Proposed deal between MusicNL and CBC NL has local recording studio owners upset

A proposed partnership between MusicNL and CBC NL to grant access to CBC's Studio F for MusicNL members and students at the College of the North Atlantic has the owners of some local recording studios up in arms.

Partnership would allow musicians, CNA students to access CBC's Studio F

Studio owners Jason Whelan and Ward Pike say they were caught off guard by the proposed partnership between CBC and Music NL. (CBC)

A proposed partnership between MusicNL and CBC NL that would let musicians and students at the College of the North Atlantic record in CBC's Studio F has the operators of some private recording studios up in arms.

CBC NL held a private event with stakeholders from both organizations to discuss the planned proposal last week in St. John's.

The proposal, which has not yet been accepted, would see MusicNL members given access to the recording studio and mixing booth in Studio F, and CNA students enrolled in the sound recording and engineering program given the ability to use the studio to gain hands-on experience.

The event held last Wednesday was attended by MusicNL officials, members of the local arts community, and musicians like Alan Doyle.

But local studio owners like Jason Whelan and Ward Pike say they were blindsided by the proposal, and concerned that people like Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Christopher Mitchelmore were already talking about it like it was a done deal. 

They believe the partnership could drastically cut into their business if musicians from across the province choose to use Studio F — which many acknowledge is one of the most advanced recording studios in Newfoundland and Labrador  — instead of local, privately owned studios like their own.

"It's like saying 'Well, let's open up The Rooms to conventions and ignore all the hotels who have convention halls or the city's convention centre,'" says Pike, owner of the Comfort Cove Sound Studio in St. John's

"At some point you've gotta say to yourself, 'Come on guys. Fair is fair.'"

One of the mixing boards in Studio F. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Whelan, operator of The Sound Solution, agrees with this assessment.

He wants to see MusicNL sit down with local stakeholders, like musicians and members of the recording industry, before making a final decision on the partnership.

Already, he said there's lots of questions about what such a partnership would entail.

"What's the price people are gonna pay? Is it going to be subsidized? Do they have free access to it? What exactly are they going to be doing?" said Whelan.

MusicNL says no deal signed

MusicNL issued a statement over the weekend confirming that talks with CBC NL began in January.

"Studio F is a world class recording studio that has hosted countless memorable music sessions, live recordings and radio productions over the years," read the statement, signed by the organization's board of directors.

"It is our hope that a partnership such as this can strengthen the recording industry and add new capabilities to our studio members' existing capabilities."

Musician Steve Maloney performs in Studio F as part of CBC NL's Parkway Sessions. (CBC)

But the organization was clear to state that no memorandum of understanding has been signed yet between MusicNL and CBC NL.

"We will be conducting in-depth stakeholder consultations ... with a particular eye to any possible negative effects it may have on studio owners," said MusicNL.

If the organization can't address the concerns surrounding the project, Music NL said the partnership will not continue.

In the statement, MusicNL also addressed concerns about an economic impact study they commissioned that was sent out to its members.

The board said the study was a draft, and a statement in the report that said no final album mastering services are available in N.L. was false.

"In light of this and other input from the community, MusicNL returned to the consultant and requested a second round of consultations, in order to amend and add to the study," they wrote. 

CBC responds

CBC NL senior manager Victoria King was also adamant that no deal was set in stone, and said the broadcaster is still working with Music NL to finalize the project.

"We always anticipated that folks would have a lot to say about our involvement in this project and initiative and we're continuing to welcome feedback and to hear from folks like we just heard," she said.

CBC NL Senior Manager Victoria King says the deal with Music NL hasn't been finalized. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

King added that many stakeholders will be included in upcoming consultations about the project.

Fee structures, rental agreements, and more have also yet to be determined.

"I really want to take an opportunity to allay any worries about not having an opportunity to talk to people who are involved or engaged in the music industry," said King.

"We're in the very early stages of something that we hope will be a great opportunity for folks working in education and music, musicians themselves, as well as studio owners."

With files from Anthony Germain and Debbie Cooper