Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Quick Conversation with Joe Tarsia

This year marks a very special moment in the 32-year history of SPARS. The SPARS Board of Directors has selected recording legend Joe Tarsia as the first annual SPARS Legacy Award recipient. Joe was one of the original founders of SPARS in 1979 and the group’s first President. From Cameo/Parkway Records to founder and owner of the legendary Sigma Sound Studios, Joe Tarsia’s career has spanned more than 50-years of extraordinary music recording.

One of Joe’s highest professional achievements was his hand in creating the “Philadelphia Sound.” From the mid 60’s to the early 80’s, the unique sound that came to life in Sigma’s studios dominated the world’s airways. The success of Sigma regulars, Gamble & Huff, Tom Bell, Tom Moulton, Bobby Martin and Baker, Harris & Young attracted a stream of top artists and producers from around the world, all coming to capture the “Sigma Magic.” Some of those many hits were songs like “You’ll Never Find” by Lou Rawls, “Betcha by Golly, Wow” by The Stylistics and “For the Love of Money” and “Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays.

We had a chance to ask Joe a few questions to seek advice for those running studios today.

What concepts, ideas & customs would you like to see passed down to future practitioners of the recording craft?

The appreciation of what a good acoustical space can contribute to recording. Lost in much of today’s electronic, highly processed music is the natural organic sound of a rock band in a live room or the lush sound of strings as they reverberate off the walls of a good room. I was never one for too many booths, blankets and baffles, and it seems to me that today’s electronic productions personify the ultimate isolation booth.

What can studios do to help facilitate successful recording sessions?

The mission of a good studio and its staff is first and foremost to faithfully capture what is taking place in the studio and to do it with the least distractions to the producer and to the creative process.

What do you think are business success factors for today’s studios?

The reason the independent studios came to be and replaced the big label corporate owned facilities was because of the independents caring service and non-corporate creative atmosphere. Even more important than its gear, a successful studio must be friendly, clean, and comfortable and most of all provide an unpressured creative environment.

Based on many years of your experience and the changes you have observed in today's music industry, what advice do you have for studio owners?

Recognize that the only constant anyone can count on is change. The days of commercial studios with ceiling tiles covered walls and speakers hanging on chains are gone. So too are the young producers, artist and bargain hunters who sought their low end rates and now record in their friends garage. While today the number of commercial studios is fewer, there will always be a need for the excellence that only a truly professional recording environment can provide.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Offering Customized Protection for Recording Studios

Insurance is one of those business matters that studio owners would rather not think about, until it is too late. Not all insurance policies are the same and the good news is that there is a customized solution available specifically designed for recording studios. You can say Joe Montarello pioneered and perfected the art of protecting recording studios with his unique Recording Insurance Program by Capital Bauer Insurance Agency. We sat down with him to find out more about it.

What led you to dream up such a program?

As an insurance professional for over 35 years and also an active musician for 40 plus years, a number of years ago I put these two talents together. Working with one of the strongest insurance carriers in the world and created a policy that is specific to the recording industry that I am so familiar with.

It started back in the mid nineties, having built a project studio, I decided it would be best that I look into insuring it and called upon a dozen of the largest insurance companies that my agency represented and inquired about how they currently handle insuring recording studios. The majority of underwriters I spoke with all had a hard time understanding how to classify my gear. I explained I wanted the same type or similar coverage's used for the recording studio industry and every one of them said the same thing: "we don't have a specific form that is special for recording studios." None could even recommend anything other then the typical "cookie cutter" policy forms used to insure your typical main street businesses. Most could only equate the gear as "high end stereo equipment" and that's when I realized something had to be done; to make a long story short, The Recording Studio Insurance Program was created.

What’s different about the Recording Studio Insurance Program from regular business insurance options?

In addition to all the “cookie cutter” coverages found in regular business insurance, The Recording Studio Insurance Program is specific to your industry and goes beyond regular business insurance. Here are a few of the unique coverages & provisions included:

• No-Coinsurance
• Computer Viruses
• Equipment Breakdown Coverage
• Coverage for Borrowed/Rented Gear
• Theft by Any Party
• Electrical Disturbances
• Coverage for Damaged Media/Data Recovery
• Coverage for Gear in Transit and
Away from the Studio
• Flood and Earthquake Coverage (Available in most states)

...along with many more unique coverages.

What is tailored toward recording studios?

The unique way replacement value is determined & settled: In the event of a total loss we will replace your gear based on the original replacement value or if you are unable to find a replacement for your original gear, as a bonus, we’ll allow you to upgrade your gear based on the original replacement value plus an additional 15%!

There seems to be a lot of natural disaster in the news lately with instances of tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. What can I do to protect my studio and business?

