Pro audio has always been an industry of entrepreneurs, regardless of whether it’s the dedicated small team behind a boutique gear company or the independent engineer finding her next gig. It’s not that hard to catch the entrepreneurial spirit, but it can be tough to maintain it, especially in this industry.
That’s something that came to mind recently when I watched an episode of the reality webseries, Small Business Revolution, where the hosts helped a fledgling studio, Lighthouse Sounds, renovate not only its premises but its business plan and image as well.
Reality TV shows have dipped their toes into the recording world before. Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters built airborne mini-studios for both 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 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.
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 legally define who owns the business—a potential minefield, since Stanley owns the building and pays the bills, while St. Cin is the engineer and owns the equipment.
Later, 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 chief engineer, Mike Stankiewicz, who inform the pair they’re being penny wise 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 new business, but they may well sound familiar to some studio owners out there.
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 will have to take over.
Small Business Revolution • https://www.deluxe.com/small-business-revolution/about/