SEATTLE, WA—When Clatter&Din co-founders Peter Barnes and Vince Werner pulled the trigger on their new Russ Berger-designed audio facility in February 2009, they had no idea that they would be opening for business just months after the biggest U.S. banking crisis since the Great Depression. But having built a flexible, agile facility while expanding their menu of services, the pair have been so successful that they are now considering throttling back a little.
Central to the success of the move to Clatter&Din’s 8,000-sq.-ft. home near Seattle’s Safeco Field ballpark has been the company’s expanded video capabilities. Although they had added video services several years prior to relocating, the construction at the new facility of a switch-hitting Avid Pro Tools edit suite that can quickly turn into a Final Cut Pro room, and a large voice and music recording booth that doubles as a video production space have both helped drive business, according to Barnes.
How do you know when it’s time to start work on the audio? When the project is out of time and money. “Audio is important to a lot of people, but also it’s sort of an afterthought,” says Barnes. “Being able to get ahold of clients while they’re still writing storyboards and getting ready to shoot, even if we don’t get the gig, to be able to have those services to offer and to have those conversations, is great. It allows us to get way further upstream in the revenue stream of a project and get involved much earlier. We don’t pressure them to do their shoot, but we make sure they know that we can.”
Those video shoots, typically in the $5,000 to $50,000 range, don’t cannibalize the company’s existing business: “A lot of our very high-end surround audio clients are the types of companies that are doing the big-budget productions. We’re not competing with them, so we can still get their high-end audio business. But we can play in a whole new area with being able to shoot for a whole bunch of new clients.”
For Clatter&Din, which also has a web services division, new video business can lead to other opportunities. “Every video job needs audio sweetening, and often those jobs need a web element of some kind. That strategy of providing those types of services, and being able to bundle them and approach a lot more direct corporate clients that are more in the price range of the type of services that we offer, has been really great. We’re working with a bunch of very cool clients up here in the Northwest, like Starbucks, Amazon and some of the gaming companies.”
Barnes built his first surround-capable room at the start of this millennium, and was disappointed that it attracted few clients. But now, he reports, “We’re doing a ton of surround.” Creating a surround version used to take 10 percent more time compared to stereo, he says. “We have it now so that it’s under 5 percent, so more and more, we are providing surround mixes of commercial work, whether the client wants it or not, because we’re willing to put in that extra 5 percent.”
As a result, between 30 percent and 40 percent of Clatter&Din’s commercial projects are finished in surround. “And we’ve been doing quite a bit of surround music—we’ve become one of the go-to places for surround mixing in the Northwest,” he adds.
Despite the economic climate, the company’s rate card has held steady. “I’m not feeling a tremendous amount of pressure to lower my rates, even though there continue to be poor-quality studios popping up that are able to charge half what I charge. I probably could get away with even raising my rates a little bit for my corporate clients, because we’re getting really fast at it and we continue to wow them with new techniques and technologies.
“That allows us to offer our music and film clients rates that are less than half of our corporate rates, because we know they don’t have it. We’re also very passionate about supporting those communities,” he says.
In recent years, the company has expanded into indie film work at an average of about two films annually. “We’ve worked with some really great people, some big names, and just had a ball. And we’re getting into some more speculative things—my partner and I are doing a few more entrepreneurial, long-term strategic partnerships and looking to get a little bit more mailbox money down the road. I’ve got a couple of films that I’ve got a nice back end on. One of them drops on Christmas Day this year—a film called Matt’s Chance, which stars Ed Furlong.” The film also features Lee Majors, Margot Kidder and Gary Busey.
In fact, says Barnes, “We’re trying to figure out how to stop getting into more areas of services, because we think we’re about the right size.”