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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Recording Conservatory of Austin and John Stinson

Donald said...
I think this is important enough to share. There are 3 people involved in this. Myself (freelance producer), a good friend of mine (Now freelance engineer) and the Owner of The Recording Conservatory of Austin, John Stinson. Email me and I am happy to verify any of these facts.

My friend attended the Recording Conservatory of Austin for what I understand to be two years, paid his tuition and had a reasonably pleasant experience. At the end of that tenure, Mr. John Stinson decided to build a new facility farther West. With the old building, John decided he would outfit the place with similar equipment, rent the space as a co-op environment to 4 engineers and everything would be fine. Keeping this in mind, the old facility for all intents and purposes looks like a house and has a one-bedroom living space on one side.

Mr. Stinson approaches my friend to rent the house for just over fair market value, and one fourth of the co-op studio. At this time, he promised that the studio would be outfitted with the necessary equipment “in a couple weeks” and advised my naïve friend to “go ahead and move in.” My friend calls me and we plan on recording some upcoming projects. This is in early June. At this time, my friend begins to brand the studio as “Penny Creek Studios.”

Unfortunately, this is where the headaches begin. Mr. Stinson, having not outfitted the studio as promised, charged full rent (automatic withdrawl from the bank account) on the studio and house for the first month, then the second month still with no recording equipment. Being promised that the equipment is forthcoming, we schedule the first session to begin July 26. That week, about 75% of the equipment finally arrives while Mr. Stinson drags his feet setting up the computer with the (not) needed plugins. Mr. Stinson then promised to arrive at the studio at 7AM on July 26 to finish wiring the studio so that the session could go off without a hitch (if only this were the case).

I arrived at approximately 9:30 in the morning to prepare for the session. Mr. Stinson had not arrived to finish wiring. The session was set to begin at 11AM so we were there doing the necessary prep work (setting up microphones, planning preamps, musician placement etc). Mr. Stinson arrives at 10:30, spends no more than 15 minutes doing as little as possible, leaves the wiring half-finished and mis-labeled. This causes the session to not begin until 2:30, using only 65% of the planned equipment as the wiring was so misleading that even systematic guessing and checking wasn’t working. Luckily, the final hours of the session were a pleasant experience (feel free to email me to hear the results) despite the technical limitations.

Now, I’m an enterprising individual and go ahead and plan on recording the next project here despite the difficulties, relabeling the system should have resolved the issues for the next session. The first session was a live-recording, no-headphones situation where the idea was to capture the band in the room, not attempt an ultra-slick production (as it would have hindered the music). The second session was set up to be a more traditional recording situation utilizing both isolation booths (where before we used none), headphone mixes and overdubbing. I set up the recording to happen on Sunday, August 3. Being a more simplified setup, I did not expect the same technical limitations. Unfortunately, if it can go wrong, it will. Apparently, the definition of outfitting a studio to Mr. Stinson does not include a minimum of 4 headphones and the ability to amplify them to usable levels. Luckily, I have a home studio up the street and was able to bring my headphone solution to the studio to use. We get past the headphone issue (the installed solution could only handle two headphones which in any professional studio is unacceptable) and again, my friend being the professional he is saves the recording session with the utmost professional demeanor. We scheduled a meeting to go over our grievances with Mr. Stinson the next day.

We sit down with Mr. Stinson and air our list of grievances, charging rent (automatically) on a studio that was not set up (happy to pay the rent here on in). The lackluster work that has hindered my recordings (burning my time and my players’ time) and the endless lip service when actual issues need to be addressed. Our solution, we have these issues resolved, let us go on our merry way and refund my friend the rent that was unfairly charged on the studio (zero issues with the house). Unfortunately, the naiveté of my friend did not tell him to get an actual lease agreement in writing (worst decision ever, I know but he’s from the country and his entire family still lives on the farm, they’ve never rented anything, ever) and Mr. Stinson instead decides to illegally evict my friend from his home citing “bad vibes.” At this point, that’s fine but we had scheduled another session for Tuesday, the 5th in the evening to finish some overdubs. Not having anything else booked, we decide to leave my equipment in the studio to maintain continuity and minimize setup.

Tuesday comes around and I get a strange phone call from my friend in the mid-afternoon. The studio has been emptied by Mr. Stinson and all of the recording equipment is removed (sabotaging my session). I instantly head over to take inventory of my equipment (some of which is still missing) and find that this is true, all of the preamps, studio microphones, stands, headphones are removed and my gear strewn about the floor and mishandled. I pack in my equipment, bring it back to my home studio (I prefer to track in larger facilities) and cut my losses (I can always do overdubs at my place though less than ideal.)

In conclusion, Mr. Stinson is now advertising as “NYC Producer” here and I felt compelled to share these experiences and advise anyone to avoid the new Penny Creek Studios (there are a few fliers floating around with my friend’s 254 number, feel free to call as we’re working with a different facility). This is a community and we need to make sure to watch out for our own. There are many other issues with this guy but I’m staying away from hearsay but can direct you to other sources for more depth if you are curious.

August 27, 2008 6:14 AM

Anonymous said...
Having been a neighbor of Mr. Stinson's for over three years, I was definitely NOT pleased with the way your friend treated the residence OR the neighborhood at large. Part of reason for your friend's eviction was due to the general trashing of the residence AND the complaints from neighbors on noise pollution and general disrespect. (FYI it took a number of hours AND rehab to make the residence an acceptable living environment again)

Yes, I realize you are trying to run a 'business' but there are limitations when you are in a residential neighborhood that need to be considered. Having your band 'practice' in a NON-INSULATED GARAGE is NOT acceptable behavior and will deem calls to the authorities had it happened again.

September 16, 2008 6:51 AM
Anonymous said...
As another neighbor, I'll have to agree with the first comment. While Mr. Stinson resided there and ran the studio, we never had any issues with noise or disturbances. If I was outside, I might be able to faintly hear the drumbeat or bass line of a session.

On the other hand, probably the day you complain about Mr. Stinson showing up late, you had a band playing in the garage with the door open. When I can hear the music loud and clear from across the street while in the bedroom in the back of my house, it's probably not just me your disturbing. Your friend's profuse apologies, while appreciated, don't negate the fact that it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

I visited the house several times while Mr. Stinson lived there and again after your friend vacated. The above commenter is correct regarding the condition of the house.

I had my own "vibe" regarding the situation. Mr. Stinson considered the location a home that he also happened to run a business out of. Your friend seemed to treat it as a studio that he happened to live in. That creates a significantly different atmosphere.

-Dennis Gunthert

September 16, 2008 9:16 AM

1 comment:

  1. As a prospective student at TRCoA, I appreciate all the honesy.


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