Beat 360: Much More than Just a Music Studio for Mark Saunders
August 10, 2010 by David Weiss
HELL’S KITCHEN: Dig Art Deco? Most definitely, and we could always do worse than to be in the majestic polychromed lobby of The Film Center Building on Ninth Avenue – especially if we’re visiting Beat360.
Evolution is the solution at this extra-comfy facility founded by the busy English music producer Mark Saunders in 1997. He was in town then to produce Cyndi Lauper’s Sisters of Avalon, and never really left. With a production/mixing/programming discography that includes The Cure, Neneh Cherry, Shiny Toy Guns, David Byrne, Tricky, and A-Ha, Manhattan has been more than happy to take him.
The addition of Ollie Hammett as Director came in 2007, and Beat360 has grown out beyond just being a great place to track and mix. Today, this flexible sound concern takes on everything that touches artists and producers – management, synch, publishing, distribution and more. Corporate clients have been attracted too, including Nike, Reebok, L’Oreal, Chevy, Motorola and Microsoft.
With all that going on, they seem as eager as any of us to see what’s next, as Hammett made abundantly clear in a recent convo.
What kind of group are you and Mark working with at Beat360?
It’s essentially just the two of us, and we have a pool of assistants who help with the day-to-day running of projects. As a small team we cover as much as we can in-house and for larger projects we outsource to additional engineers as and when needed.
Mark came up in the industry as an engineer, producer and mixer. Recently he has been establishing a name for himself as an exceptional co-writer working with artists/writers such as Teddy Geiger, Cathy Dennis and PNAU (production duo behind Empire Of The Sun).
My time is equally split between studio work as an engineer/mixer and project management/business development. Projects I’ve worked on include Idris Elba’s High Class problems v1 (engineer/mixed), The Sounds’ Crossing the Rubicon (engineer), A-Ha’s upcoming Farewell single (engineer & additional production), and So So Glos‘ self-titled debut album (mix engineer).
That’s a small but diversified and accomplished core team. From there, how would you explain Beat360 as a business today? Is it a recording facility? Mix facility? Producer/songwriter haven? All of the above, or is it something else entirely?
I would say we’re all of the above. We market ourselves as a “full service music and audio solutions company.” It was originally established as a private recording, production and mixing facility for Mark’s projects. We now work with a whole array of different clients – bands, brands, digital interactive agencies, management companies, record labels — less and less — and independent artists more and more.
While diversifying, it’s really important for us to continue to try and bridge the artist development gap we now see in the music industry, so I think this is something that’s integral to everything we do. We’re always looking for opportunities for the artists we work with through our network of contacts and relationships.
I’ve had a couple visits to your studio HQ in the landmark Film Center Building, and it seems like a very productive place to work. Can you fill us in on the design philosophy, plus the hardware and software goodies?
Beat360 is a 2000 sq. ft. facility with two mix/production suites, one live room, a kitchen, lounge and chill out area. Our philosophy is for artists/clients to feel as comfortable and creative as possible.
Our main production/suite is a hybrid system – no mixing board in sight. The main DAW is an Apple Quad Core/Logic/Apogee symphony system with X series converters, and a Mackie Control. We have a Dangerous 2-Bus summer and a selection of outboard gear that can be integrated into Logic sessions as insert plugins. We both use Pro Tools but prefer Logic so we have a Pro Tools LE system for converting projects that come to us in that format.
We have software, hardware and musical instrument toys in serious supply. See the full list here. But here’s a taste: Logic 9, Waves Platinum v7 bundles, Sonnox plugins, Arturia Collection, a Ludwig 1968 Drumkit, Soundelux U95S, Neumann U67 (1960’s), Telefunken SM2 stereo (1960’s), Urei 1176, Manley ELOP leveling amp/compressor, Night Nt3 mastering EQ, Telefunken V72 (2 channels) racked by Dave Marquette, John Hardy M-1 (4 channels), Neve 33122 (2 channels), Neve 33115 (2 channels) and API 312 (5 channels) racked by Brent Averill.
Ooooo, tasty. So what niche does Beat360 fill in the NYC spectrum of facilities? And globally for that matter, since you’re doing international services like FTP mixing.
