Sound Kitchen studio manager Sharon Corbitt-House says the Nashville recording industry is “still very much a community.”
The demise of Masterfonics and the inevitable closing of Emerald (the building is up for sale as of press time) has left a noticeable void in the Music Row studio community. One effect of these seismic shifts has been some of the work in the Nashville market has spread out to the Berry Hill neighborhood and Cool Springs in the Franklin area — still in the neighborhood, at least, which should be viewed as a positive.
Owner/engineer Fred Paragano, who opened Paragon Studios (www.paragon-studios.com) in Cool Springs five years ago, points out, “Every business goes through ups and downs forcing change; the music business is not any different. The closing of Masterfonics will help distribute more work to other area studios.”
Paragano also is quick to state that his facility was designed to evolve into other areas that many studios haven't addressed, particularly post for film. “We have actively pursued new avenues in music and post-production,” says Paragano, who recently acquired Nashville's first digital film-dubbing console, the SSL C300. Since its installation, Paragano has completed mixes for multiple feature film, TV and DVD projects, including One Night With the King (feature film score), Secrets of the Heart (upcoming TV series) and the recently released four-disc DVD set The Rolling Stones: The Biggest Bang. And although clients are seeking out Paragon for the studio's reputation in post-production, its Control “A” continues to serve many high-profile music artists, such as Faith Hill, Sara Evans and Aaron Neville, among others.
In Berry Hill, producer Richard Landis has opened a new studio called Fool on the Hill (www.outlandis.net) that is attracting steady business because of its quality sonics and exceptional rates. Landis says, “Being a producer myself, I have made a lot of records and know what is important in a studio environment for engineers. Vincent Van Haaff and I tried to keep that in mind when we were designing and building this facility. No longer can recording budgets afford to go to these high-priced studios. We built one that looks and feels like a high-end studio, has all the bells and whistles equipment-wise, but does not have the expensive rate attached.”
Mike Paragone, studio manager for East Iris (www.eastirisstudios.com) in the Berry Hill area, states, “I think the state of the studio community in Nashville is looking up. I have been here at East Iris since 2002 and came in when the business was at its worst. I remember back when I was an intern here seeing a month go by with only four days out of the month booked. As we all know, a studio cannot survive, much less make a profit, off of four days booked a month. It kind of gave me a bleak outlook on what to expect in my career, but over the last five years it has gradually gotten better.
“As I see it, there are two major changes that have affected the studio business,” Paragone adds. “Technology and what I like to call risk management, “Paragone adds. “Under the technology umbrella, I would put the cost of recording equipment as one of the things that affected studios the most. It used to be that you had to go to a studio to record. You had no choice, unless you wanted to invest $90,000-plus in a 2-inch machine. Because there was no access for the end-user to the professional recording equipment, people had no choice but to use a studio. Studios had a huge leverage point, and rates and bookings were up. With the advent of professional-quality DAWs, and as the cost of equipment in general has gone down, many of the traditional studio barriers have been broken.
“Risk management is what the record labels are doing and has also affected us greatly,” Paragone continues. “What I mean by this is that labels are no longer taking as many risks on as many artists as they used to. This means that not as many projects are being recorded, so not as much studio time is being booked. As a manager, I have to set the bar higher and higher each day to separate myself from the rest. The business has become more about people than anything else for me. I build relationships with people first and then build a business trust. Without the best personal relationships, your studio will not survive.”
One of Cool Springs' most popular recording destinations is The Sound Kitchen (www.soundkitchen.com) run by studio manager Sharon Corbitt-House, who previously was a key factor in the success of Ocean Way Nashville for a number of years. Corbitt-House feels that, in spite of the lumps the industry has taken during the past few years, things are still evolving in a positive way for the diverse local studio community.
“The Nashville music community has grown so much over the past few years,” she reflects. “So many great and talented musicians and artists are now coming to Nashville to record, and some are staying and buying homes. Why do you think that is? I believe it is because we are still very much a community. I still strive to provide the same quality, hands-on service that I always have, even with budgets being up and down the way they are these days. I find that people want that place that they can come to and create and not feel they are doing it alone.
“I have clients who have home studios, who come here just to reconnect with other clients and feel supported. I don't care what anyone says — creating music is still a ‘family’ thing, much better in a group than alone. You need that energy and feedback around you to feel inspired and to feel like you are moving forward. Which is better — a live performance alone or in front of an audience or with a few close friends to cheer you on and to give you feedback? With anything in life, there has to be balance.”
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