Platform for exposure
Prosound Studios is a unique arrival on the South African recording scene. As a blend between live venue, recording studio and demo facility, it is providing its joint venture partners – Prosound and Cool Music Productions – with a vehicle to meet their commercial ambitions. But most importantly, it is serving as a platform to provide exposure for local musicians.
‘In an industry where there are so many talented artists who are at risk of being drowned out by the mainstream, it’s vital for us that they are given the space to expose and present their style to a wider audience,’ says Jurie Kruger, CEO of Cool Music Productions and one of the driving forces behind Prosound Studios. ‘We give them a platform where they can perform live in front of an audience and we do a proper live recording for them as well.’
To make this platform sustainable, the joint venture partners realised the venue needed to be multi-purpose in its nature. As such, it is a performance space that can cater to small audiences, a fully-fitted recording studio and a demo area to highlight the qualities of brands represented by Prosound.
‘We can seat up to 140 people in our studio and we have very high quality equipment. Everything that happens live in here is patched into the recording studios so we can do a multi-track recording of up to 40 channels of high quality audio and the artists can then mix it afterwards. We also do the live DVD recording in the studio, so this is actually a high quality turnkey solution,’ says Mr Kruger. ‘We are still experimenting with a video stream but the audio stream is up and running. The local artists and up and coming artists have friends all over the world, so it’s nice for them to be able to call their friends and get them to listen to the live performance.’
The studio itself is situated in one of Prosound’s former demo rooms. Split over two levels, there is a large ground floor performance area overlooked by an upstairs control room and vocal booth. Converting the space into a studio was a relatively simple process. ‘The vocal booth is about 16 sq-m and was already there, we added some acoustic treatment and double glazing in it. The control room is next to it on the upper level and about 24 sq-m with a huge window that can see through to the live venue. Out of the control room you’ve got a bird’s eye view over the live event,’ says Mr Kruger. ‘We didn’t really change anything for the live venue except for the acoustic treatment on the roof.
‘It took us about two months to rig it up,’ he continues. ‘We were a bit concerned about the acoustics in the place due to the fact that it’s a live venue with a PA. But the quality of sound and how clean the recording is really surprised us. We have a very high roof and I think that contributes to the whole experience we are getting here. We treated it ourselves with our own Maestro acoustic panels, which Prosound designed, and due to the close miking with proper microphones we don’t get bleed into the recording either.’
All recording facilities live or die by their inventory, and it is here where Prosound Studios offers something unique. The control room features a Midas Venice F as its main board with Logic Pro X and Cubase 6 software both available. Alongside this are Dynaudio BM6 studio monitors, Tannoy playback speakers and Audio-Technica ATH M70x and M50x headphones. Downstairs in the live space, the main PA is Prosound’s Maestro branded 12-inch tops and 21-inch subs with Maestro 12-inch coaxial and Electro-Voice ZXa1 stage monitors. FOH control is via a Midas Pro1 or M32 console depending on user preference while on the lighting side ETC profiles and pars are controlled via the lighting manufacturer’s Ion desk. The video system features Sony HD cameras and the manufacturer’s Anycast switcher while projection is from Christie.
The interesting aspect comes with some of the other equipment that the studio can call upon, notably the microphones. ‘All the gear that Prosound distributes and supplies is available to us,’ explains Mr Kruger. ‘If an artist comes in here and wants to do a recording, we give them a choice of all the microphones from Audio-Technica, Electro-Voice and DPA. They can test all of them until they find the one they want to use for their recording. In a normal studio you’re limited to a few pieces of gear, here we have a huge inventory available to us. It puts us in a very powerful position, we have muscle behind us as a studio.’
While the benefits of this arrangement to the studio are clear, it also makes solid business sense for Prosound too. ‘It serves as a live demo room for the gear that we’re using here. People can come in and see the gear in action. Prosound get the exposure of the gear being used in the live environment and the guys can come and listen to the quality,’ says Mr Kruger. ‘It’s one thing to tell a guy that DPA or Audio-Technica microphones are very good, but if they can hear the quality of a recording in the live environment, it just blows their minds.’
Further to this, the studio also provides an educational environment for Prosound to run seminars and workshops. ‘We’ve had a strong focus on the training aspect,’ says Mr Malherbe. ‘We can bring people in and expose them to that high-end gear that they normally wouldn’t get experience of. We can bring people here and start setting things up like the proper Midas networks so it’s a great resource.’
The aims for the studio though mean that the long-term winners of the joint venture should be South Africa’s musicians. ‘We recognise the dynamic arts and music legacy as one of the country’s richest resources contributing to the distinct identity of South Africa,’ says Mr Kruger. ‘We try to cater for the real musicians, the acoustic guys who don’t get the exposure of television and radio. We are not only catering for the mainstream.’
This ethos and the unique nature of the space has meant that Prosound Studios has generated a lot of interest since its opening. ‘There’s such a vibe around the studio now,’ says Mr Kruger. ‘I’m extremely happy with the results and I must say, every artist who has performed here, they can’t believe the quality. It’s unreal.
‘This is really something special and what we are achieving here is actually mind-boggling,’ he concludes. ‘With the launch of Prosound Studios we’ve gone one step further in supporting live music and the arts in South Africa.’