The big news in town is the possible purchase of Masterfonics out ofits Chapter 11 bankruptcy situation. The suitor is Emerald SoundStudios. As of mid-November, Emerald owner Dale Moore was reportedlypursuing individual settlements with various creditors of Masterfonics(which filed for Chapter 11-restructuring-protection at the beginningof 1998), though Moore declined to confirm or deny that. Underscoringthe lengthy history of both facilities, one of those settlements wouldhave to be with Milan Bogdan, general manager of Emerald for the pastfour years and a former co-owner of Masterfonics. Bogdan would have hadto drop ongoing litigation against Masterfonics owner Glenn Meadows toallow any sale to occur.
Acquisition of Masterfonics by Emerald would create Nash-ville'slargest studio facility, with four recording rooms, a mix room and twomastering studios, as well as the broadcast operations that Emerald hasdeveloped over the last two years. Such a move would also reflect theongoing consolidation of the music industry in Nashville in recentyears as the fortunes of country music, which continues to be theprimary revenue source for most major studios in the city, trail offoverall. (Including massive sales by several artists, notably GarthBrooks, Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes, country as a genre was actuallyup by approximately 5% in Q3 '98. However, adjusted for reality-i.e.,Brooks is an anomaly and Twain is actually a pop artist-rank-and-filesales continue to slide, and Nashville has lost more major labels thanit has spawned in the last two years.)
Both Emerald and Masterfonics are anchor facilities for Nashville,presently and historically. Moore purchased Emerald, then a one-roomstudio, from producer David Malloy, the late Eddie Rabbitt andsongwriter Even Stevens in 1985. Tom Hidley was brought in to renovatethe control room, and an SSL 4000E console was installed. A mid-pricedsecond recording studio was later added, as was a broadcast division,and space was rented to a tenant post-production company, all of whichwere revenue generators. These helped allow Emerald to sit out theexpensive technology arms race-which saw over five new state-of-the-artstudios come online, along with a total of five SSL 9000 J consoles andthe first U.S. installation of Sony's Oxford digital board-that beganengulfing Nashville in the mid-1990s.
Meadows, long regarded as one of the world's premier masteringengineers, took an opposite strategic tack in his studio's development.After purchasing a controlling interest in the studio in the 1970s fromfounder Mack Evans and later buying out another investor to become soleowner, Meadows expanded the facility, surviving an earlier bankruptcyfiling in 1984. The facility's two mastering suites were eventuallyaugmented by a mixing studio, whose SSL G console was fitted withNashville's first-and only-AT&T digital core; Studio 6, a mid-sizedtracking studio; and, in late 1995, The Tracking Room, a very large,stand-alone recording studio (designed, like the rest of the facility,by Hidley), which featured Nashville's first 9000 J console.
Though The Tracking Room can be credited with igniting a flurry ofhigh-end studio building in Nashville (beginning a period that saw thearrival of Ocean Way and a twin-9000 installation at StarstruckStudios), it can also be posited that The Tracking Room represented theexcess of a Nashville in the midst of a music sales boom whoseexuberance often clouded real-world judgment. Masterfonics and otherstudios expanded along with record label artist rosters and publishers'writer rosters. Both the record business and the studio business haveseen severe contraction in the last two years. Many in Nashville alsocite as a specific reason for Masterfonics' economic woes the fact thatMeadows made significant capital investments in his facility-a reported$3.2 million in The Tracking Room alone-without purchasing the realestate they were located in.
In other news, Ocean Way/Nashville will be installing a 96-inputNeve VR console with GML automation into its Studio B. The VR,purchased from recording artist Kenny G, is replacing the Sony Oxforddigital console, which will be moved into the facility's third studio,replacing an API board. The VR was heavily modified by JohnMusgrave-who is also partners with Ocean Way/Nashville co-owner GaryBelz in a new technology company that specializes in modifying Neves-incollaboration with George Massenburg. Mods include, among otheroptions, an 8-bus film-surround mixing section and channel processingupgrades.