An Offer Too Good to Refuse - Articles - Soundblab

An Offer Too Good to Refuse

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

A state-of-the-art studio in Lancashire has extended a unique loan scheme which helps bands get a leg up in the industry.

Based in Heywood, Astar Studios provides musicians with interest free loans of up to £5000 for recording services.

Studio owner Andy Ross said: "It was a creative decision to offer artists the opportunity to record interest free and that we would pick up and absorb that cost for them. We decided that we would almost A&R the projects in the studio. We want to work with artists who have maybe been going for a year or two, have good ideas, a good work ethic and just needed that bit of help and support to get to the next level.

"They can borrow up to five thousand interest free over two years, which means that it's £208 and 33p a month. It helps people who haven't got the money around in their bank accounts to pay for recording. Also, for a band who might have money in the bank and who are thinking of emptying that out to go to the studio, it might make them think that, actually, they could run their affairs like a small business, which I think a lot of bands need to do today. They can hold some of their money back and do it this way."

The studio also offers up-and-coming bands and artists a media package which provides support with their image and promotion.

"We put together a team of people, associates that we had known for sometime," explained Andy. "We work with a Manchester music photographer called Karen McBride. She did The Ting Tings, Robbie Williams, Blondie. We got these people to support what we were doing by giving their services at an indie rate. We also work with a guy called Mark Jackson who has a company called Creative Hero who does web design and graphic design for CDs.

"Peter (Ross, Astar partner) has done PR for Yamaha Music for 10 years. We wanted to support artist projects with PR support which he lends to it. So we've created a 360 degree solution for the modern day artist."

The custom-built studio boasts the latest digital control room technology, a live room, chill-out area and nearby residential facilities. At a time when many studios are struggling, including the famous Abby Road studios, Andy wanted to provide facilities where artists could record high-quality music without breaking the bank.

Andy explained: "A lot of bands get into the studio, they make a record and then they've only got one thing in their mind which is to stuff a load of envelopes and send CDs out. They don't have much of a plan. We try and talk to the bands and mentor them and give them ideas and tips so they can think a little bit outside of the box.

"For every band, going out live costs money. It's hard for bands out there because it's hard to get paid. Often, it's a 'pay to play' culture. As you progress up the ladder, you start getting offered support slots by promoters and tour support. Very often, these are fantastic opportunities that you can't turn away but there's no money involved so it costs money."

Andy knows all about this from experience: "I was in a band called Alive and we supported Ian Brown on tour. It was fantastic - what an opportunity. Ian took a real shine to us and he gave us a load of dates. We couldn't say no but it cost us and our management at the time a lot of money.

"They had to cover the cost of transportation, accommodation, provide a front of house engineer, a monitor engineer. And then you're about to go on and someone comes up to you and says 'Do you want lights?' You think, 'Of course I bloody want lights otherwise no one will see me!' And they say, 'Well, alright, bung 30 quid to that guy over there and he'll do your lights for you'. So it costs money."

The interest-free loan which Astar offers can be taken out by one person or on the band's behalf by a family member, friend or manager.

Andy said: "Unfortunately, there are occasions when people can't get accredited at the credit check process. With a lot of musicians, it's not that they have a bad credit history; they just don't have any credit history because they've never had loans and they tend to deal in cash.

"We work out the total amount of what they're spending, and they have to pay 10 per cent on a debit card or credit card and they take the balance as the loan. It's great for them."

Andy has recently had success as a producer with the Yamaha New Jazz Sessions albums, which were recorded at Astar and have featured in successive years on the Christmas cover of Jazzwise Magazine.

Andy continued: "We want to connect with bands up and down the country. We're based in Lancashire but the savings we offer for people are huge and the opportunity we offer is huge. We want to hear from artists and bands who feel they have served their apprenticeship. We will help them to promote their career and move up the ladder.

"Every artist today should be able to compete on a level playing field. The internet has opened that up for people but you still need that terrestrial campaign in terms of live tours, gigs and PR and promotion. We're not trying to manage artists; we're just trying to empower artists."

Applications are now being invited for the 0% recording loans available to artists and bands recording at Astar Studios. The loans are provided subject to status and can be repaid over a maximum period of 2 years.

Richard Morris

Photo: Andy Ross at Astar Studios

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