Music Outside the Mainstream: Grad Studios In Small Markets

Major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville are vital to the recording and production of popular music, but you can find great music coming out of studios across the country. From Middle America to the Pacific Northwest, a number of Full Sail Recording Arts grads are making a name for themselves as studio owners in non-mainstream markets, including Nick Moon (2000), TJ Saddler (2003), and Alex Vincent (2009).

Nick and TJ have been running successful businesses for over half a decade, while Alex is weeks away from opening his first space. The three recently took us inside their custom-built studios, and gave insight into why they chose to seek out their local music scenes.

Nick Moon
Tone Proper Mastering
Portland, Oregon

The Space: The 1,400 square-foot studio is about 20 minutes outside of Portland, near Oregon’s awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge. (Nick says he loves outdoor activities.) The studio’s main area of focus is mastering – they complete about 4-6 records a week. Recently, Tone Proper has mastered a couple of singles for Prince, and singer Liv Warfield (Prince’s protege) recently wrapped up a recording session at the studio in January.

Why Portland? “Very few of my clients come from Portland, maybe 10 or 20 percent,” says Nick. “We do a lot of stuff from a lot of places, so I could literally be anywhere and it wouldn’t matter, and I think that’s where the industry is going anyway. I live in Portland because I like it here. I don’t think any amount of money could compel me to move to New York or Los Angeles. Portland has a lot of benefits that other cities have too.”


TJ Saddler
SadSon Music Group
Lincoln, Nebraska

The Space: The 2003 grad, along with co-owner Lucas Kellison, built SadSon from the ground up in 2009. (It’s the only purpose-built recording studio in town.) TJ describes the 2,000 square foot space as comfortable, with warm colors throughout and all the equipment you need to make a high-quality recording. SadSon has hosted George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, Leela James, Tha Joker, and several other notable musicians and rappers.

Why Lincoln? “There’s so much talent in the surrounding area. We just felt it was a good idea to set up shop here and work as hard as possible to make a name for ourselves in Nebraska and the Midwest,” says TJ. “Plus the property value is much lower – we were able to find a space that worked out in our financial plan. In a major market, we may not have been able to have as much space. Our studio is a break for artists from the hustle and bustle of their fast-paced busy worlds. They can come out here and relax and clear their heads a bit.”

Alex Vincent
A/V Productions
Clearwater, Florida

The Space: “This place is built really beautifully, and I thought it had a lot of potential,” says Alex of his studio on Florida’s west coast. “I always kept an eye out for old recording studios that were for rent, because that way a lot of the work would be done already – like sound-proofing and having an engineer’s room. Since I got it I’ve started fixing it up and buying equipment. I have about 15 great microphones, monitors, a good mixing board, and a new Mac with ProTools 11. I moved in February 10th and am looking to open the middle of May and start doing sessions.”

Why Clearwater? “I live 20 minutes up the road from my studio, and I know the area really well. There aren’t that many studios here, maybe a couple, but they’re charging a lot hourly,” says Alex. “It’s a totally different vibe than what I’m trying to do here. I want people to accomplish the goals they’ve set out to in a studio without the feeling of being rushed – so I’ll charge project-based, not hourly. I feel like my space will have a good vibe creatively, which will also come from me trying to do the right thing for local artists.”

–Amy Cassell & James Gregory



One thought on “Music Outside the Mainstream: Grad Studios In Small Markets

  1. Avatar Stewart says:

    I am great fan of Nick Moon, His creations are great and soothing for the ears.

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