I would characterize our studio as a full-service professional recording, production and mixing facility. In addition to the hiring the studio and services out to NYC clients, we also offer remote mixing and mastering solutions for independent artists all over the world through www.beat360-master-mixing.com.
Clients upload sessions to our server and we mix/master the tracks working closely with them on revisions to make sure they’re 100% happy with the end results. More than just an online service, it’s an artist development vehicle. A number of these artists we have gone on to help find management, legal representation, sync placements, TV show appearances, etc…
Our niche is that we are centrally-NYC-located with a great-sized space by today’s standards, have a diverse client base and work with both high-profile established clients, as well as helping to build the careers of indie artists.
I think that sounds like a real indication of where “music companies” are going. The model is comprehensive but light on its feet. But would you say you’ve been high-profile or under the radar? Is this by accident, by design, or a little bit of both?
I would say we’re in the process of establishing ourselves. As of September, I will be managing a small producer/writer management division of a new international music group, rocketmusic.com. The starting roster in the US is Mark Saunders, Dan Romer and a couple of others to be determined — if you’re the next Quincy Jones feel free to get in touch! This exciting new venture will be integrally linked to BEAT360 and will no doubt help to put us more on the radar. I think the next few years should see our business become a more visible part of the New York studio facility and music production landscape.
Ambitious – we LIKE. Can you tell us a few projects you’ve got in the hopper right now?
We have been working with phenomenal talent Teddy Geiger for the last few months, Mark is producing his new album. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I hear his work. It reminds me why I followed a career in music. He really is a prodigious talent.
Mark is in the process of mixing music in surround sound for a forthcoming Luc Besson film. We’re beginning production of French singer/songwriter Emilie Gassin’s debut E.P this month. We’ve been recording Idris Elba’s features for several UK artists including Ty and recent XL signing Giggs. Also, we’ve been producing/recording audio assets for a multinational brand website.
That sounds like a solid spread. Would you agree you have to be a constant innovator in this business today?
Yes, I think you have to be creative with how you approach business and you have to pay attention to the market forces/technological advances that affect us all and try to stay one step ahead. Technology aside I think there’s something to be said for consistency: If you do something consistently really well, people will hopefully pay attention.
I’m a big believer in good old-fashioned customer service, the value of genuine win-win relationships and being proactive.
Aye! On the growth tip, how do you strive to publicize/promote Beat360, and successfully diversify your revenue streams?
A lot of our business is word of mouth and referrals. Luckily we get to work with some very cool talent that automatically creates visibility and awareness for what we’re doing in the right circles.
We promote our facility and services through various mediums, the obvious ones being Google/Facebook and relevant local business and directory listings. We normally attend events such as SXSW, NMS, Billboard and CMJ helping us keep up-to-date, hearing great new music and building relationships with potential partners and clients.
What or who is keeping you motivated right now?
I’m inspired that the music industry — as unstable and tough as it is seems to be – is moving towards a more transparent place where there is less room for monopolies. It’s more about passionate people doing stuff really well and building authentic relationships around it.
I’m inspired by independent artists doing it for themselves without record label backing. April Smith just made an awesome album independently and has had several significant TV placements after raising $13,000 through Kickstarter.com, and Jenny Owen Youngs has raised over $30,000 through the same platform to record her next album. Wow!!
Some key influences for me are entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, and Chris Blackwell who have managed to enrich lives through brilliant music and art-based ventures. Thought-provoking writers/bloggers such as Chris Anderson, Seth Godin and Bob Lefsetz help me get perspective and try to stay on top of what’s relevant to the ever-changing business we’re in.
How would you characterize the overall studio scene in NYC today? What’s making you determined to be a part of it?
It’s difficult for me to characterize the scene in NYC today, actually, but it’s certainly great to see a website like SonicScoop helping to build a community around the facilities and professionals who work in them. I just try to stay in the loop with people, companies, technologies and music that excites me.
Thanks for those props, Ollie! Last off, what makes Beat360 an only-in NYC story?
I think we’re probably one of the only 100%-British-run music studios in NYC – I could be wrong! — and as you would expect we make a killer cuppa tea!
The advantages of being in NYC surrounded by so much talent, ambition and competition is that it drives us to constantly better ourselves. The main disadvantage is that there are not enough hours in the day to stay on top of any reasonably sized to-do list.
We know how you feel, OLD CHAP.
– David Weiss