Suburban Williamson County is stirring. Fred Paragano, who has become one of Nashville's Pro Tools wunderkinds since he came to town four years ago from New Jersey, will build a substantial new recording facility in the Cool Springs suburb. Paragano plans to erect a new 22,000-square-foot building on a land parcel he bought earlier this year, half of which will be dedicated to two studios and control rooms designed by the Dallas-based Russ Berger Design Group. Paragano says he has not yet finalized major technology decisions, but at least one of the control rooms will house a high-end, large-format console, and monitoring will be 5.1 surround in both control rooms. The studio is slated to open around the beginning of 2002.
The facility will be a commercial/private hybrid; the idea grew out of Paragano's original plans for an elaborate home studio. “I had certain space requirements that I couldn't find anywhere else,” he says. One studio will likely be home to his two extensive Pro Tools systems; the other will have a sizable tracking space. Paragano already has a large and growing clientele in pop and contemporary Christian music that come to him for his specialized audio skills on the Pro Tools platform. “If some of them also bring more of their projects to this studio, then it makes a lot of sense,” he says. In addition, the other half of the building will be leasable, and Paragano intends to market it to other complementary music-based companies and individuals. He added that a rate structure will be determined after he makes final technology decisions.
Paragano's arrival in this burgeoning and affluent Nashville suburb also brings the potential for new competition in an area that has become home to many of Nashville's most successful producers, artists and musicians. Says Paragano, “Right around here is where most of my work for the last few years has been coming from.” The area's growing music base is also what drew Williamson County's largest studio complex, Sound Kitchen, there five years ago when its owners moved from Los Angeles; it has now grown to seven studios. Bulldog Studios, a Tom Hidley design and Nashville's first dedicated 5.1 mixing room, is in nearby Franklin. Numerous composers for television and film, as well as music producers, also have personal studios in the area.
So, will success change Williamson County? Probably, say area studios. Dino Elefante, co-owner of Sound Kitchen, sounds less than pleased with more competition coming to Williamson County, and Cool Springs in particular. “Maybe when the earth was covered with ice, all was tundra, and there were no mammals — maybe then was a worse time to open another recording studio,” he says.
Ed Simonton is manager at Dark Horse Recording, which evolved from a private studio to a commercial one. He says that increased competition will likely have an effect on rates, but will also spur physical and technological expansion as facilities become more competitive. Underscoring that, Simonton says that the facility just added two new Pro Tools suites. “It's not like Music Row, but it's still a pretty delicate balance out here among studios,” he observes.
Bulldog Studios owner Trevor Johnson agrees, but he adds that Williamson County has a strong base of contemporary Christian music, which constitutes more than half of the clientele for many of the studios in the area. “It's still a niche, but it's getting stronger,” says Johnson. “If they can develop more mainstream acts — look at Creed's sales — Christian music could actually pull all of Nashville out of a slump.”
However, Williamson County's building and zoning codes enforcement has become more active in recent years, more closely scrutinizing personal and commercial studios as the music industry deepens its roots in the county. Songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick found that out when he bought a house for the sole purpose of writing and recording his own demos. He had to hire an attorney and go through three separate board hearings to gain codes approval, a process he thinks has become somewhat prejudiced against the music business. “I bought a house to write and record my songs in,” he says. “I mean, what if I was a painter and set up an easel there, or a novelist with a word processor? Would that be in violation of codes? I don't know. It's a gray area.”
Ed Simonton notes that Dark Horse went through its own codes procedures as it made the transition from a private to commercial facility. “There are restrictions, like on the number of cars we can have on the property at one time, or the number of employees,” he says. “But, otherwise, there's not many other restrictions.”
There have also been unsubstantiated rumors of commercial studios reporting home studios to codes. “I've never done that, but I've heard of it,” says Trevor Johnson. “I do hope codes put a stop to a lot of these studios. But, at the same time, some of those studios are owned by clients of this studio, and we want to continue to interact with them. It's a tough call. It's all part of growing pains, I guess.”
Contact Dan Daley firstname.lastname@example.org.