Spring was a time of rebuilding in Nashville. No real tornados had touched down, at least as of May. But the whirlwind in the wake of the music industry's massive two-year consolidation had left its own trail through the city's music community.
Apparently it's not over. Arista Records/Nashville was waiting for the other shoe to drop in the wake of a corporate/political imbroglio in New York, and rumors were rife in Nashville that Asylum Records would close shop, further reducing the number of labels that feed work through the city's studios.
That hasn't stopped several studios from refurbishing and contemplating upgrades. Emerald installed the city's first Euphonix System 5 digital console (see "Nashville: The World's Most Active Studio Market" on page 88), and at Sound Kitchen, the studio's main tracking room, "Big Boy," got a new console, a custom-built, fully discrete, 80-input API Legacy Plus. The new API replaced the 60-input Neve V3 Legend, and the Neve was being moved to Sound Kitchen's Courtyard studio, which is often booked by producer Brown Bannister. There the Legend would replace a vintage 48-input Neve 8108, which was slated to be sold.
Aside from the obvious pattern of increasing the number of inputs available in two studios, facility co-owner Dino Elefante says that the change in consoles reflects a need to provide warmer-sounding boards as the use of digital media increases. "The harsher the recording medium, the warmer the console has to be," he explains. The first project on the new API was scheduled with country duo Brooks & Dunn.
At Quad Studios, owner Lou Gonzales tells me he expects to start work on a second new studio before the end of the year. The facility will be identical to the other new one at the Nashville location and the five studios at Quad's Manhattan site. The new studio will also be outfitted with an SSL 9000 J console, and the design will be Gonzales' own, as are all of his other studios.
Nashville's Quad has been doing well during the months Gonzales has owned it, because in large part, Gonzales rerouted New York clients to Nashville. Those include urban producer/artist Stevie J, who has produced hits for Madonna and who block-booked nearly two months in the Nashville facility. As a result, those clients pay a somewhat lower rate than they would pay in New York City for the same studios and technology but a higher-than-average rate than facilities are getting in Nashville. Gonzales says, however, the second new Nashville studio-which will comprise two of the three remaining original Quad rooms in addition to an extension to the building-isn't for overflow but rather to get more Nashville-based business into the facility. "That's what I came down here for in the first place," he says. "I like country music. I'd like to get some of it in here."
Poppi Studios, which had served Nashville's alt-rock and independent rock music sector for six years, closed its doors in May. Neal Cappellino, the one-room facility's owner and chief engineer, says that the same factors that had been affecting Nashville's other studios eventually caught up with his business: namely, the proliferation of home studios and an overall downturn in music recording.
The closing of Poppi adds another dimension to Nashville's reorganization as a market and underscores the fact that the entire record industry is changing, not just the country music market. Nashville's non-country music community is large and diverse, but it has seen a few breakouts in recent years. Bands such as Sixpence None the Richer and the Evinrudes have been beacons for Nashville's pop industry, but they have not provided enough stones to pave an alternate highway in and out of town.
Cappellino does observe a silver lining to the situation. Artists who have passed through the facility during the last three years are now calling him for freelance engineering work, something he had wanted to do more of anyway. "The studio turned out to be very much a springboard for a freelance career for me," he says. "So in that regard, it definitely served a purpose."
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