Births and Rebirths-Woodland Digital is back from a tornado-induced hiatus. On April 16, 1998, two tornadoes ripped through Nashville, and in the process, ripped the roof off Woodland, plunging one of Nashville's longest-running facilities into a $700,000 nightmare of water, wind and recalcitrant insurance adjusters. The studio's longtime owner, Bob Solomon, persevered, however, and the studio reopened in early October, repaired (although many insurance claims are still pending) with the addition of a third control room equipped with a Soundtracs DPC 260 24-bit/96kHz console and fitted for as many as eight channels of surround mixing.
The studio wasn't all that had to be rebuilt, however. Loss of revenues meant that virtually all of the staff had to be laid off. Woodland is back with a new set of staffers. One is fairly big news: Milan Bogdan, who contributed heavily to the early successes of Masterfonics and is widely regarded as the architect of Emerald Recording's recent renaissance, is coming aboard as general and studio manager. In addition, Neve technical guru Fred Hill has been named as chief engineer.
New Yorkers "Void" Caprio and partner Keith Spacek have found a niche in Nashville during the past several years. After seeing the potential in Nashville's underground rock and pop scene -something that's been oft-discovered but rarely successfully leveraged-they decided to open Interzone, a studio that would allow them to develop productions with rock and pop bands as well as maintain a for-hire facility that would appeal to others in that market.
"Like a lot of people who come here from New York and Los Angeles, I was attracted by the lifestyle and the cost of living," says Caprio, who picked up his nickname from his high-school band days on Long Island years ago. He came to Nashville three years ago to reconnoiter and then sent for his partner. "The studios here are great, but I was used to working in places up in Woodstock, where the vibe is much more relaxed and the focus is more intensely on long-term projects. Nashville can be a factory town when it comes to music."
The pair built most of the one-control-room facility themselves, creating three separate sizable recording spaces with 12-foot ceilings and hardwood floors. There is a Mackie 8-bus console and a very vintage 3M 2-inch 24-track deck, abetted by three 20-bit Alesis ADAT decks.
Caprio believes Interzone can be a successful hybrid facility. It houses both the partners' music production work and Caprio's music library productions, and it's available at attractive prices, between $300 and $500 per day. Interzone also has built in onsite CD-R duplication and Internet promotion. But Caprio does not see Interzone as existing outside the local studio community. "I want to be part of it," he says. "I've been here for three years, and I've met them, and I like them. Nashville can have that kind of effect on you, even if you're from New York."
Not quite as new but more fashion-forward is universal Digital, a three-year-old company on Music Row that has developed a strong niche in two nontraditional audio areas in Nashville: computer telephony, and mastering for Internet music and video formats. Company president Drew Oeltmann founded universal in early 1999 after working at another Nashville voice talent company, Worldly Voices. Building on that experience, universal Digital started compression services for a range of clients. For the IRS, for example, it did as many as 500 telephone-prompt audio clips. But in just the last few months of 1999, music and music video compression for the Internet have boosted the company's revenues by as much as 25%, and universal began drawing work from a host of Internet startups that have mushroomed in recent months in Nashville, such as tappedinto.com. "The funny thing is that doing this same sort of work for music is actually easier than doing it for telephony," Oeltmann says.
Telephony remains the bulk of universal Digital's business. This shows considerable potential for further growth from foreign markets, as U.S. cellular providers establish footholds overseas in countries where markets outgrow the ability of land lines to keep up. "If a u.S. company gets the contract to put in cellular service in the mountains of Brazil, they need voice prompts in Portuguese, and they'd rather come to us than to try to find a studio in Sao Paulo that understands compression," Oeltmann explains.
Why is Nashville getting much of this work? Aside from the fact that location is less an issue in virtual commerce, Oeltmann notes that there is no tax on recording services in Tennessee, and the city's lure as a media center gives companies like his access to a wealth of voice talent from a wide variety of cultures and languages. And then, of course, there is the base of engineers, musicians and peripheral services like equipment rentals. "It's all right here," he says.