QUINCY, MA—Studio owner Keith Asack, who graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Production and Engineering from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2010, must have been paying particular attention on the day that his instructor discussed the value of diversification. Having initially opened Keep the Edge Studios in 2012 as a music production facility, Asack soon expanded his menu of services to also include in-studio and on-location video production, live multitrack recording, and video game audio and voiceover work.
Asack’s early projections were based on a different type of business, he acknowledges. “Most of it revolved around teaching lessons; we figured that was how we were going to keep the studio busy. Day one, we got too busy for lessons—because you have to do the lessons at the same time every week, which doesn’t allow a studio to book [other projects].” The studio still hosts lessons, he reports, “But 5 percent of our earnings come from lessons, where we thought it would be 95 percent.”
Asack first ran a small studio out of the basement of a house while at Berklee. After a brief time in Los Angeles, he returned to Boston and secured a $100,000 small business loan. Over the next eight months, he and a colleague built a 2,000-square-foot facility on the lower level of a commercial building in Quincy Center. Keep the Edge features two control rooms, both Pro Tools|HD-equipped, with a Control24 surface in the A room. Several iso booths adjoin the spacious live room.
Shortly after opening, Asack began to get requests for video production, and teamed up with a video studio in nearby Weymouth. But after analyzing the video clients from the first year of business, he says, “An overwhelming percentage either wanted my recording studio or an on-location shoot. So we made the decision to walk away from that space and invest into our space, buying more equipment, more cameras, a couple of white screen backdrops and lighting.”
The studio offers a variety of video services. “The obvious thing is music videos; that’s an easy upsell for my clients. But what we also do that’s very rare is live, in-studio shoots. We’ll have single artists or a group of musicians come in, we’ll mic them all up, throw four or five cameras up and we’ll have them play live.”
His studio truly does keep an edge over some alternative producers, he says, since it is a music recording facility with a focus on audio quality. Indeed, Asack has separated the two facets of his business, bringing in Jakub Trasak, an accomplished violinist from the Czech Republic and another Berklee alumnus, to oversee video and live production. To further bolster the live work, says Asack, “I bought a Midas M32 board, a beautiful multitrack recording board, plus some big QSC Audio KW153 speakers.”
That package has been popular with wedding bands, he reports. “We’ll do the live sound and multitrack up to 32 channels. We’ll capture it with five cameras, three or four with operators. Then we come back to my studio and mix it. We can put together what would have been a $100,000 project some years ago for one-tenth of the price.” The band then has a DVD or a series of YouTube videos with which to attract more gigs, he says.
That model works for other artists too, says Asack. “We just did a live DVD with a band, Los Goutos. They were trying to record a studio album, but it takes time, and they’re all working professionals. They played one show—that was all the time they had to put into it—and now they’re booked solid for gigs.”
In fact, that relationship has been a two-way street. The Los Goutos lineup includes Paul Stewart, Eastern territory sales manager for Genelec, and Bruce Bertone, formerly with TruNorth Music and Sound, distributor for Eve Audio, Lewitt microphones and other products, and now national sales manager for Klotz. Trasak also joins in on fiddle whenever he is available.
“So I have a bunch of Lewitt mics,” says Asack. “I got them for a little less money and we feature them in videos, so they get their name out there.” He has since also added Klotz cables at the studio. “People come in and have never heard of Klotz cable; I had never heard of them—now I can show them. It’s great to work with these industry professionals; it really opens your eyes to what else is out there.”
Boston fosters a community spirit among studios owners, says Asack, who will refer a client to another studio “in a heartbeat.” Conversely, he adds, “We have a really beautiful grand piano [a Yamaha G5] that a lot of studios don’t have, and they’ll send people to us just to use it. They know we’re not here to steal their clients.”
Business can also come from unexpected places. A couple of years ago, he was contacted by developer Irrational Games, which was looking for a local studio to produce some downloadable content and turned out to be just a two-minute walk away. “From that one email, we’re now in this world of triple-A video games. We were involved with BioShock Infinite, one of the top games of 2013. We worked on another game, The Magic Circle. And there are a few voiceover artists who live here and work on the top games. They come in, do their work and Skype over to L.A.”
Diversification has been a good thing for Keep the Edge. “It’s really interesting to see what keeps the studio busy,” says Asack. “I’m young—I’m 27—and I work 80-plus hours a week. We’re just trying to work out that special sauce.”
Keep the Edge Studios