in place to expand as demand ramps up. Off campus, Nashville itself will be part of the draw, says Elwell: “We are within a day’s drive of 60% of the US population, we have a whole crop of new five-star hotels, Nashville has the deepest pool of production personnel in the world, and you can do business here—meet with your record company, publicists, management—because we’re 20 minutes from Music Row.”
The location will also put Elevation in close proximity to a wide variety of production vendors, all of which will be welcome through its gates, says Elwell. “Our attitude is like the Hard Rock Café motto: Love all, serve all.”
Elevation Studios • https://www.elevationstudios.co/