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Even as a high school student in the early 1960’s, I was already fascinated by technology. Speakers, amplifiers, radios, and televisions. When I began my musical jingle business in the 1970's, I bought an ARP Odyssey synthesizer, not to be confused with AARP, a group I have belonged to for more years than I now care to admit! In a previous story, I told you about setting up my first little recording studio in an 8’x10’ space in an old industrial warehouse in Batavia, New York. One of my community college music students was already way ahead of me in understanding the recording world. In fact, he worked part-time at an electronics store in nearby Buffalo. Until that point, I had no choice but to rent time in a professional recording studio at the going rate of $150-per-hour. So I paid very close attention to the recording engineers I worked with! And I thought to myself, 'I can push those buttons as well as the next guy,' which got me thinking about the allure of owning my own studio. Sam and I spent hours and hours talking about the equipment it would take. Actually, Sam did the talking and I did the listening. We prepared a comprehensive list of every piece of gear I would need in order to get started. By the time I visited the local banker, I knew I would need $15,000 to get my studio set up, plugged in, up and running, and ready to make money. Trust me, $15,000 was a ton of money in those days. You can bet I had second thoughts. And then something very interesting happened! Sensing my nervousness, Sam said, ‘you can do this, Jeff. Just believe in yourself.’ Wait a minute! That’s the advice I had always offered my students, including Sam! And that's when I signed away the financial futures of my two young daughters as collateral for the loan. Sam’s advice turned out to be right on. I learned the recording industry quickly, had a good head for business, and that $15,000 loan was paid back in full within a year, thus rescuing my young daughters from collateral-ism!
My little personal recording studio consisted of the absolute basics for music production and vocals: an 8-track recording tape deck, a 2-track mix-down tape deck, a stereo cassette tape deck, a small 8-channel mixing console, plus necessary accessories like compressor/limiter, noise reduction, microphone and stand, stereo amplifier, two monitor speakers, headphones, reverb unit, the ARP Odyssey synthesizer, and an electronic piano. Oh, and let’s not forget lots of carpeting glued to the floor, shelves, walls and ceiling! As soon as Sam and I finished wiring and testing all the gear, I was creating my first paying radio jingle in my new studio. Sink or swim! Learn on the fly! By four o’clock in the morning, after throwing a wooden chair across the room in frustration, I finished the jingle for the roller-skating rink in town. I got a couple of hours of sleep before running a cassette tape out to the client for a first listen. You have no idea how nervous I was. The office was packed with the family partners in the rink. After the first listen, they all smiled. After the second listen, they pulled out their check book. And that’s when I knew that Sam was right. ‘I can do this!’
Yes, ‘Living In The Tape Deck Age’ proved no different than ‘Living In The Computer Age’ years later. You learn very quickly that you can’t afford to stand still, lest life pass you by before you have a chance to wonder what happened to your dreams.
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