Nashville Skyline

Sep 1, 2004 8:00 AM, By Rick Clark

Polls


Mix Regional

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New country artist Gretchen Wilson (seated) and Mercury recording artist Terri Clark pose in Emerald’s Studio A during a radio remote broadcast.

Nashville’s recording community has seen its fair share of drama in the past few years as the music industry adjusted to the emerging business models. Many would agree one of the “main acts” in this continuing soap opera is titled, “What Will Happen to Emerald Recording?”

For more than 20 years, Emerald has reigned as a leading recording studio on Music Row, having seen many ups and downs, but more importantly, lots and lots of great music. Emerald’s seven Music Row–based recording and mixing studios (and five divisions spanning five buildings) have been the scene for countless critically acclaimed and hugely successful projects. Newer superstars such as Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney flock to Emerald and Masterfonics, while legendary country artists George Strait, Wynonna and George Jones have long called Emerald their recording home. Pop artists Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban and Alicia Keys are among the artists outside Nashville’s normal circle who have recently chosen to use Emerald when they come to town.

But in recent years, as rumors of the company’s financial strain swirled around town, many wondered if the company had a future to match its illustrious past. Now, Nashville has been buzzing with the story that Weston Entertainment, the San Antonio–based company that purchased the Sound Kitchen a year ago, would increase its market share with the purchase of Emerald. Emerald COO Andrew Kautz confirmed that the company was in negotiations with Weston for a long period of time, but in the 11th hour, they chose not to move forward. “I think it just wasn’t a good fit for them at the time,” Kautz says. “Weston is a very large company, and it became evident that they have many irons in the fire and perhaps now was not the right time for them to add a company as complex and diverse as Emerald to their holdings.

“I will admit it was a shock when the Weston deal did not go through. All the indicators were that we were moving forward; however, I always know that a deal is not done until it is signed. At this point, I am even more dedicated to finding a party that understands and appreciates the incredible value and history that is here.”

It is no secret that Emerald successfully emerged from Chapter 11 back in 2002. The problem was that it was a dollar-for-dollar plan, as is necessary for the shareholders to keep their equity. “The company had been leveraged to this point beyond its asset values, and it became evident that though we were able to cash-flow the plan for over a year, that without an equity infusion or truly reorganizing the debt, we were only biding our time,” Kautz explains.

“Then, in 2003, factors beyond their control dictated that management, in an effort to assist a transition of ownership and to preserve the value of the entity as a going concern, once again put Emerald into Chapter 11 to reorganize once and for all. Ironically, Emerald has experienced some of its strongest months in years, and we are more capable now than we have ever been. Reorganization makes you really look at yourself through a microscope and gives you freedom to make needed adjustments. I have worked diligently to isolate our staff from the day-to-day issues of reorganization, trying to allow them the ability to do what they do better than anyone in Nashville. It also doesn’t hurt that we have and continually cater to some of the best clients any facility could hope for.”

Kautz confides that although Weston passed, the word spread fast and he has been inundated with prospective buyers. “Whoever purchases us is undoubtedly going to get an incredible value at the proposed $2.2 million mark, but what I am most concerned with is finding a buyer that is a good fit with the business we have built over the years. We have one of the most loyal client bases ownership could ask for, a dedicated and unrivaled staff, we have remained solidly booked even through hard times and, most important, we have diversified Emerald’s operations using multiple profit centers, which is essential to success in this day.”

In addition to the studios, which all boast SSL consoles, the company offers a thriving broadcast division and includes the Masterfonics mastering facility and a partnership with Michael Davis called Digital Audio Post @ Emerald.

Qualified buyers interested in the purchase of Emerald should contact Kautz at 866/437-4801 or drew@emeraldentertainment.com.

Rhythm guitarist Matt Kluting (background) and lead axeman Brandon Bennett of Kids on Stage band Novacain bang their heads

September traditionally marks the beginning of another school year, but in Leiper’s Fork, this summer was the time for another kind of school, one that kids actually looked forward to: Kids on Stage summer camp. This annual event takes place at Hillsboro Elementary Middle School and is part of the school’s year-round curriculum dedicated to the arts.

Founded in 1997 by altruistic visionary Aubrey Preston, Kids on Stage provides talented students with an opportunity to work with professionals in the music industry and learn how to write songs, improve their playing skills and form bands in many different genres, as well as study engineering, filmmaking and videography. Preston, along with the selfless and hard-working Gene Cotton, managed to wrangle sponsorships and loads of gear and instruments from manufacturers including Mackie, Gibson, Elixir Guitar Strings, Eastman Instruments, Holland Amps and others. The Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative also kicked in as a corporate sponsor.

This year’s summer program—attended by nearly 300 students—was the biggest ever. The program’s instructors are all career professionals involved in various aspects of the art and music business. The camp is noted for its celebrity guest appearances: Luminaries who have stopped by include Naomi and Wynonna Judd, the Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald, Deana Carter, Faith Hill, John Haitt, John Anderson, Tim McGraw, Trey Bruce, Robin Hood, Kirk Whalum, Randy Goodrum, producer/videographer Sam Taylor and others.

While I’m certainly not in that league of notoriety, I’ve been asked to pitch in for the past couple of years to provide instruction. I usually take on a handful of kids and help them form a band and pick music, and arrange and perform it at the climactic camp concert in the school’s auditorium (which is outfitted with generous amounts of recording and P.A. gear courtesy of Mackie and a very nice Bag End speaker system).

Like all of the kids in this camp, my guys—who adopted the band name Novocain to reflect their metal tastes—had to apply and demonstrate some proficiency on an instrument to enter. The real value of this camp was showing them how taking responsibility for their talent and contributing to the team effort really can lead to making music that matters.

I would highly recommend that pros in the Nashville area call Cotton, the academy director for Kids on Stage, to offer their talents to this worthwhile undertaking. You won’t be sorry.

For further information, contact the Kids on Stage office at Hillsboro Elementary Middle School, 615/599-8591 x4938, or academy director Gene Cotton at 615/794-5712.

On a closing note, I recently learned that Nicole Cochran, one of the Nashville recording community’s most tireless advocates, was stricken with MS. As many know, it is a heartbreakingly cruel, debilitating disease. Cochran is a real trooper and, in spite of some hard days, she is still on the phones and e-mailing, running her publicity company, Nic of Time Communications.

When we discussed her situation, Cochran noted that, “Due to doctor’s orders, I am going to have to cut down on my stress and work load. Unfortunately, I can’t go mach speed like I have since I opened Nic of Time in 1996. Because of that, I have had to decline SPARS’ invitation to become the executive director. Press had already gone out that I accepted. They are currently searching for another executive director and interviewing candidates.” Interested parties should contact SPARS president Jeff Greenberg at The Village in Los Angeles at villagerec@aol.com or SPARS@SPARS.com.

“I am now going to focus my energies and business on what I do best: PR for the audio community,” she continues. “Sometimes life throws you your very own road block that forces you to stop and evaluate how fast you have been living. I am actually looking forward to bringing the business down to a more manageable size that allows me to just take on clients I am passionate about.”

While it is important to stress that Cochran’s MS is “functional” (as her doctor calls it), we hope you’ll join us in offering our support and care. “This community—NAPRS, AES, all the studios—have really rallied around me,” she says. “It has made a very difficult situation bearable. I feel so blessed.”


Send your Nashville news to MrBlurge@mac.com.






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