Ira Blonder, Sound Kitchen owner,
in his office, which overlooks the
“Big Boy” mascot of the main
By Frank Wells.
Franklin, TN (December 16, 2008)--The Sound Kitchen studios--some 19,000 sq. ft. across seven studios, anchored by the API Legacy-equipped, 3000 sq. ft. Big Boy room and billed as the largest studio complex in the Southeast--has been under new ownership since last spring, the troubled transition not a harbinger of the current economic climate but rather the result of a breakdown in the previous ownership's partnership.
"I bought this first and foremost to preserve the Kitchen," owner Ira Blonder, tells PSN. Originally involved to help avoid a bank shutdown of the Sound Kitchen (based on the bank not wanting to assume liability in the face of the crumbling partnership, though the business was in the black), commercial real estate service provider, The Blonder Group, acquired the facility directly and has merged its offices with the Kitchen's administrative space.
Blonder is keen to address speculation about the Sound Kitchen's future, fueled in part by signs outside the Kitchen offering For Lease and Build to Suit opportunities. Rather than an indication of an impending repurposing of the facility ("If that were the case, I would've let the bank gut the building and turn it into an operation center," Blonder says), the offerings concern one 6,000 sq. ft. extension of the original building available for lease, and an unused patch of ground where another 5,000 sq. ft. could be built to suit. The ideal tenants (with negotiations currently underway with a recording label) would complement Blonder's goals of creating "an entertainment campus" built on a "regressive platform" that he sees as harkening back to Motown, the Brill Building or the Hollywood movie lots of the 1940's.
The recent sale of an SSL 9000 console was not about needing cash, says Blonder, addressing another rumor, but rather "a reconfiguration of a room." While the room is currently a blank slate, he says he envisions configuring it for film sound production. He offers his investment of $30,000-plus of new equipment and infrastructure purchases for the Kitchen as further evidence of his commitment to the business.
The Sound Kitchen has also recently worked out a relationship with Teddy Gentry (of the band Alabama fame) as an "artist in residence." Blonder says, "Teddy and I have talked about exploiting a number of opportunities," including co-publishing, artist development and potential internal projects. "We have three or four other people of that same ilk," Blonder elaborates, "with a tremendous history and success, and we're talking about bringing them in as well and making this, again, the type of home where someone can book a studio and have a co-writing session with somebody of Teddy's stature, and that doesn't happen often."
Blonder dismisses without comment criticism that key clients have stopped working at the Sound Kitchen. Staffing changes at the Sound Kitchen within the past year include the departure of the former studio manager and tech. Blonder says the Kitchen is "like any business in transition," adding that the "the people that we have here are those that are willing to accept change and evolve," evolution being what Blonder sees as necessary in today's studio marketplace. "Are these labels running the same old model that they ran [in the past]? Are artists handling themselves the same way they did in the mid-80's?
"All we're trying to do is accomplish a common good and that is to preserve the facility and grow. And work with the times and evolve...Change is inevitable. You can either change for the better or change for the worse. You can't stand still. We're not standing still, so let the rumors fly. We'll just be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and we're going to continually evolve until it reaches the point where I'm comfortable.”
Blonder says he is open to input from the community as the Sound Kitchen's future direction is developed: "I've heard time and time and time again how important this facility is to Nashville as well to the Southeast area, and it would've been a total disgrace if in fact the bank had come in and taken it at that time and sold off everything; it really would've been a huge blow to the Nashville community. But I stepped up. I put my money where my mouth is and if there are people out there that want to really have a detailed and honest conversation about how they can help and how they can help preserve and grow or [who] want to grow with us, that's what I'm here for. I'm not about shutting people out. I'm about inclusion."
The full transcript of PSN's interview with Ira Blonder can be found in Web Bonus.
The Sound Kitchen Recording Studio