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Studio Showcase: AOFTHEI

NORTHBROOK, IL—Based in an affluent Chicago suburb, Artists of the Industry (AOFTHEI) is a burgeoning creative content agency and production studio with a variety of approaches to music and artist development up its sleeve.

NORTHBROOK, IL—Based in an affluent Chicago suburb, Artists of the Industry (AOFTHEI) is a burgeoning creative content agency and production studio with a variety of approaches to music and artist development up its sleeve. Launched this year by chief creative officer Duane Tornquist, AOFTHEI boasts a recording studio that uses its analog flavor to augment the company’s 360-degree A/V production business model; other offerings include web design, photography, live event production, cinematography, presentation technology, motion graphic production and editorial services.

Working for recording studios such as A&M Recording Studios (now Henson Recording Studios) in the late ’80s/early ’90s, followed by time in the corporate live and hospitality events industries, Tornquist has specialized in both marketing and content creation for years. “But my soul comes from the music industry,” Tornquist explains, “though [the industry] all changed with workstations at home as the big studios and record industry started to change. For a while, I found my home in the events industry, working with game developers, and even the 3D world. That all came together in the hybrid concept of what Artists of the Industry is about. In order to build a creative company, you have to go back to a Pixar-kind of approach, which is all about surrounding yourself with people that are better than you are and, in doing so, creating a powerful team. I have a passion for business, but I also have a creative passion, especially for the emotional connection that music and visuals bring together.”

Tornquist’s longstanding business partner, Jim Carlson, sold his company—American Audio/Visual Center, an Arizona-based A/V content firm servicing the hotel and resort industry—before tapping Tornquist to lead the development of AOFTHEI. “Over the last six years of the company, it was making $125M a year,” tells Tornquist of American Audio/Visual Center. “Because we were successful in creating content, coming up with creative teams, and providing a warm, hospitable environment, we began to consider, ‘How could we do this in another way?’ It was all about taking care of people and people’s needs. So we set forth to create a company based on the premise of it being an artist collaborative. In doing this, people represent the brand ‘Artists of the Industry,’ but [the participants] have a stake in it. Our goal is to turn the company into an employee-owned company, giving people some of the shares down the road. At this point, it’s a freelance group with department heads at the studio—so we’re not sure how it will work yet—but we’re moving forward with the idea in mind.”

Building an elite content company today is admittedly a challenge, offers Tornquist. “The problem is, there’s so much content to choose from today,” he explains. “We also have to prioritize the new mechanisms for delivering content. What is it going to be? In the B-to-B world, the buzz is on virtual reality and augmented reality. Clients are coming our way with this in mind—Marriott Hotels, Coca-Cola, and others are such clients. So, if we can bring together all these different talents and disciplines within a brick-and-mortar studio environment, all in-house, we can design ourselves as a hybrid agency of the future. That’s where Artists of the Industry hopes to be, and people are starting to gravitate towards us [for those reasons]. Our clients, which come to us from both old and new relationships, are just beginning to tell us who we are.”

Artists of the Industry’s studio was designed by Tornquist and his former A&M cohort Roland Alvarez. Together, they gleaned insight from many former colleagues while building out their Pro Tools | HD-centric music recording facility. “We have Jonathan Little’s Little Labs microphone preamps in here,” says Tornquist. “We have the API 1608 console because I just fell in love with the sound of the API in Studio C at A&M back in the day. We brought the concept of a warm analog front-end to Artists of the Industry. I always want to include music production in what we do.”

Another motivation behind launching Artists of the Industry, explains Tornquist, was a disappointment in overall audio quality within the industry over the past decade or so. “The sounds that were coming out of bedroom studios—out of a creative vacuum—were disappointing,” he admits. “So, I will always reference back to the experiences of walking through the hallways of A&M. In one instance, Cheap Trick were in one studio, and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders were in another. And all of a sudden, they brought a couch into Studio A, and Chrissie was singing on a Cheap Trick song. It’s that collaboration happening—and it being the norm—and then seeing it go away that is really disappointing. I thought that, if we could facilitate that kind of collaboration again—even at a much smaller level—it would be great. That’s what we’re aiming at now.”

Today, Tornquist calls upon his deep list of contacts—from songwriters to A-grade musicians to publishers—to create modern creative mashups like the instance described above. “We’re trying to pull together the best of the old-school scenarios with the new-school distribution technologies,” he explains. “We plan to take our musical artists directly to visual content producers so they can find exactly what they are looking for, and we will do custom work, too. I know it’s a lot, but I’ve been spending years building the best rosters of talent I can find to create a customer service environment that is legitimately collaborative: a diverse, broad-based, rich content environment.”

Artists of the Industry

Other Equipment Highlights

Select microphones:
Neumann U87, Neumann U47 fet, AEA R84, Royer R-121, Neumann KM184, AKG C414 XLS, Sennheiser MD 421 II, Shure Beta 52A, Shure SM7B, Shure SM57