First, make sure you have the correct insurance to cover the perils that you’re concerned about. Second, make sure you have the proper limits of insurance to be able to replace everything. As for general exclusions in regular business insurance, both earthquake and flood are excluded perils. The Recording Studio Insurance Program provides coverage for these two perils.

Besides natural disasters, can you share other incidents where you have helped a client get back on their feet?

The Recording Studio Insurance Program covers any type of water damage; we’ve had studios who suffered water damage from a broken pipe, where they not only lost gear but suffered severe damage to their build-out. Last year The Recording Studio Insurance Program responded to several of our Nashville studio clients who suffered severe damage to gear and build-out from the flood. These types of claims can take several months to rebuild. In addition to being covered for both gear and the build-out, we’ve also provided lost income for the studio's downtime! We’ve also covered major fires and numerous electrical disturbance claims, where a studio's gear was damaged either by an on premises lighting strike or some type of equipment failure due to an internal electrical issue either on or off premises.

For small project studios, what is the minimum coverage I should have?

That’s not easy to answer. A studio owner, whether large or small, needs to determine the replacement value for all the property. In addition to all the property / gear coverage, don’t forget about enough liability coverage to protect against a law suit from someone being injured on premises or injured during the operations of the studio both on and off premises.

How do I handle coverage for studios at home?

Pretty much the same considerations are used as if insuring a large studio. Same coverage issues exist if there is gear and liability issues to be concerned about.

How many studios are covered by your program?

Currently somewhere around 650 studios nationwide.

What states are you doing business in?

Currently doing business in 26 States.

What if I am in a state not covered by your program?

As a professional insurance agency, we are required by law to hold either a residence or non-residence license in each state we do business in. This license carries an annual cost. What I highly recommend is to call me (888-869-3535 x807); I would love to find out more about your studio and other recording studios in your state. This is how we’ve grown into new areas, by listening to current studio owners; this helps determine if the number of studios in your area will outweigh our annual licensing expense.

What can I do to keep my premiums down?

Being insured with an established industry insurance program, the benefits in both coverage and premiums are cost savers; higher deductibles, this helps keep all the small nickel and dime claims from effecting premium costs; having protective devices such as alarm systems, can provide additional credits.

For more information about The Recording Studio Insurance Program, please contact Joe Montarello.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2nd Annual National Recording Studios Open Day in New Zealand

New Zealand's National Recording Studios Open Day, first covered in this blog last June, is back for its second year. It will be held on Saturday, May 28 this year. Based on the successful response they had the first year, more studios are participating this year. So far, there are 12 confirmed studios opening their doors.

Organized & coordinated by the New Zealand Musician magazine, the afternoon event provides a rare opportunity for musicians, artist managers, music students and other enthusiasts to find out more about local studio facilities, as well as the audio quality benefits of recording in a professional studio environment.

National Recording Studios Open Day Press Release

Updated Event Page

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Conversation with Blaise Barton, President of E.A.R.S.

I had a chance to talk with Blaise Barton, President of EARS (Engineering And Recording Society) of Chicago about their organization. Blaise was elected President in November 2009. It seems fitting that Blaise got his first break when he was hired at Chicago's ACME Recording as an assistant engineer for EARS founder, Mike Rasfeld in 1988. He attended some of the earliest EARS meetings. Over the years his career grew from being assistant engineer, to chief engineer at ACME Recording, to owning and operating his own studio business, JoyRide Studio. This year, Blaise won his first Grammy along with Chicago producer / engineer (and EARS co-founder) Michael Freeman for work on the Pine Top Perkins / Willie Smith album Joined At the Hip in the "Best Traditional Blues Album" category.

EARS was founded in 1986 as an independent non-profit group dedicated to the advancement of excellence in audio production. A handful of Chicago engineers gathered at an AES show in New York in 1985 realizing that they met more away from home than they did back at home. The idea of EARS was born - a monthly social get-together where competitors could meet in an atmosphere of friendship, talk about gear, business, and music. The creed or motto on their logo says, “Deaf Before Dishonor.” (Another logo has the additional saying, “Don’t Shed On Me”.) EARS is a 501(c)3 organization.

As the music industry changed, so did EARS. The organization evolved to become truly music-centric and has opened their doors to all members of the community to create a group that encompasses every aspect of the music industry.

In a nutshell, the focus of EARS can be summed up as “fun, industry, and education” – that is have fun, discuss issues regarding the business, attend educational events, visit other studios and bring in high-profile guest speakers. In 2010, EARS guest speakers included Eddie Kramer, Bob Clearmountain, and Jim Gaines. At the February 2011 meeting, Russ Berger was the guest speaker.

