Music Issue 2010: Finding Their Sound

Local studios thrive despite the DIY recording boom

Two of Omaha’s better-known studios don’t feel endangered by the rise of desktop computer do-it-yourself home studios in the Omaha area. Owners of both Ware House Productions and Rainbow Music Recording Studio say the demand for their expertise remains high and they don’t see any computer program replacing real, professional studio spaces any time soon. Nils Erickson, who’s owned Rainbow since 1976, says his business is down from a decade ago, but it has ticked up from the recession-spurred low of a few years ago. “I’d say it’s picking up a little bit,” he says. His studio generates business from rock bands, rap acts and piano recital recordings. “We pretty much do everything,” Erickson says. Rainbow is also in sound, lighting and equipment repair, diversifying itself beyond just a recording studio. The studio space, which Erickson says measures a couple thousand square feet, has a main room, a vocal isolation room and a control room, plus a $40,000 ProTools production rig. The rise in home recording reminds Erickson of the rush to four-track tape recorders in the 1960s. There’s a perception that a program like Apple’s GarageBand can create the quality of a real in-studio recording, he says. Erickson thinks of it more as an introductory tool, giving people a taste of recording. “We get them when they realize there’s a reason you need a world class studio,” he says. Rainbow comes stacked with equipment that would be hard to plug into the computer and press record with, such as a seven-foot Baldwin concert grand piano and a 1966 Hammond B-3 organ. Tom Ware, owner and chief engineer of Ware House Productions, reports his business is still strong. He credits that to a business that does more than rock bands, recording voiceovers, radio commercials and various other sound recordings. Ware House’s ability to be diverse has kept it going for 17 years. The Omaha market isn’t big enough to just have one specialty, Ware says. “If I dealt with bands all day long, that would wear on me pretty quickly,” he says. Ware says he sees cycles in how many musicians come through the door, but whether it’s a band or his own compositions, Ware says he’s always working on music. The big studios also are able to couple expanded instrument selection with the acoustically treated conditions in the recording room. That highlights the stark differences the differences between a cramped basement recording spot and a roomy studio, Erickson says. “There’s some things that can’t be captured at home,” Erickson says. Mike Kronschnabel is offering a middle ground between a bigger, professional studio and the homespun session. Since 2006, he’s run Moose Lodge Recording Studio in his house, doing band recording and voice over sessions for clients in a 400-square-foot space. The former producer of the regional music television show “Trout Tunes,” which aired from 1991 to 1997, Kronschnabel basically adapted that experience into production work. He says there’s room for all sorts of studios, including a lower-cost one like his, so that people can get a high-quality recording without busting the budget. Technology has helped equalize the playing field, though he says having a good sounding room is still half the battle. “It has definitely moved away from being all done in high-end level,” he says. Ware says he realizes the decreasing costs of computers continues to put simple, computer studio recording in more peoples’ grasps, but ultimately any acoustic instruments are going to suffer when recorded in less than ideal conditions, such as in a basement with a low-hung ceiling. It’s all about how sound travels and bounces about in a space. If the room is bad, it’s hard to fix it. “You can’t cheat on the laws of physics,” Ware says. Ware says he doesn’t think changing technology or new studios will endanger his business. “We run our own race here,” Ware says. “This is the sort of business where you find your own niche and do your own thing.”

posted at 04:08 pm
on Wednesday, December 01st, 2010

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