Friday, October 28, 2011

Des Moines Spotlight: Skyline Audio/Metro Concerts Live

For most of their lives, brothers Aron and Garrett Wilson dreamt about owning their own recording studio. When they opened up Skyline Audio Productions in 2003, they knew that it would be a tough cross to bear. After all, when one thinks of cities that have had success in the record recording industry, Des Moines isn't usually near the top of the list. Nonetheless, the brothers invested time and money into their dream, and now 8 years later there is no looking back.

Engineer Garrett Wilson works with Calous as they record their
new CD at Skyline Audio Productions.
Skyline Audio Productions is a recording studio and so much more. Incorporated in 2003, they offer a wide range of services specializing in live sound reinforcement and live multitrack recording. The remote recording services they offer in addition to their selection of sound systems can be utilized for a wide array of events. They offer radio commercial production services, including script writing, recording, editing and mastering. They utilize a small pool of voice-over talent to provide the radio voice that you're looking for. They also provide DJ Services including a sound and lighting rig that far exceeds anything most other local DJ services have access to.

From their Facebook page: Skyline was created by musicians, for musicians. With the advent of home project studios and quality recording gear becoming more affordable for the average musician, larger commercial studios are becoming more scarce. Coming from a "do it yourself" mentality, we understand the benefits and satisfaction that come from buying your own gear and producing your own recordings. We also know from experience that handling the technical aspects of recording while trying to be a musician at the same time, can often stifle the creative flow and freedom that should exist while recording. Having said that, the monetary savings and freedom of recording your own projects often outweigh the convenience of employing the services of a recording studio. Skyline Audio Productions, LLC was created to be a viable alternative between the headache and stress of recording your own projects and the high hourly rates of large commercial recording studios. In addition to engineering and mixing, we will also work with singers/songwriters to provide music for recording projects. We can provide guitar and bass playing, drum programming and/or live drums, as well as MIDI programming and sequencing. We'll work to find other musicians as well if other instruments are needed. If you have song ideas and need musicians to make it a reality, let Skyline assist you in recording your next project.

Calous is one of the bands currently recording a new CD at Skyline. Drummer Brian Ickowitz recorded at Skyline before when he was in a previous band (Defied~Symbiotic 2004) and likes the comfortable atmosphere that the Wilson brothers provide. "I have known Garrett and Aron my whole life and they are committed to get the best quality sound out of the band and instruments they are recording." He said. " It is also a very homey studio. I don't feel any pressure and the atmosphere is awesome.  Great bang for your bucks!"

In addition to being a complete recording studio, Aron and Garrett have teamed up with Chad Willey to form one of the premier concert promotion companies in the state. With several years of experience, Chad brings a wide spectrum of concert promotion knowledge to Skyline Audio Productions, and has proven to be instrumental in getting some of the 'harder to get' acts into Des Moines. Realizing that the concert promotion business is an entity all it's own, Aron and Garrett decided to call their promotional side of their business Metro Concerts Live.

"Metro Concerts Live is under the Skyline umbrella right now", said Aron. "Technically it's the same business, but we're doing two different things."

MCL is a staple in the Des Moines area, and has been successful in landing several national gigs in Des Moines, booking them into smaller, more intimate locations. This provides a neat experience for the fans who get to get up close and personal with their heroes.  A few of the bigger acts that MCL has brought to Des Moines are, Intronaut, Cannibal Corpse, Marcy Playground, Agnostic Front, UFOKings X, Mushroomhead, Days of the New, (hed) p.e., and the Reverend Horton Heat. When bands of this caliber play the smaller stages, it provides an unreal experience and seems to untag that cartoonish faraway persona that you get when you watch a band from an arena standpoint.

MCL also has experience in booking bands in the bigger venues of Des Moines. On November 12, American rapper The Game will be performing at the Val Air Ballroom, and on November 21, hip hop legends Tech N9ne will also be playing a show at the Val Air. MCL isn't devoted to just one genre, they try to plan events that will appeal to everyone. Another MCL production that is coming up very soon is Kill Devil Hill November 2nd at the House of Bricks. Kill Devil Hill features two legends in it's lineup: Rex Brown of Pantera and Vinnie Appice of Dio and Black Sabbath fame. There are still tickets available for all of these shows.

