Sound investment for library

$1.3M recording studio to open soon; not everyone’s thrilled

Carlos Macias smooths the top of the concrete that will be the sign outside the Mesa County Libraries’ new 970West Studio at the corner of Fifth Street and Ouray Avenue on Thursday. Macias is an employee of Adcock Concrete.

In about a month, Mesa County Libraries’ efforts to create a collection of digital works will go one step beyond a simple collection of oral histories and digitized art and books.

In November, Mesa County residents will be able to use the library’s soon-to-be-open recording studio to create original works — anything from garage band music to recorded family histories.

But while library officials are hailing the planned 970West Studio, a standalone building next door to the main library at Grand Avenue and Fifth Street, the owners of several commercial recording studios in town are concerned the $1.3 million building may eat into their businesses.

“If they do what they said in the beginning, take books and digitize them or have people come in and read them, well, that’s fine,” said Gary Smith, owner of Gary Smith Productions in Grand Junction. “But when you open it up to bands and young musicians that want to record, those people normally would go into a studio to do that and pay for that service. You cross a line when you go from being a public operation to a commercial operation.”

Smith, who said he’s retiring soon and won’t be impacted by the new facility, said he’s been concerned over the matter for some time, but became even more worried when he overheard Library Director Joseph Sanchez tell someone at a recent Mesa County Public Library Foundation event that he had spoken to the recording studios in town, and all were not concerned about the new building.

“You didn’t call me,” Smith said he told Sanchez at the time. “It just bothers me that a governmental agency would be getting into the business of competing with a local business.”

While it’s become somewhat of a he-said, he-said issue between the two men — Sanchez said he did talk to the studios, but couldn’t reach Smith — Sanchez and library spokesman Bob Kretschman said those studio owners needn’t worry. The new library studio, which is set to open in mid-November, is meant to be an educational tool for county residents, and not a commercial enterprise competing with their industry.

“We really see the studio as training wheels,” Kretschman said. “It’s a way to introduce people to the equipment and the procedures and how you go about making audio and video recordings. It’s intended to be a learning environment.”

Kretschman said it’s no different than the classes the library offers to teach people how to create their own website. Sure, a professional information-technology worker would do that for a fee, but in this day and age, there are many Internet providers that already offer that service for free, he said.

The 3,000-square-foot studio is to be used to teach anyone who wants to learn about recording and videotaping just about anything they want at no cost to library patrons.

The idea behind the effort is an attempt to keep up with the digital times, when anyone can pretty much do the same thing with their smart phones, but with a higher quality.

But would it be professional quality meant for resale? Not likely, Kretschman and Sanchez say.

“It’s going to be pretty much impossible for somebody to lock it up and use the library studio for commercial production,” Kretschman said. “It takes a long time to master a commercial production. You can’t just go in there and play a song and put it on a disc and sell it. There’s a lot of sound engineering that goes into it.”

Sanchez said people who want to use the equipment must first take a training course on how to use the studio — it’s expensive, and they don’t want someone to break something. After that, they are free to do as they will, but must leave a copy of whatever they produce, something that would be added to the library’s digital collection. The library patrons who make those recordings still would retain any intellectual property rights to whatever it is they produce, Sanchez said.

Ken Dravis, owner of Aspen Leaf Recording, 1992 S. Broadway, said he’s all for teaching people new things, including his industry.

But while he’s not immediately concerned that a public entity might take business away from his, he’s still reserving judgment on that score. That will depend on the quality of the equipment the studio will have.

“I’d have to look at the studio there to glimpse where they’re going,” Dravis said. “If I walk in and it’s some gear from Radio Shack, or if it’s state-of-the-art. My overall look in life is to help other people out and it will come back to you, so I don’t get my feathers ruffled. I would rather work together than to fight each other.”

Sanchez said, and Dravis agreed, that the entire thing may end up actually helping commercial studios. When a garage band decides to record themselves, they soon will realize that they will need the expertise of people like Dravis and Smith.

“That’s one of the things we’re hoping as an educational institution to do, not just give people some basic introduction and access, but give them the education to understand the difference between professional work and amateur work,” Sanchez said. “They’re going to realize how hard it is. By giving people this access and the training and education, we’re hoping that they’ll actually gain a respect for what the professionals do.”


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