The adaptation of Nashville to the New Economic Order continues.In February, Sound Stage opened a new and comprehensive ProTools-based studio. The 48-fader Pro Tools system is situated in astudio at Sound Stage, which previously held an older SSL 4000Series console that has been moved to a second studio in the formerWarner Bros. Records building Sound Stage owns on Music Row.
The surge toward hard disk-based recording has accelerated inrecent months in Nashville, observes Sound Stage owner WarrenRhodes, who says he also plans to convert the facility's accountingoffice into a Pro Tools hosting suite — an acousticallytreated studio room in which users can bring their own Pro Toolsand other hard disk recording systems in and use them in anenvironment close to other studio activities around the Row andalso access other aspects of Sound Stage's complex. The new ProTools suite, which retains the studio designation Second Stage,opened in early February with a daily rate of $650, including a ProTools-trained engineer; the planned host suite will charge $250 perday.
These moves are a response to an evolving economic andtechnological landscape that is changing the way Nashville's musicrecording business operates, says Rhodes. “The number ofcalls for Pro Tools that we've been getting has been steadilyincreasing,” he states. “The trend in [surround] mixingis toward cheaper rooms, and this addresses that trend, withmultichannel capability and a less-expensive console. Also, it'seasier in that people can simply come in and plug in their drivesand not have to go through a transfer process to get startedworking.”
Hard disk recording as a technology and a methodology is hittingNashville the same way that two other major trends in pro audio— project studio-type equipment and the shift toproducer-owned facilities — did over the last decade: lateand hard. As recently as the mid-1990s, Pro Tools systems wererelatively rare in Nashville, and their use on records forhigh-profile artists sometimes came close to requiringnondisclosure agreements, reflecting the sensitivity with which thecountry music industry felt about using technology — digitalauto-tuning, especially — to tweak recordings that theindustry preferred to have the world regard as almost totallyorganically created.
The rapid expansion of demand for hard disk recording capabilityin general, and Pro Tools in particular, has also underscored thelack of well-trained operators in Nashville. “Suddenly, wefind that we have more Pro Tools [demand] than we have trainedoperators,” Rhodes states. Responding to that circumstance,Rhodes has become part of the board of directors assembled by DavidFrangioni, owner of Pro Tools dealer and studio design facilityAudio One, which has offices in Nashville as well as Miami andBoston, for the Audio One Southeast Pro Tools Training Center, aPro Tools-specific training facility opened in north Miami inJanuary. That training facility will supply Sound Stage with ProTools operators and serve as a general resource for entry-leveltechnical employees, Rhodes says. That move, in turn, is part of alarger agreement, pending at press time, for Audio One and SoundStage's maintenance and rental division, Interface Audio, tojoint-venture a new maintenance and equipment rental start-up inthe Miami area sometime later this year.
Woodland Woes: Woodland Studios, one of Nashville's mostvenerable facilities that was nearly destroyed in the tornado thatdevastated the city in April 1998, is still in limbo. But there hasbeen some movement. Studio owner Bob Solomon has moved theequipment, including the Neve 8088 and VR-60 consoles, out of thebuilding and across the street, into a former bank building, whichhe purchased late last year as a hedge against the ongoingimbroglio with the owners of the building, which has beenWoodland's home since it opened in 1968.
Solomon says there are no immediate plans to convert the bankinto a recording studio, but he stressed that it is his intentionto get Woodland back up and running — somewhere, sometime.Much of that rests on how Solomon's litigation against hisinsurance company turns out — he is suing them for failing toprovide promised coverage — and how his ongoing dispute withthe owners of the original building works out. Solomon, who boughtWoodland in 1990, says the group of owners has not made necessaryrepairs to the building since the tornado. A limited number ofsessions have managed to take place at the studio over the lastthree years, the last of which was blues guitarist Robert Cray'snew album, before Solomon pulled the equipment, mostly he says toprotect it from the elements coming in through a leaking roof andfrom a lack of heat and air conditioning.
Solomon says he and engineer/producer Roger Moutenout, who hadleased space in the back of the studio for his own equipment, havediscussed the possibility of taking some of the equipment andsetting it in the bank in what Solomon calls “DanielLanois-style — no control room, just a console and amicrophone.” But no decision has been reached on that, whichSolomon says would be an interim move in any event. “I stillwant to bring the studio back,” he says. “It has beenunbelievably frustrating dealing with all of this.”
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