Come to the House of Bricks on  Nov. 2nd
and rub elbows with legends.
Concert promoting does come with adverse side effects. It's impossible to gauge what people will come out for on any given night. Sometimes a band gets scheduled, and it's assumed that the show will be a quick sell-out. Then the night of the show comes around and the venue is empty. This happened last year when MCL brought British legends UFO to People's. Despite the band's world-wide fame, only a handful of renegade fans made the trek downtown to witness the event.

Why does this happen? Willey offers a couple explanations. "The days of the week matter, and the fact that all ages shows have to be over by 9pm if it is in a bar. It all comes into play."

That being said, the UFO show was promoted heavily through the media, the band has name recognition, and yet is remains as one of the most unsuccessful shows that Metro Concerts has promoted.

"That show was one of the bigger disappointments we've had because they're legends," Aron said. "You could say that we didn't promote it properly, but we spent more on radio... We had ads on (local rock radio stations) KGGO and Laser. We did everything we could to get the word out on that, so that was disappointing. I don't know what that says."

"That's the thing about Des Moines," Garrett replied. "It's a weird town to just get people to go see shows It's just a struggle."

Within the local music scene, it's a much talked about mystery - Why don't more people come to shows? It could be population, or demographics... The fact that Des Moines is buried right in the heart of the bigger cities, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City and Omaha. Maybe it's because with all the independent labels out there, it's a lot easier for bands to get signed, so more bands are touring, thus limiting the shows people pick and choose from... Like the other great mysteries in life, nobody really knows.

"I talked to an agent and we talked about this in depth." Said Aron. "He said honestly, I have been doing this for years in all the markets. There are about four markets in the United States that are just... strange, and he said that Des Moines is one of them. He mentioned El Paso, Salt Lake City, Des Moines, and I don't remember the other one. The point is it's one of those markets where it's so hit and miss and I don't know the answer. That's part of the business. There are no guarantees. There are shows that we have marketed harder than others. You can't just put something on Facebook and expect people to show up! (laughter) You have to get out there, you have to flyer, you have to let people know, and definitely target market the right people."

Back in May, MCL hosted Motograter at the 504 Club in Des Moines.
(Photo by Mike Farrell)
That being said, there is a nucleus of very loyal fans who do come out an support the shows. It's like a  family at times. And while you don't always get the big crowd you were expecting, the spectrum goes both ways. When MCL booked Memphis Mayfire at the Vaudeville Mews earlier this year, they weren't expecting much, as far as crowds go. However, the place was packed despite the show being scheduled on a Monday night. Many times it's the local bands who draw in the bigger crowds. "The local support that we get from local bands is HUGE. Without them we wouldn't be able to bring these shows." Garrett says adamantly. "It's because of the local bands that we are able to do this."

The local bands support each other by attending each other's shows. Plus they help to market themselves by selling tickets to the shows they are playing. While it's sometimes cumbersome for the local bands to sell these tickets, it usually ends up being a win-win for everybody. Obviously the more tickets sold, the more people will be attending the show. It also gives them a chance to share the stage and interact with the national bands. That kind of publicity is priceless.

"We're always looking for young and upcoming bands that are hungry that want to get on shows," said Aron. "That's the promotional arm that we need. When these teenage kids who are in bands are like, 'Man! We get to open for these bands that we listen to!" When they have that hunger, they are going to go out and make sure people get to the shows and that's huge. It's guerrilla marketing at it's best, having those kids hit the streets. When you are playing the shows you have that incentive. 'Hey! We want to get people in the door... We want to get people to see us play... We got tickets for sale.' We are always looking for that."

Maybe the most cool thing of all about MCL is, they want your input when it comes to booking live music.

"We don't put on shows for ourselves." said Chad. "If you want to see a band come to town message us. We will try our damnest to get it to happen."

Got some bands you'd like to see play in Des Moines? Click on MCL's Facebook page to let them know.

Or, just stop by and say hi... They'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

JT Strang said...

It's good to see someone try to do something and it's always a shame to see good shows, good bands coming through not get people out. It makes Des Moines look much lamer than it really is.

Good Job Troy!!!