Robert Altman could not have created a more complicated plot than contemporary “Nashville.” In late February, Emerald Entertainment Group, the holding company for Emerald Recording Studios and Masterfonics, announced that noted mastering engineer Glenn Meadows had been “terminated” as vice president of mastering services at Masterfonics. Within a week, Meadows was named as an employee of 301 Studios Group, owned by SAE founder and owner Tom Misner, who owns facilities in Sydney, Cologne and Stockholm. Meadows' role is still evolving, but in addition to guest lecturing at SAE schools, he will be involved in Misner's plan to start (or acquire) a mastering service in Nashville. The announcement was made at the March 1 opening of SAE's Miami school.
At that same gathering, Misner, who has made no secret of his desire to acquire a Nashville recording facility, hinted that Emerald-currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy-was high on his list. Emerald's reorganization plan was to have been submitted to the court and its creditors in March. The ironic backstory, of course, is that Emerald Entertainment CEO Dale Moore had acquired Masterfonics — at the time owned by Meadows — out of bankruptcy in 1999.
In regards the dismissal of Meadows by Emerald, Moore indicated that the parting was not amicable. “…[Our] differences, in my opinion, had become insurmountable,” he said in a prepared release. Moore was reluctant to elaborate further, other than stating that, “There were differences we couldn't overcome. He left me no choice.”
Meadows confirmed the antagonistic nature of the split. He would not elaborate on the reasons behind the termination, citing the possibility of future litigation. However, he did confirm what he called a “highly restrictive” five-year, industrywide non-compete term of his employment with Emerald, a clause he further asserted was negated when Emerald filed for bankruptcy, a move which voids personal services contracts under law.
Masterfonics was founded in 1973; Meadows, a two-time Grammy winner and three-time TEC Award nominee, had co-owned the facility since 1977 before becoming sole proprietor in 1989. The studio's two original mastering suites were designed by Tom Hidley. Michael Cronin designed a third mastering suite added in 1998.
Moore says he is confident that Emerald will bounce back from its current financial difficulties, adding that he expects the company to emerge from Chapter 11 well before the end of the year. He affirmed that mastering remains a linchpin in the company's overall business strategy.
“That division is extremely important to us, providing the ability of our clients to seamlessly move through the [entire] recording process,” he says. He also stressed the need to maintain a high-end mastering operation to compete with a broadening base of what he called “Pro Tools mastering” facilities.
Moore said that Meadows' departure will not affect that strategy, noting that Masterfonics' other mastering engineers — Benny Quinn, Jonathan Russell and Tommy Dorsey — had developed significant client bases of their own. Stay tuned…
Not So New Kids in Town: RCA recording artist Martina McBride and her husband, John, president of live sound company MDSystems/Clair Brothers Audio, have purchased and renovated the former Creative Recording Studios in Berry Hill. As the leading candidate for Nashville's most successful pro audio couple, they expect to open a completely remodeled and vastly upgraded two-studio facility by early spring.
Creative Sound was originally owned by producer Brent Maher and was where he recorded many of The Judds' albums. More recently, it had been owned by a trio of commercial jingle producers. The McBrides acquired it late last year and brought in George Augspurger to update his original 1970s-era acoustical and monitoring design. McBride bought Donald Fagen's Neve 8078 console (formerly at the now-closed River Sound in New York), which was upgraded by Geoff Tanner. Tanner had helped build the console years ago as a Neve technician, and he worked with McBride's chief tech and former Frank Zappa tech Arthur “Midget” Slopeman on the rebuild. It is installed in the main control room, adjacent to the studio's large tracking room. The equally vintage Sphere console that came with the studio will be moved to the facility's second, smaller control room. Both rooms have extensive, server-networked Digidesign Pro Tools systems. Studio A also has a pair of sequentially numbered Studer A827 multitrack decks.
The still-unnamed studio will be offered as a combination of commercial and private: John McBride said that Martina and her longtime co-producer Paul Worley will do her next record there, but that she will book time like any other client. Despite a difficult studio economic climate, John McBride strongly believes that this facility will be at least marginally profitable while giving the McBrides a creative locus for Martina's records.
“I don't believe this studio is a great business opportunity, but I do believe it can be profitable,” McBride stated, explaining that much of the equipment was acquired over the last two decades and that they capitalized the estimated $2 million project themselves. “We don't have bank loans and equipment leases, so we're already ahead of the game there,” he said. “If it breaks even, I'm a happy guy.” He also believes the main room can support a rate structure ranging between $1,200 and $2,000 per day.
It's also worth noting that Martina McBride and Worley had previously made her records at The Money Pit, a small facility in which Worley is a part owner. So moving her productions doesn't take work away from other commercial Nashville facilities.
But more than anything else, the studio quenches a passion that predates John McBride's success in the live sound business. “My original proposition to the bank in Wichita 23 years ago when I started out was for a recording studio,” he recalls. “That didn't fly, but my proposal for a live sound company did. So I'm finally getting around to doing what I wanted all along.”
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