There are approximately 180 members with 4-5 new members joining every month. Members consist of recording engineers, studio owners, musicians, students, manufacturers and pro-audio representatives. The Chicago market is diversified with post production work (for ad agencies such as Opus and Leo Burnett), a thriving music community and of course blues. Many new members are students from local audio programs. In Chicago, the main schools that offer programs are Columbia College, Flash Point Academy, DePaul University and more recently Northwestern University.

EARS meets monthly to discuss techniques and issues facing the recording industry. EARS meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month (unless otherwise noted) at various studios and establishments around Chicago. Last November, Genelec's Paul Stewart along with distributor Spoiled By Technology demonstrated setup and fine tuning of Genelec's advanced 8260A monitors configured in a 5.1 arrangement at Chicago's world class studio Chicago Recording Company. Using Genelec's finely tuned system, EARS then conducted a master class on mixing in 5.1 Surround led by CRC's Chris Steinmetz and American Mobile founder, CRC manager, and EARS member Chris Shepard. Besides the monthly meetings, activities include an annual holiday party, an annual summer BBQ and the occasional EARS Roast. EARS puts out a very well edited newsletter called EARDRUM.

One of the issues EARS has been discussing is the proliferation of studios started by recent graduates who were unable to find sustaining work – an issue not unique to Chicago and a common thread seen throughout the country.

EARS is well organized and is a very active organization. Please visit the EARS Web site to find out how you can join their group. You can also find more information about them on their facebook page or LinkedIn Groups.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Q&A with Philadelphia Recording Community's Mike Tarsia

1. When and how did your group come together?

The group came together in the summer of 2010. When Sigma Sound, the studio my father founded in 1968 began, there were only three recording studios in the Philadelphia area. I had noticed from word of mouth and Internet searches that there are now ten times that just within a few miles of me. I decided to hold a meeting in the back of a small local bar/restaurant on a Monday morning when I knew most traditional studios were slow and find more out about the phenomenon and how we could work together.

2. What is your group’s mission?

Our mission is cooperation, education and dynamic interface. Studios come in many sizes, shapes and abilities today. Some have more ability in certain areas, such as tracking of drums, cutting vocals or mixing. Many are musician or band project rooms. To meet, see each others facilities, discuss ways we can work together using the best elements of each studio, have the group opportunity to see the latest hardware and software from manufacturers while seeking out new revenue streams and marketing concepts, drives our mission.

3. How many members do you currently have and can you describe the makeup of your group?

It’s really a loose dynamic group. At most meetings there are between 40 and 50 people, plus the guest speakers. On Facebook there are over 250 people who joined the page. We have colleges who are members (as well as) larger professional studios, mid and small sized facilities and independent producers.

4. Do you meet regularly and where?

We meet once a month and we go to different facilities in our area. It gives us a chance to see who has what to offer and where.

5. What kind of activities does your group engage in?

The meetings usually start out with people filtering in and getting into informal discussions. It’s surprising how many studio people just want to talk to their peers and mentors. Then we have a formal discussion of issues concerning the community; I usually lead that part of the meeting. Finally a manufacturer demonstrates its wares and engages the group. George Hajioannou from Studio Logic Sound is the person who invites the manufacturers to the meetings.

6. How would you describe the Philadelphia recording scene?

It’s very active but faces the same issues as most recording scenes in tertiary markets.

7. What do you think are some key issues your members are facing or grappling with?

Well ever since the advent of low cost DAW based recording systems. The line between “home hobbyist” recording and professional recording has blurred. Novice people seeing out a place to record need to be educated about what it takes to make a great sounding record. Conversely studios need to know when it’s best to pass off parts of their projects to more capable facilities and how to best utilizing their place for things like tracking if they have a hot sounding room for that.

8. How do you think your group can address some of these issues?

By face-to-face interactions at changing venues. It’s great to see people who are in essence “competitors” so open and candid about their concerns and feelings. Also there is power in numbers so on issues with manufacturers and such, a group has more influence.

9. Can you share with us any info regarding upcoming events?

Our next event is Febuary 23rd at “The Studio.” Telefunken is bringing down their microphone arsenal and recording a one-man band, layered instrument by instrument. We’ll also be discussing Converse’s “FREE” recording studio Rubber Tracks.

10. Where can people in your area find out more about your organization?

They can visit our website and our Facebook page.

11. How can SPARS and PRC work together and/or help each other?

As you know, my father was a founding member and the first president of SPARS. Years later I became president of SPARS also. So there is some history there. I see a relationship where SPARS acts as a national conduit for the common concerns of the community based recording groups like the PRC, which are cropping up in cities around the nation.