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Veteran engineering music studio success

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 02/24/2019 10:00 AM

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Jody Hunter, an audio engineer who owns and operates Studio 23 in the RM of Ste Anne, works the 32-channel digital soundboard in the studio’s control room.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Jody Hunter, an audio engineer who owns and operates Studio 23 in the RM of Ste Anne, works the 32-channel digital soundboard in the studio’s control room.

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Jody Hunter believes artists don’t need a big budget to capture a big sound.

Since opening Studio 23, his RM of Ste Anne recording studio, last spring, Hunter has caught the attention of several Winnipeg bands and a local film project.

Last week, he also won the Start Up Entrepreneur category of the annual Just Watch Me! video contest for rural Manitoba entrepreneurs living with a disability.

"I was really surprised when I found out I won," Hunter said in an interview at his studio last Friday.

Nestled on Hunter’s rural property north of the Trans-Canada Highway between Paradise Village and Richer, Studio 23 consists of a spacious live tracking room, control room, and lounge that are a far cry from the cramped quarters often found in many urban recording studios.

While he’s always enjoyed music, Hunter’s career didn’t always revolve around sound. From 2005 to 2015, he served as a corporal in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at CFB Shilo near Brandon. (He’d later name his studio after his Afghanistan unit, platoon 2-3.)

As he prepared to transition to civilian life, he began working security at Winnipeg music venues, a job that allowed him to forge connections with the city’s vibrant music scene.

"I do like the atmosphere, the environment of the music industry," he said.

In 2016, he enrolled in a 10-month audio engineering course at Winnipeg’s Mid-Ocean School of Media Arts. After completing the program, he set to work designing his studio, breaking ground in the fall of 2017.

Hunter fabricated the blue acoustical panelling that lines the tracking room’s walls and ceiling. The floor joints rest on rubber couplers to further dampen vibrations.

Construction wrapped up last spring, and since then he’s been hard at work building a clientele. He also continues to work security at Pyramid Cabaret.

The 31-year-old said "passion and determination" are behind his success. Community Futures Triple R, an economic development and entrepreneur support organization in Morris, supplied financial assistance and a bookkeeping mentor who helped him identify hidden expenses in his business plan.

Hunter said he learned the importance of taking it slow. There were times when opening a studio in a rural area felt risky, but he noted it’s a common challenge.

"Opening any business, there’s a gamble to it."

In his contest submission video, Hunter said being his own boss allows him to have a more balanced family life. His studio, which was quickly accredited by Manitoba Film and Music, is just steps away from his home.

"Everyone that’s been here has really enjoyed the atmosphere of the studio," he said.

When it came time to establish studio rates, Hunter knew the high cost of studio time was often a barrier for bands outgrowing do-it-yourself garage and basement recording. He realized there was a market niche for affordable but professional studio space.

"I think having affordable rates will help musicians on a smaller budget," he explained.

Hunter charges $375 for a 10-hour recording session with an in-house engineer, a service that typically costs between $450 and $600 in Winnipeg.

He schedules pre-production meetings to ensure studio time is spent efficiently, and will record any genre of music.

"It’s definitely not limited to what I listen to," he said.

While musicians are his bread and butter, Hunter is also equipped to handle sound editing—replacing or recreating sounds captured on a film set—for film and television projects thanks to four Foley pits sunk into the floor of his tracking room.

During construction, a friend suggested he install the shallow boxes, which can be filled with a variety of materials to simulate the crunch of snow under foot or tires on a gravel road.

"When I initially thought about opening a studio, I did not think of that revenue," he said.

The work requires him to think creatively and problem-solve. He recalled using macaroni to mimic the sound of a bag of drugs for a film project still in production.

Going forward, Hunter hopes to diversify even more by branching into radio commercials and video game sound editing.

He said it’s "very fulfilling" to see his projects released into the world and appreciated by listeners. Operating a studio also gives him the chance to watch homegrown talent succeed.

"It has made me more aware there’s more music out there than what’s on the radio," he said.

Hunter also enjoys the chance to research new software and recording techniques.

"I’ll never turn down any opportunity to learn more about sound," he said. "Music is all about perspective."

With a contest win already under his belt, Hunter said he wants to make more inroads into the province’s flourishing film and television sector. His dream is to one day work on a Juno Award-winning album.

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