For Adam Beilenson and Mike Kerns, it turns out that more is more. The longtime partners own and oversee the biggest music-dedicated studio operation in L.A. — and quite possibly the largest in all of North America. Their empire now encompasses Paramount Recording in Hollywood, Ameraycan in North Hollywood and Encore in Burbank, as well as NoHo's Third Stone, which they lease out. They began their expansion in 2001, a full 14 years after moving into the four-room Paramount facility on Vine Street just east of Santa Monica Boulevard — right across the street from the mini-mall that sits on the former site of Gold Star (of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson fame). But I digress.
From left: Paramount co-owner Mike Kerns, producer Butch Vig and Paramount co-owner Adam Beilenson.
By 2001, Paramount had been doing so well for so long as a result of its pro quality and moderate pricing that when Ray Parker Jr. put Ameraycan on the block, Beilenson and Kerns jumped at the opportunity to open a facility in the Valley. One of the keys of today's studio business, according to Beilenson, is location, location, location.
“From being in Hollywood every day, Mike and I realized that there were a lot of clients and potential clients who were working in studios in the Valley, and preferring to work in the Valley, and therefore, we really wanted a presence there,” he explains.
These guys have a knack for making the right move at the right time — like their most recent move in 2004, when they snapped up Encore, formerly part of the storied Kendun complex on Glenwood Place in Burbank (as was the rival high-end studio now bearing the name Glenwood Place) just as prices were bottoming out post-downturn. “That was an opportunity we felt we could not pass up because the price was very depressed as a result of what was going on in the business,” Beilenson recalls. “And when it got to the point where the real estate, the equipment and the value of the business were really, in our minds, far higher than the asking price, that's when we made the move. And keep in mind that we were aware that Enterprise and O'Henry had closed, Royaltone had been sold, and with a number of Valley studios in that area no longer in operation, it seemed a logical move, and it turned out to be a pretty safe one.”
The Encore acquisition brings Beilenson and Kerns' total to seven tracking rooms, with an SSL console in every one of them, starting with a pair of 9000Js, one in Paramount Studio C and the other — a 104-input Rolls Royce (picked up from Enterprise) — in Encore Studio A. Encore Studio B sports an 80-input 4000 G+, one of three G+ boards in the arsenal. (Additionally, Paramount Studio E houses a busy mastering room that is now the home of Mike Lazer, who mastered Gnarls Barkley's smash album there, as well as incumbent A-lister Bill Dooley. The room is outfitted with a Pyramix workstation and ADAM Audio S4-A monitors.)
Beilenson and Kerns consider Encore their showplace, and for good reason: The facility was designed by legendary acoustician/studio designer Tom Hidley. The new owners have been careful to preserve the details of Hidley's classic innovations while upgrading the gear to state-of-the-art levels, starting with the SSLs, each of which is paired with Pro Tools HD3 Accel. “We also hired Brad Keeler from Progressive Design, who acoustically tightened up each of the rooms to get them in line with the 21st century — the sound, the look, everything,” says Kerns. “So we've resurrected these great old rooms to a point where they were 30 years ago, when Tom first designed them, with some of the more modern aspects like the new J, Pro Tools and a lot of new outboard gear, as well as the vibrant colors and acoustic treatments that Brad did.”
Between them, Encore's two posh rooms have drawn deep-pocketed clients like The Game for his latest project, Matt Serletic and David Thoener for Taylor Hicks' debut album, and the Pharrell-produced tracks for Gwen Stefani's new LP. Additionally, Tim Palmer, who has an office at Paramount, splits his time between the two J boards.
The busiest of their seven rooms is also the lowest-priced. Paramount Studio B, an upstairs room sporting an E Series board with a G computer (as does Studio A in the same building, where Neal Avron mixed both Fall Out Boy albums), is booked “365 days a year,” says Beilenson with pride. “It's got to be the busiest room in Los Angeles. While we do a lot of $600 to $800-a-day mixes up there, when somebody doesn't have a big budget or it's a developing act, our Rolodex is loaded with people who have been using Studio B loyally over the years. I'm not sure how to explain it — it's got a secret sauce of some sort.”
The only transaction that didn't pan out the way they hoped went down in 2004, just prior to the Encore acquisition, when Beilenson and Kerns initiated the purchase of Third Stone out of a desire to add a Neve tracking room to their SSL-dominated empire. They got the building, but during escrow, the former owner decided not to include the Neve console that had attracted them in the first place, along with the big main room. When they got the news, they were ready to walk, but, says Beilenson, “Because it was a long escrow and purchase process, Mike and I found that there was a lot of demand for facilities to rent, so we went through with the purchase and were pretty much able to find a long-term tenant right away: the company that produces Twentyfourseven, the MTV reality series.”
The shrinking of L.A.'s studio business during the past few years “probably brought things back to pre-Napster levels for the rest of us,” Beilenson hypothesizes. “With seven SSL rooms that go from $750 to $1,750 a day, we're seeing all different kinds of folks now, pretty much on a daily basis. But even the $750-a-day guys end up being groomed into higher-end clientele — you take care of them at this point in their careers and they stick with you as they move up to the next level.”
Offering so many quality rooms at a range of rates on both sides of the hill is the key to the operation's present-day success. “L.A.'s traffic issues are certainly a big part of it,” says Beilenson. “And because we've got three different locations, producers and mixers sometimes try out a couple of different rooms and then gravitate to one, and that's been really good to us because when you've got seven major mixing and tracking rooms to choose from, you're basically gonna be able to get just about everybody that comes down the pike, in that they're gonna find something they like. And that's a big advantage.”
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