Remote Recording | Shifting Gears
Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Sarah Jones
FACING FEWER GIGS AND SHRINKING BUDGETS, REMOTE RECORDING STUDIOS STREAMLINE AND DIVERSIFY
The remote recording business is dying. The remote recording business is booming. It's about music. It's about broadcast. Ask 10 remote recording engineers about the state of their world, and you'll get 10 different answers. A historically small market, the remote world is certainly shrinking, with fewer players competing for smaller budgets and fewer projects. But given the challenging financial climate, most of the major companies are at the least cautiously optimistic, and at best enthusiastic, about brighter days ahead. And all are finding innovative ways to streamline and reinvent themselves.
Many changes in the remote business are indicative of larger shifts in music-industry models. Album sales are no longer success indicators; new releases support tours, which support 360-degree merch deals. Concert-recording budgets have dwindled, and clients either choose to record shows themselves with low-cost rigs or forego live-recording projects entirely — with remote trucks left feeling the pinch.
Karen Brinton, president of Remote Recording, which handles high-profile projects such as the HD broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and the Academy Awards, says the past year has been challenging. “Budgets just keep getting smaller and people keep wanting more for less, so I've been trying to find ways to still deliver quality to clients on a smaller budget. It's not easy.”
Kooster McAllister, who has been operating the Record Plant Remote truck for more than three decades, has also seen difficult times. “Counting inflation and everything, the truck is going out for less of a daily rate than it did 10 years ago. And the attitude is, take it or leave it,” he says. “I've been doing this long enough where I'm still one of the go-to people who gets the calls. And I would rather have some money than no money. But it's a slippery slope to get onto.”
Bucking the downward trend somewhat is Music Mix Mobile, which in its first 18 months of business has expanded operations to the West Coast, and worked on projects ranging from VH1's Storytellers with the Foo Fighters to the Country Music Awards and this year's Grammys. Partner and technical engineer Joel Singer attributes the company's success to its “dream team” of veteran mixers: “Two of my partners are the most demanded live music broadcast engineers in the business — John Harris and Jay Vicari — and I've just built good technical facilities for them.” Singer says the trucks were designed for new workflow rather than the most cutting-edge gear. “It's basically built around workflow to a way where we could streamline projects that didn't require having 30 percent more budget to do them. When you get that call, and they say, ‘After you record this, we also want you to mix it,’ it becomes more of a project than what a lot of our competition is doing by just going out and recording”
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