October 14, 2000
ARTISTS & MUSIC
by Christopher Walsh
A CURE FOR LAST-MINUTE BOOKING CACELLATIONS
While surround sound dominated news from the 109th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention, held last month in Los Angeles, another significant story from the event was the degree to which the Internet has pervaded the recording industry. The computer’s influence is old news, but audio professionals are making use of the Internet in novel ways.
Witness Euphonix’s InterNet-working, the remote monitoring and control technology that will extend collaboration outside the traditional bricks and mortar of the recording facility.
Claris Sayadian-Dodge, an active member of the California music and media industries, is exploring the Internet’s potential with her new venture, studioexpresso.com -an online information exchange and a booking and referral service that goes far beyond a recording studio directory.
Sayadian Dodge-who has held positions at such music and media companies as Ocean Way and Record One Studios, the acoustic design and construction firm studio bau:ton, and Rogers and Cowan Public Relations – explains that studioexpresso was born out of the frustration every studio manager inevitably experiences. “Even when I was at Ocean Way this happened,” she says, recalling her tenure as studio manager of the famous facility. “On Friday at 5 p.m., you get a phone call, and somebody cancels time. Now you’ve got two or three weeks of open time. If you’re lucky and are a multi-room facility, like Ocean Way, it’s not a big tragedy. But if you are a one- or two-room facility, you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to make 50 phone calls to your regular clients to see if somebody wants to come in. This was my wishful thinking: What if you could broadcast that?”
A growing number of California studios – some 20 are among the initial membership – are joining studioexpresso, which Sayadian-Dodge began to publicize in earnest at the AES convention.
Potential clients can search using a number of criteria. If choosing to search by session type, for example, users can select tracking, overdubs, mixdown, surround, Professional Tools, mastering, or Video/Film. A search can also be initiated by console type. Any studios corresponding to criteria entered are then displayed, along with a description of available rooms including dimensions, general location, equipment, and rates, which may be discounted.
“It’s very important for studios,” Sayadian-Dodge emphasizes. “They don’t want everybody to know they are discounting this week. I’m very sensitive to those needs. In a private way, can say, ‘I have an SSL 9000 room for two weeks.’ It’s amazing how there are so many cancellations, no matter what status studio you are. It just happens. Schedule changes happen to everyone.”
If a desirable studio is available, studioexpresso users can choose to request a booking, or to search again. Selecting to request a booking generates an immediate E-mail to Sayadian-Dodge, who has built a home office to accommodate the fledgling company. She then calls the studio, ascertains that time is still available, and calls the potential client with contact information for booking directly with the studio.
Revenue is generated from commissions paid by studios on bookings facilitated by studioexpresso. The service is free to registered users (registration takes no more than a minute) and to VIP members – artists, producers, engineers, record labels, managers, and production coordinators.
“It’s facilitating,” says Sayadian-Dodge. “It’s saving studio managers and production coordinators a lot of time in phone calls and follow-up. Each side (studio and client) takes an active role in it.”
Studioexpresso.com also features a growing list of engineer/producer profiles with recent credits and contact information, currently including Barry Rudolph, Joe Harley, Robert Biles, Marvin Etzioni, Rafa Sardina, Ken Allardyce, and Mike Ross. Upcoming features will include studios news, a studio bulletin board, and referrals for such support services as hotels, equipment, transportation, project coordinators, technicians, and assistant engineers.
Given the myriad possibilities offered by the Internet, Sayadian-Dodge has further ideas for studioexpresso, in order to more fully meet the many needs of a professional recording session.
“At AES, I connected with digibid.com, a cool site,” she says of the interactive auction site, which specializes in the sale of pro-audio video, lighting, and DJ equipment, as well as musical instruments. “Another site is (audio engineer database) realengineers.com. Those three would make us a really nice combination of services.”
In the present, Sayadian-Dodge is excited about studioexpresso.com, having learned from experience that the industry needs such a service.
“This is a search engine, and it’s interactive,” she explains. “Studios can sign up and use the system on a per-need basis. They set their own rates. The user community checks it and puts in their request if they see something that suits their recording needs. It’s a two-way thing, different from what else I’ve seen.”
The system could easily be applied nationally and internationally, and that could figure in studioexpresso’s future. For the time being, Sayadian-Dodge is focusing on California, a suitable test site given the abundance of studios, record labels, and audio professionals.
“The bottom line is that you still have to meet people’s needs and deal with people one on one, making phone calls and visits,” she adds. “The Internet is as good as the people using it. By itself, it is not doing anything other than computing very quickly and making administrative tasks easy. The service is still there; it has to be. That’s the plan here.”