NASHVILLE SKYLINE

Jan 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Dan Daley

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Mix Regional

The Mix Regional section for Mix's May 2014 issue focuses on Nashville. Send us your studio news: updates, sessions, new rooms, club performances and installations. Let the Mix audience know what is going on! Send photos and descriptions to mixeditorial@nbmedia.com.

The big news in town is the possible purchase of Masterfonics out of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy situation. The suitor is Emerald Sound Studios. As of mid-November, Emerald owner Dale Moore was reportedly pursuing individual settlements with various creditors of Masterfonics (which filed for Chapter 11-restructuring-protection at the beginning of 1998), though Moore declined to confirm or deny that. Underscoring the lengthy history of both facilities, one of those settlements would have to be with Milan Bogdan, general manager of Emerald for the past four years and a former co-owner of Masterfonics. Bogdan would have had to drop ongoing litigation against Masterfonics owner Glenn Meadows to allow any sale to occur.

Acquisition of Masterfonics by Emerald would create Nash-ville's largest studio facility, with four recording rooms, a mix room and two mastering studios, as well as the broadcast operations that Emerald has developed over the last two years. Such a move would also reflect the ongoing consolidation of the music industry in Nashville in recent years as the fortunes of country music, which continues to be the primary revenue source for most major studios in the city, trail off overall. (Including massive sales by several artists, notably Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes, country as a genre was actually up by approximately 5% in Q3 '98. However, adjusted for reality-i.e., Brooks is an anomaly and Twain is actually a pop artist-rank-and-file sales continue to slide, and Nashville has lost more major labels than it has spawned in the last two years.)

Both Emerald and Masterfonics are anchor facilities for Nashville, presently and historically. Moore purchased Emerald, then a one-room studio, from producer David Malloy, the late Eddie Rabbitt and songwriter Even Stevens in 1985. Tom Hidley was brought in to renovate the control room, and an SSL 4000E console was installed. A mid-priced second recording studio was later added, as was a broadcast division, and space was rented to a tenant post-production company, all of which were revenue generators. These helped allow Emerald to sit out the expensive technology arms race-which saw over five new state-of-the-art studios come online, along with a total of five SSL 9000 J consoles and the first U.S. installation of Sony's Oxford digital board-that began engulfing Nashville in the mid-1990s.

Meadows, long regarded as one of the world's premier mastering engineers, took an opposite strategic tack in his studio's development. After purchasing a controlling interest in the studio in the 1970s from founder Mack Evans and later buying out another investor to become sole owner, Meadows expanded the facility, surviving an earlier bankruptcy filing in 1984. The facility's two mastering suites were eventually augmented by a mixing studio, whose SSL G console was fitted with Nashville's first-and only-AT&T digital core; Studio 6, a mid-sized tracking studio; and, in late 1995, The Tracking Room, a very large, stand-alone recording studio (designed, like the rest of the facility, by Hidley), which featured Nashville's first 9000 J console.

Though The Tracking Room can be credited with igniting a flurry of high-end studio building in Nashville (beginning a period that saw the arrival of Ocean Way and a twin-9000 installation at Starstruck Studios), it can also be posited that The Tracking Room represented the excess of a Nashville in the midst of a music sales boom whose exuberance often clouded real-world judgment. Masterfonics and other studios expanded along with record label artist rosters and publishers' writer rosters. Both the record business and the studio business have seen severe contraction in the last two years. Many in Nashville also cite as a specific reason for Masterfonics' economic woes the fact that Meadows made significant capital investments in his facility-a reported $3.2 million in The Tracking Room alone-without purchasing the real estate they were located in.

In other news, Ocean Way/Nashville will be installing a 96-input Neve VR console with GML automation into its Studio B. The VR, purchased from recording artist Kenny G, is replacing the Sony Oxford digital console, which will be moved into the facility's third studio, replacing an API board. The VR was heavily modified by John Musgrave-who is also partners with Ocean Way/Nashville co-owner Gary Belz in a new technology company that specializes in modifying Neves-in collaboration with George Massenburg. Mods include, among other options, an 8-bus film-surround mixing section and channel processing upgrades.

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