How One Man Survived the Changing Pace of the Music Industry
“It’s true to say I had found a way to totally ‘party’ my way out of the recession!”
The ever evolving state of the music business is something we at ALT-MU are always interested in. It’s important to be constantly on the lookout for new ways of doing things. Owner of UK recording studio ‘Born in a Barn Studio’, Roger Greasby talks us through his journey.
We Party! We always have and we always will – it’s just how we do, that changes.
X-Factor spin-off and party animal Cher Lloyd, wrote the words ‘work hard, party harder’ and week-by-week, we live the reality!
So, approximately 18 years ago I was building a studio which became, what is relatively well known today as BB Studio and the joke is that in building it back then, I lost my band, business partner, budget and bird!!
(I’m a part Northerner, so for non-Northerners, bird is colloquial for girlfriend!).
Back in those days, there was no Internet – shock! I used 1/4” spool tape to record on and produced band demo’s mixing down to DAT and then copying onto cassette tapes. “Oooooooo what’s that?” Well it’s old and been heavily replaced with far better digital media which doesn’t wear out
Tape does of course still exist – the police use it in some less developed interview rooms and some studios still probably swear that analogue sounds far better but frankly, digital media is here to stay.
Over the years the studio has changed a lot – it used to be full of hairy blokes with denim jackets, ripped shirts and studs all over their clothes, drinking beer and smoking fags ‘et al’. Nowadays, it’s full of excited children with denim jackets, sparkly shirts and studs all over them – funny how fashion goes around and around. People have studs and coloured hair are not called punks anymore!
Along the way many tactics have been employed to keep the studio alive and vibrant – all sorts of stunts have been pulled not least of which was keeping a studio rabbit as an attraction (some had expensive snakes etc.), which certainly attracted the ‘partners’ of many bands and kept the spiders out. Events have been run, marketing campaigns organized, competitions have been sponsored and adverts placed, as any studio does but it’s been tough – fact.
I have not always exclusively run the studio either. I took industry-related jobs to earn capital, outsourced work and even let groups sub-let the building whilst I pursued other activities; such as stage-hand work, monitor engineering (on short tours) and sound technician for SSE, but later tried my hand at driving. This, I was assured, would lead to seeing the music industry from within.
It certainly did and after gaining an HGV class 1 license I was regularly sent off on various short tours in the UK working nearly every major music festival in the UK. Good jobs and plenty of tour parties were attended. All good things come to an end though and ultimately I became one of the legendary drivers who had a great accident – turning an artic on its side was a life changing moment believe me – “I need to get the studio back on its feet” was my only thought after this happened! My trucking days were numbered.
So I did and fortunately the housing market had swung in my favour. Alas, the studio was reborn in 2004. Bouncing back onto the scene, it became immediately very popular with bang-up-to-date Pro Tools & Mac based rig. With a massive live room and a new cool overnight Chillzone, the studio was perfect for parties. So, many parties happened after and indeed during recording sessions and the studio certainly got a reputation for being a good bolt hole!
During this time I focused on maintaining the studio, improving the facilities and developing the now incredibly important online presence. How did we cope without Facebook? Does anyone do anything, which is not documented – or recorded! Will Twitter be with us forevermore? Does anyone remember MySpace? Now there’s SoundCloud, ReverbNation, Blogger, Pintrest bla bla bla! So the industry changed a little and just when you think you are winning, the economy crashes.
In 2008 the recession years kicked in – forcing many people to suck in their finances and stop any, what was quickly labeled ‘vanity purchases’ like foreign holidays, new cars and… recording stuff. Many local studios closed but this just fuelled my desire to survive the recession and use my studio for any means necessary, to ride out the recession and burst out the other end – all recessions end right? In the next 2 years my business brain developed and 2 major side arms/services were developed keeping interest high and turnover revving, not idling.
In 2009 I realised that I could develop a new service focusing on parties. In July 2009 Pop Star Party was born – it got its own page on my website and I started to talk about it at network groups. I advertised it in small local mags and ran online ads through the now globally recognised search engine and family name – Google!
After many hiccups and a few near misses the penny dropped on how to fully utilise my premises for this service, so lots of changes took place, including completely refurbishing the side room into a ‘Green Room’. I turned it into a place for kids (and adults alike) to eat their buffet food during parties and hang out, whilst I sort out some of the initial recordings. However, being the master of duality I managed to ensure the room doubled as an over-night room, which adequately sleeps 4 people – perfect for bands!
Unwittingly in 2010 I met Tony White who was impressed with the studio, my work ethic and attitude. We developed a working relationship as he rekindled his songwriting passion and our combined production approaches slowly started to develop a seemingly unique flavour.
In 2011 we started to put together a songwriting service dubbed RantProd Music Production, which after just 1 year we turned into a business. When Tony suggested we should develop the studio more with a separate studio for songwriting. I was in full agreement and building began. Further to this, we incorporated a ‘corridor’ to join our 2 buildings and business ventures together. A totally unique room was designed to incorporate a red carpet.
So who in the music industry would think that having a ‘red carpet room’ could be lucrative? Well it is and we named it Pop Star Parade. Adding lights, lasers, magic mirrors, posters of pop stars and making a feature out of steps (no, not the 90’s supergroup Steps!), a Hall of Fame was born. Running photo sessions on the steps had started a small but growing buzz about the magic of having your party at the barn. It’s true to say I had found a way too totally ‘party’ my way out of the recession!
With Pop Star Party, the recording aspect of the service is now only a small part – singing, team spirit, food, photos, video and a full-on disco all are part of the service run – but the CD at the end is the cherry on the cake. Nowadays I’m still focused on producing the best music I can for all of my clients but I have a business to run and a recessive society to deal with. Pop Star Party has grown in size and numbers since 2009 and now is a registered trademark. We have branded clothing, local radio adverts and a presence in national magazines going directly to school kids such as Primary Times.
Aside from running the kids parties and writing songs, I continue to work with many bands and soloist singers, undertake loads of corporate and vocal work, sponsor various singing competitions both locally and nationally and collaborate on some writing ventures. The difference is that now the pressure is off to go hunting for the work and I have peace of mind to deliver my productions from a relaxed studio during the week. Most recently the studio has received a substantial upgrade moving away from the ProTools TDM system to a Native system utilizing the superfast Thunderbolt interface and we are rapidly gaining interest in music video production.
The studio has grown a lot in 9 years. We have developed the upstairs Chillzone, partitioned the control room off to make a unique entrance area with a kitchen and have a large ‘Green Room’ to one side. My song writing partnership, RantProd Music Production now has the relative luxury of a purpose built song-writing room, which has led to the creation of countless great tunes, including Jubilation Nation – the video that gained well over 4,000 views on YouTube in a fortnight of Jubileee fun.
So, yes, parties have played an important part during the ‘barns’ development and success, alongside producing countless bands EP’s and albums. Who knows what the future holds and what Simon Cowell, Apple, and alike will next do to shake the music industry up, but BB is destined to be around for a good while yet.
Feature by Roger Greasby