Studio Unknown’s Confessions of a Small Working Studio—The Internet: The Birth of a New Focus?

Apr 1, 2010 5:04 PM, By Kevin Hill and Lisa Horan

Rob Kahn, the creative director and founder of New York City’s Mixology Post

Rob Kahn, the creative director and founder of New York City’s Mixology Post

It’s impossible not to notice the upsurge in online video consumption. With YouTube claiming nearly 90 percent of unique views, according to Nielsen Online, the time that Americans are spending on video sites has escalated by more than 300 percent since 2003. But what does this mean for audio professionals? Is it good news? Bad news? Does it really matter at all? For the studio owners we talked to this month, the Internet has definitely had an impact, and it’s gone well beyond providing a simpler and more efficient delivery method to clients. Not only has it opened the door to new opportunities and sparked innovative approaches to optimizing sound quality, in some ways the Internet has triggered a complete overhaul in the way these studio owners do business.

No More Business as Usual?
“One of the greatest ways the Internet has affected us is that clients don’t come to the studio anymore,” says Rob Kahn, the creative director and founder of New York City’s Mixology Post, whose client roster includes A&E, ESPN, Showtime, the NHL and BMW. “The talent comes in, the engineer gets a phone patch set up, the producer produces over the phone from wherever he or she is, and then we post files via FTP. It’s a lot quieter around here these days.”

It’s even quieter in CJ DeVillar’s Santa Monica, Calif., studio. Roughly 95 percent of his clients communicate solely via e-mail, and he never meets them face-to-face. “I have a toll-free number, but hardly anyone ever uses it,” says DeVillar, owner of SongWorx and a longtime engineer who has worked on projects for such artists as Michael Jackson, O.A.R. and Disturbed. Not only has the Internet proved effective for communicating, but also for marketing. In fact, about half of the work he lands is a result of Google hits; the other half comes from Twitter and Facebook. He has found this type of networking much more effective than traditional advertising because it allows potential clients to get to know him on a more personal level, and he believes this is crucial. “Just about all of my clients prefer to communicate by text or e-mails, so the Internet has been extremely beneficial for me.”

Clients are even relying on Internet communication to evaluate and approve final mixes of projects. According to Kahn, clients lean toward this delivery method not because they can hear a mix especially well in their own offices, but because they can have access to it in a matter of minutes. “Believe it or not, a lot of times, even if we are working on a mix in surround sound, clients will ask us to post a file to the Internet for them to listen to and approve,” admits Kahn, who says that one of Mixology’s current clients, which happens to be a major cable TV network, recently made that very request.

And, of course, this system has provided studio owners expanded opportunities to work with clients who would have been impossible to reach in the past because of geographical or time restrictions. For example, of the nine of projects DeVillar is currently working on, only one is located on the West Coast. The remaining eight are scattered throughout the world in places like the Ukraine, UK, Japan, Poland and Montreal.

Kahn confesses that there are additional positives to this scenario. “Not having clients in the studio is great in that it has enhanced creativity since I don’t have to worry about them looking over my shoulder, which usually causes me to go to my tried-and-true methods to work more efficiently. But when I’m given the freedom to take an extra 15 minutes to try something fun and innovative, the client benefits because I’m able to produce something that’s more creative,” says Kahn. On the flipside, he does miss the collaborative nature that in-person studio sessions offer. “I do miss working with people,” he says, “and I miss all the fruit we used to have around the studio for clients.”

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