Music & Arts Production Studio's Mike Wilson and ASP4816 console

With almost precognitive agility, Mike Willson has spent the past few years developing a business model that enables freelance producers/engineers autonomous access to his Music & Arts Production Studio in California whenever they like – effectively using the studio as their own space in a similar manner to the Airbnb model.

Music & Arts Production Studio (MAPS) is located on Fender Avenue in Fullerton, where it offers two studio spaces with a spacious lounge ‘that has accidentally become a very useful chamber’. Almost all of the equipment is from Wilson’s personal collection of the past ten years – ‘I try my best to fill the space with pieces of gear you wouldn’t find in every studio,’ he says.

Music & Arts Production Studio's Audient ASP4816 console‘We have been helping freelance producers and engineers develop their business while using our studio as their home base,’ Wilson explains. After an induction that includes a thorough training session on the studio’s Audient ASP4816 mixing desk, clients book themselves a time slot online.

‘They get to use the quality, gear-packed MAPS studio at a time that suits them,’ Wilson explains. ‘And – this is the good bit – without the additional cost of multiple full-time staff members.

‘All of our clients are freelancers that we’ve developed close relationships with and have allowed access to MAPS through our automated booking system and facility access. More or less, they don’t even need to talk to us while booking a session. They just hop on our Producer Dashboard, book the session and let themselves in.

‘A large part of bringing new people onboard is a thorough training on the console. We do have a Studio B that is set up for in-the-box production, but I focus on making everybody comfortable on the console, because everything else falls into place once they feel good on the Audient.’

Wilson’s conviction that the majority of music is now made with computers is supported by the fact most of the studio’s new clients have never worked on a physical mixing console before. ‘Happily, the Audient is so easy to navigate and I always feel confident that the console will add to their workflow rather than distract from it,’ he says. ‘We are constantly getting great feedback about how much our producers love working on the console.’

The ASP4816 console arrived in the studio in 2017 after a smaller format SSL desk had been put aside in its favour… ‘and we have been so happy with it!

‘A friend of mine coincidentally worked on an ASP4816 after I told him I was console shopping, and convinced me that the Audient was what I needed,’ Walker recalls. ‘He’s also the biggest gear hound that I know and actually found a used ASP4816 out in Las Vegas, so I quickly drove out to pick it up.

‘I’ve worked in so many beautiful studios that have legendary consoles, but as soon as you look at channel one the wrong way, it goes down. Considering we’re providing a space for freelancers to elevate their craft, I could never have a console that needs to be repaired weekly. The Audient is solid and performs well at every session.

‘The preamps are fantastic and it feels good to have console preamps that people aren’t afraid to use. During mix, I love all of the routing options that help me get a mix to feel good so much quicker than when I’m working in the box.

Wilson at MAPS' Audient ASP4816 ‘All around, the console just makes me happy. That’s why we all make music right? We like to be happy.’

Alongside the MAPS business, Walker is still working as an engineer/producer. ‘I think it’s really important that I’m still working with the gear and making sure that we’re still offering a great space for our clients,’ he says. ‘We mostly serve our local community. Every once in a while, we will have some legends come through, but most of our clients are modest, hard-working people.’

Wilson describes the impact of the pandemic on the studio business as ‘interesting for sure’. He was finishing a two-week stint in the studio when he got the news that the US, as many other countries, was shutting down everything that involved person-to-person contact. ‘Like most people, we didn’t think it would be long and decided to lock up and wait a couple weeks for things to smooth out,’ he recalls. ‘Clearly that did not happen.

‘We made the difficult decision to follow local guidance and close our doors for two months. It was tough to receive emails from our producers begging to get in for a quick session. However, we could never prioritise somebody’s music over their health. No matter how you spin it, no recording session is worth risking somebody’s life.

‘We watched the case numbers closely and were able to open back up safely in accordance to our local Covid protocol. All of our clients have been very supportive through these crazy times and we’re still cranking out records.’

Wilson is ‘very excited’ to be bringing on more freelancers and hopes to expand his model with other studios. ‘Our team has put a lot of work into building a system to allow people autonomous access to our studio and would love to work with other studio owners to implement this idea at their spaces,’ he says.

‘I really feel that studios are sacred places and need to be used 24/7. An empty studio doesn’t do the world any good. Historically, younger engineers believe that it is impossible to record in a professional studio. We’re hoping to change that.’

More: www.recordatmaps.com

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