NEW YORK, NY—Launching as a one-man, one-room jingle house in 1975, New York’s Howard Schwartz Recording has since evolved into a multifaceted business, now known as hsr|ny, that has expanded to offer much more than just post-production audio services. With 35 years of operation already in the rearview mirror, founder/CEO Howard “Howie” Schwartz has now brought his twin daughters—Alexa and Zoe—into the business to further strengthen the company’s focus on personalized customer service.
“We really spend a lot of time on client services and making sure that we remember everybody’s name. The best restaurant in New York is the one where they know you,” remarks Schwartz.
A musical prodigy, disc jockey and a recording engineer who worked in Hollywood then Canada, Schwartz relocated to New York to work at commercial music facility National Recording Studios in 1972. It wasn’t all work and no play; Schwartz recalls taking part in some porno-flick dub sessions: “We didn’t get paid. Those are the fun things.”
Over the years, hsr|ny has grown to now encompass a dozen pre-production, post-production, sound-design and music-production audio studios; a dozen offline/online editing suites; and a casting company. The facilities occupy 20,000 square feet in the historic Graybar Building at New York’s Grand Central Station.
“We have many more facets now” than the early days, says Schwartz: “We’re in the video-finishing business, we’ve had a casting company for six years, we have a graphics company associated with us.”
Clients have come to appreciate hsr|ny as a one-stop shop, according to Zoe Schwartz, who has been appointed as director of sales and marketing (Alexa is the new director of client relations). “Sometimes a client will come in and say, ‘I want you to edit this. While we’re here, can you do the graphics and the mix for us, too?’” Some clients have been pleasantly surprised to discover that hsr|ny offers other services: “They start as audio clients, and they say, ‘I didn’t know you did video,’” she says.
A client might phone up for a particular service, she continues, but when they walk into the facility, they realize there are numerous other services on offer. “We’ve opened ourselves up to a huge clientele. There’s no limit to what we can do for clients.”
Recently, adds, Howie, “A predominantly audio client wanted to use our graphics company to do inserts for their television commercials. Generally, we hear that they’re going off to other places to get things done.”
Not that the company hasn’t always had several fingers in several pies. “We did a survey a long time ago,” Howie recalls. “We weren’t everybody’s #1 studio, but we were in the top 3 of everybody’s lists for promos, commercials, ADR—five topics. We were the only one in every category, but we weren’t #1 in any category. That was OK; I’d rather be everybody’s second studio.”
Nowadays, he continues, “Almost every advertising agency is a client in some part, either casting, graphics, radio production, TV or web-ba s ed. We have a lot of financial companies that come to us; we do webisodes for them. We do a lot of shows for cable companies, and a ton of DVD commentaries.”
There are plenty of opportunities to show off hsr|ny’s customer service. “We have a movie-star clientele coming in from all over the world every day, and we take care of them big time,” confides Howie.
Over the years, voiceover recording sessions have also evolved, he notes. “The setups that we do when we’re recording movie stars for animated features have become more and more complicated because the technology is changing. [The movie studios] can save money by shooting their faces, taking that video and sticking it in a computer program.” For example, he says, “The genie in Aladdin looked like Robin Williams because we videotaped him and they copied his facial movements.”
No doubt services will continue to be added to the menu. “We’re being responsive to our clients telling us what they want. Instead of saying ‘we don’t do that,’ maybe we should do that,” he says. “We’re very lucky that people still think of us as leading-edge, a fun place to hang out, the studio of choice.”