When I think of musical chairs in the music industry, I automatically think of A&R gigs. People come and go into that position all the time. However, there usually isn't much movement in the local studio manager world. Nashville's studio managers often hang at certain facilities for long stretches, building valuable relationships. These studio faces learn clients' likes and dislikes and fine-tune the personal level of service that keeps artists, producers and engineers returning. After all, the studio business is a service business.
Members of the revolving door of studio managers, from left: Sharon Corbit (Sound Kitchen), Milan Bogdan (Masterfonics), Scott Phillips (Blackbird), Susan White (Masterfonics), Janet Leese (Starstruck)
photo: Rick Clark
This is why the recent spate of turnovers of Nashville studio managers is so unusual. Here is a rundown (try to keep up): Scott Phillips, studio manager for Emerald, left when the new owners took over. He started at Blackbird this week in the same position. Milan Bogdan, former studio manager at Emerald, and Susan White, former studio manager at Sound Stage, both head to the new Masterfonics as studio manager and client services rep, respectively. Glenda Cones is the new studio manager at Ocean Way. Janet Leese left Sound Kitchen and went to Starstruck, and Sharon Corbit left Ocean Way and went to Sound Kitchen. Amy Hendon left Paragon and that position has not been filled. Now that's quite a lot to remember, but there you have it.
So if you go to Ocean Way looking for Corbit, you need to head down to the home of the Big Boy off of Seaboard Lane in Cool Springs to find her. Cones, who ran the intern department at Belmont for almost 10 years, is wonderful and she's more than familiar with Ocean Way. I'm sorry to see Hendon split Paragon, but she has moved on to the publishing world as a song-plugger, something I'm sure she will excel at doing.
Moving on, because this is the AES issue, I should point out that John McBride's super-studio, Blackbird, and its audio gear rental division are taking the highly unusual step of setting up a large booth (number 860) at the New York AES show. This comes on the heels of opening its fourth studio within the complex (one designed by George Massenburg) and signals McBride's intention to take his coveted gear collection national and offer it for rentals in other markets.
Blackbird Audio Rentals manager Rolff Zwiep says he is excited to show off the collection to engineers who may not be familiar with the rare and vintage pieces. “We have been adding pieces every month and I can say definitively that this is the largest inventory of gear anywhere,” he says of the more than 800 vintage microphones in stock and the extensive collection of outboard equipment that ranges from current in-demand items to some of the most exotic and esoteric pieces imaginable.
“Our equipment inventory includes dozens of EMI EQs and comps,” he lists, “35 Pultecs, over 100 channels of Telefunken tube preamps, Digidesign HD, API pieces in all shapes and sizes, Chandler, SPL, Helios, Apogee, Martech, Decca, 30 channels of Fairchild compression, Crane Song — among them the sought-after Spider and STC-8 compressor — Teletronix, GML, UREI, RCA OP-6 tube preamps (among other RCA vintage tube pre's), SSL, Tube-Tech, Universal Audio, Lavry and Manley Labs, as well as mics from Altec, AEA, AKG, Royer, Neumann, Korby, Telefunken, Coles, RFT, RCA, Shure and Schoeps, to name only a few.”
McBride is one of those guys who appreciates the finest audio gear and the great recordings that come from its proper use. To spend any (and I do mean any) time with him at Blackbird is to experience a kid utterly enthralled with having the best Christmas of his life. McBride doesn't have to work at conveying his enthusiasm, and his commitment to excellence is infectious. While many studio owners (with a collection that is a mere fragment of McBride's) would never dream of letting gear like this out into the world, McBride sounds like a missionary determined to spread the joy — albeit with a rental fee attached.
“We want to give the engineers, producers and artists every color of the palette when they paint their picture,” enthuses McBride. “We never want to have the studio be the weak link in the creative process. I have an addiction to gear! I just can't say no to great gear. That was sort of the point that led us to start renting it out. This is a collection I have amassed over the years, and I can't wait for folks to see it at the AES show. Of course, when you work at the studio, you have access to all this gear for your sessions, but now we have made it so we can come to you, wherever you are.”
New studio manager Phillips (remember, he exited Emerald to take the position at Blackbird) will also be at the booth to answer questions about the studio.
Besides talking up the studio's rental business, Blackbird is also planning on drumming up new awareness of its huge multiroom facility. I will address Blackbird's major developments in a future issue of Mix, as there is so much that has happened there.
“We are just thrilled with the reception that we have gotten both in and outside the Nashville market,” said McBride, who recently finished work on a forthcoming CD from his wife, Martina, which is slated for release this month. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I constantly strive to make it better and better and find new, innovative ways of recording music and sound.”
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