— Chief engineer and co-partner Marc Nelson keeps the overhead low in small-city Indiana, offering great value to acts from nearby Chicago and elsewhere —
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA, May 3, 2012 — The Alley Recording Company, located in the arts-friendly city of Valparaiso, Indiana, is the brainchild of co-partner and chief engineer Marc Nelson. After a stint at the Chicago Recording Company and time spent as a protégée of producer legend Bill Schnee (Carly Simon, Whitney Houston, Steely Dan), Nelson decided to open his own studio in 2008 in his hometown of Valparaiso, despite a shaky economy and an even shakier studio industry, an atmosphere in which far more studios were shutting down than opening successfully. Nelson and co-partner Chad Clifford saw the opportunity to keep the overhead low in the small yet arts-rich Valparaiso, and offer a friendly, thrifty alternative to the studios in nearby Chicago. “We initially thought about opening a facility in Chicago, but competition kept me out – there are about 425 studios there alone,” Nelson recalls. “And out here there is zero overhead. Our rent is very low and I would say we are the nicest studio between here and Indianapolis.” The business model is paying off so far, with The Alley bringing a new level of studio professionalism to the area. The studio has an impressive arsenal of gear, much of which was sourced through Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro), the outside sales division of Guitar Center that focuses on the needs of professional users, and with whom Nelson has a longstanding relationship. “If I ever need something, GC Pro is always there,” notes Nelson. “I can’t stress enough how important they have been to my studio, simply because they always deliver.”
The two-suite facility certainly does not disappoint in terms of size, aesthetics and gear. The large live room measures 28 feet by 20 feet with 14-foot ceilings, with two isolation booths adjacent. Instruments include a Yamaha C3 grand piano, a Wurlitzer spinet, a vintage set of Ludwig drums, a Hammond A100 organ, various mallet percussion instruments, and guitars from such manufacturers as Gibson, Taylor and Rickenbacker, among other instruments. Nelson selected Focal Twin6 Be three-way monitors with matching subwoofer for his control room. “These are the only monitors I use and for my size, they are perfect. The top end is never shrill and they have plenty of power,” he states. His main console is a 36-channel MCI-Sony MXP-3000, which he runs with his Avid Pro Tools|HD2 system. The console also features eight integrated preamplifiers customized by Greg Norman from Electrical Audio. Outboard amplifiers include models from Daking, Great River, Chandler, Universal Audio, Vintech, Avalon and others. Other gear includes limiters and compressors from Summit, API, Empirical Labs and Chandler. And of course the microphone closet is fully stocked, with units from Audio-Technica, Blue, AKG, Flea (Flea 47 and Flea C12), Royer, Shure, Schoeps and others, which Nelson has mostly bought in pairs.
Valparaiso is known for its great music community, and Nelson spearheaded a 13-episode PBS series, “Live at the Alley,” filmed entirely at the studio. PBS has since asked the studio to do a second season. Nelson notes, “The main thing for the PBS series was for us to host high quality live performances – it wasn’t about money or even advertising the studio.” But the show has indeed raised the studio’s profile, and more and more acts from the Chicago area are turning to The Alley. “We got many of the large Chicago groups and a handful of others from Boston to Los Angeles involved with what we’re doing here. Let’s hope our good luck continues!”
For more information, please visit www.gcpro.com .