Starting out as an artist himself all the way back in 2006 DC studio owner Dave Mallen enrolled in a Berklee College of Music program to learn more about production techniques and the music business. A 20+ year veteran of the DC area music scene, he had witnessed a multitude of talented musicians migrating to other ‘music towns’ in hopes of finding success.
*Cue brilliant idea*
Mallen decided to create an incubator for local talent and invest in building a studio and business consultancy for DC area that would support artists like himself. His business model focused on filling in the gaps left by the already existing studios.
And thus, Innovation Station Music was birthed as a “one-stop shop” music production company in 2006, enabling artists of all kinds to collaborate with a skilled producer in a comfortable, state-of-the-art recording studio, as well as develop the tools necessary to forge a successful path in the music industry.
After nearly 10 years, the business had grown to the point where Mullen needed a bigger multi-room facility with two studios that could be used independently if needed.
Taking a leap of faith he hired one of the top studio designers in the world, Wes Lachot, to help bring the vision to life.
IndustryMe spoke to Dave Mallen about the studio development process and more.
How long did it take to build the studio?
We started with a plot of dirt – a new construction home inside the DC beltway. We were able to coordinate with the builders and get the plans and precise information to our Wes Lachot, our studio architect, as the house was being built. That didn’t mean it wasn’t extremely challenging – it took over a year of painstaking design and another year to build. (All the while, I continued making records with clients in an upstairs bedroom).
One of the biggest delays was finding an HVAC contractor who would take on the task of designing a 4-zone, silent-operation HVAC system for the studio. There were contractors coming in an out for an entire year, and the specialty contractors (acoustics, wiring, etc.) all came from North Carolina, so some days we had guys sleeping on a mattress in our dining room. It tooks quite a bit of fortitude to get through the process, but then, nothing worthwhile comes easily!
What is the most rewarding thing about it’s completion?
Honestly, the most rewarding thing about having completed this epic project is having artists I’ve always wanted to work with come to our space and tell me how much they love the vibe and appreciate the thoughtfulness behind every detail. They use the space exactly as I dreamed they would – from the Philips Hue lighting I use to set the mood for each session to the CCTV and advanced hearback systems that help facilitate communication between band members to all the new and vintage instruments at their disposal.
What do you think makes your studio stand out from the others in DC?
There are a lot of good studios in the area, and I have friends at nearly all of them. But there are some things that set us apart — in particular, our highly personalized and detailed approach to artist/song development and custom music production. I compose parts and play on a lot of the records I produce, which works great for singer-songwriters. In addition, while many other studios charge an extra fee for a Producer, EVERY project gets the objective feedback and musical guidance of a skilled Producer.
Then, there’s the business strategy component. I establish business goals for each project during pre-production (a critical part of the process where songs are thoroughly analyzed and enhanced), which help inform the choices we make during the production process. At the end of the project, many of our clients take advantage of our Strategic Music Business Consulting services, where we provide comprehensive, custom Strategic Plans that serve as detailed road maps for our clients’ music careers.
What words of advice could you offer to those wanting to open their own studios?
Don’t do it! No seriously, it’s a massive undertaking, and the cost is considerable. Make sure your family and friends are behind you, because money and patience will undoubtedly run short, and you will likely need support. Be sure you have client base you can count on and a value proposition that will set you apart from the pack. If you’ve got the passion and commitment, you can make it happen – then, all the hard work will be worth it and you’ll have learned a lot in the process..
How do you hope it will help upcoming artists?
I’ve always enjoyed working with emerging artists. Make your first record is a big deal, because you’ve often got 10 years of songs that need to be reconciled with who you are today, and you’re presenting your sound to the world for the first time. I love being instrumental in that process. But with our new world-class, state-of-the-art studio, we are definitely seeing more established artists want to work here, and that was one of our goals – I want to take the best talent from the DC area as well as neighbouring cities, make amazing records, and put all those great artists and bands on the map. With well-crafted songs, fresh production, and innovative business strategies, it’s a winning scenario for both my clients and the local music scene.
Are there any plans to open any more studios in the near future?
We designed this studio to accommodate growth – that’s why we built our smaller suite, Studio B. While we often use Studio B for recording sessions run out of Studio A, it’s a great space for engineers and producers of all levels to come work in. With the WAMMIE win for “Best Music Studio”, things have definitely picked up and bit, so I anticipate utilizing Studio B much more in the coming months.
Any final shoutouts or plugs?
We are eternally grateful to our clients and friends who nominated us for this year’s WAMMIE award. Whereas, previously, some artists and bands might not have considered a home-based studio, I think they’ll be more apt to come record here now. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised at the professional environment, the pristine acoustics, state-of-the-art equipment, as well as the vibe, and the warm, personal attention they’ll receive. Also, we’re looking for talented producers and engineers to be part of our team.
Anyone interested can contact me directly at email@example.com. You can find out more about the studio at www.innovationstationmusic.com.