Pro audio has always been an industry of entrepreneurs. I was reminded of this fact while walking around the AES Convention this month—all the big brands were at the show, but there were also plenty of boutique audio manufacturers on hand, presenting their latest creations, be they physical re-creations of classic gear or all-new plug-ins that will alter your audio in ways previously unfathomed by humans.
The entrepreneurial spirit can be found throughout this issue, too. When you have a personal stake in seeing something succeed, regardless of whether it’s a product or a company, you try harder and you achieve more. In our View from the Top column, TJ Smith, president of EAW, relates how he and the company’s employees are feeling that way these days as the loudspeaker manufacturer gets a new chance to forge its own path.
Related: EAW President Talks Acquisition by RCF Group, What’s Ahead, by Clive Young, Oct. 29, 2018
On the cover, our former publisher, Paul Gallo, recalls proofreading the first issue of Pro Sound News 40 years ago with his family around his dining room table.
It’s not that hard to catch the entrepreneurial spirit, but it can be tough to maintain it. That’s something that came to mind recently when I watched an episode of the reality web series Small Business Revolution, where the hosts helped a fledgling studio, Lighthouse Sounds, renovate not only its premises but its business plan and brand image.
Reality TV shows have dipped their toes into the recording world before. Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters built airborne mini-studios for Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, WA, and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line in 2014, and FYI’s Tiny House Nation built a backyard recording room for Lil’ Jon last year, but the Small Business Revolution episode I saw features a comparatively more serious business makeover for Lighthouse Sounds.
Each season, the series, sponsored by small business services titan Deluxe Corporation, provides a $500,000 revitalization to a small town and several of its local businesses. The latest season centers on Alton, IL, where Lighthouse Sounds is based, so the episode finds Deluxe’s Amanda Brinkman and co-host Ty Pennington (Trading Spaces; Extreme Home Makeover) helping the partners behind Lighthouse figure out how best to keep the lights on.
Related: Reality Series Shows Small-Town Studio the Light, by Clive Young, Oct. 25, 2018
Naturally, the revitalization process plays to Deluxe’s offerings (the owners get surprised with a new logo, website and merch) and Pennington helps frame up a new recording space in a quick montage, but there’s more going on than the usual reality TV tropes.
Over the course of the half-hour, we watch the studio’s young partners, Jay (Hart) Stanley and Alex St. Cin, struggle to keep their tempers as they work with a lawyer to define who owns the business from a legal standpoint. (Stanley owns the building and pays the bills, while St. Cin is the engineer and owns the equipment.) When St. Cin has to leave town for two weeks to get trained for a new side job (repairing gear for Vintage King), they grudgingly accept that they need more than one engineer on staff. And at one point, they get a not-so-gentle review from visiting studio pros Juanita Copeland, president/COO of Nashville’s Sound Emporium, and her head engineer, Mike Stankiewicz, who inform the pair they’re being pennywise and pound foolish by not adding a crucial element to their construction plans. All in all, the lessons imparted by the hosts and studio pros are broad enough to be applied to any young business, but they may well sound familiar to the small studio owners out there.
Related: TV’s Tiny Studio for Lil Jon, by Clive Young, Feb. 28, 2017
Does it all work out for the young partners? In the short-term length of the show, well, of course; this is reality TV after all. But in the long-term, when the cameras have left Alton, IL? That’s where the real “reality” part will come in—and where the entrepreneurial spirit has to take over.