Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 11th 2015 Contents JUNE 2015 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
SMALL BUSINESS UP CLOSE | BG7
Profit and potential
understanding of the music you playing. They don t under-
stand your soul. Martin is not just someone who understands,
but also someone who grew up in my era. That kind of con-
nection is even more important."
Rudder and Raymond s alliance dates to 1982 when cover
bands were king of the fetes.
Rudder was lead vocalist for Charlie s Roots and Raymond
was a 17-year-old guitarist with Fireflight. Born in England,
Raymond lived his teen years in Diamond Vale with his mother,
Ursula Raymond, who, he says, was a member of Girl Pat, the
first all-female steelband, and "created a massive record col-
lection years before we had a record player. Eventually we
were able to afford one; we listened to all these records that
had been piling up."
Reading album jackets offered clues to the team players
involved in producing records, but before Raymond knew what
a producer does, he knew he admired the work of Quincy
On the advice of Grammy Award-winning R&B group The
Brothers Johnson, Raymond migrated to London in 1986 to
develop production skills.
"I applied to more than 100 studios, got interviews with
two of them. Both turned me down. Being Black and from
the Caribbean was a major disadvantage," he recalls. Raymond
got his break from Adrian "Smokey Joe" Joseph (Hot Vinyl
Records) who invited him to produce a record for Dennis "The
The music producer, he explains, "is like the director of a
movie, he/she finds the song, decides how to bring it to life,
and directs everyone from the engineers to the singers."
Raymond returned to Trinidad in 1996, and opened Cham-
pion Sound Studios in 2005.
Audio mastering and mixing for the titans of soca and
calypso has never covered all the bills. The recording season
peaks from October to January due to the emphasis on Carnival.
"It is said that we do not have a music industry in T&T,"
notes Raymond, "we have a Carnival Industry." That observation
may also influence bank loan officers.
Financing music projects without crowd-funding, investors,
loans or bartering leaves "paying for it out of my own pocket!"
"Seriously, access to finance is the major issue facing the
industry here. MusicTT, a subsidiary of CreativeTT, is looking
into this now. TUCO, the calypsonian s association, launched
an initiative with the National Entrepreneurship Development
Company to provide finance for recordings by their members.
There were few takers as far as I am aware."
Raymond adds: "Most calypsonians I spoke to were reluctant
to get into to debt to finance their recordings."
"Recording studios and record labels are seen as very high
risk," reveals Raymond.
"The situation is similar to the UK a decade ago, where
that government found that despite the visible success of UK
artists internationally, the banking sector was very reluctant
to lend. They set about creating an investment climate to
encourage venture capital. The results over the past decade
speak for themselves."
There are roughly 30 recording studios in T&T. Raymond
says the majority in Port-of-Spain are commercial facilities,
not home studios, which have lower overheads. Yet, they
charge fees comparable with a studio paying commercial rates
Champion s monthly operating expense slides above $25,000.
"We make a small profit on most outside projects, enough
to offset operating costs," shares Raymond.
Developing emerging talents who don t only sing soca is a
new avenue for the studio. The hope is that their potential
will deliver ROI. As he awaits fruit to bear from in-house proj-
ects, Raymond is exploring "whether we need a studio at all.
The average laptop can be a fully-operational recording
Locally, studio time is the "most expensive component" of
CD production. A session can cost between $200 and $400
Raymond says: "Most songs are done on a project basis
with a cost for the entire project: $1,500-$2,000 for a demo,
and $6,000-$12,000 for a full production; budgets are "all-
inclusive," all costs are paid from the producer s fee. In the
US, you are looking at between US$10,000 to U$100,000 per
song," estimates Raymond.
Overseas the largest expense is hiring "a hit record producer
(not arranger, eg, Dr Luke, Max Martin) who can command
a fee upwards of US$100,000 per song. This does not include
studio time, musicians, etc."
"Ten years ago the international market was not ready for
Caribbean artistes," recalls Raymond.
"After the success of Rihanna, Sean Paul and Nicki Minaj,
the idea that someone is from the Caribbean opens all sorts
of doors, whether or not you re doing Caribbean music."
As manager of Champion Sound Studios, Jeremy Johnston,
38, is the co-ordinator of logistics, custodian of comfort, and
the 999 and 611 guy on everyone s phone.
"It is up to me to make sure they all have everything they
need to create," says Johnston. The studio "survives on a shoe-
string budget with the bread and butter mastering, seasonal
production at Carnival time, and Mice s salary from teach-
Champion s mastering expertise is a key ingredient in crowd-
pleasing, soul-stirring tracks by Fay-Ann Lyons, Shaggy, JW
& Blaze, Mr Vegas, Sean Paul, Akon, Bunji Garlin and Machel
Montano. To serve clients who compete for million-dollar
prizes during Carnival, the "studio operates like Switzerland,"
adds Johnston, "we re neutral with no particular allegiance."
Beneath Raymond s mellow, nerd-like demeanor is a brawny
ego, driven to deliver his clients to chart-topping success:
"At no point, from the football team The Soca Warriors,
did I hear anything like, we re going to the World Cup to win
it. (Their) attitude was, we know we re not the greatest team
and just glad to be kicking a little ball with Beckham, and we
beat England and Sweden."
Raymond insists, the talents his studio grooms are "the real
soca warriors, going against the biggest teams in the world,
and playing to win!"
Continued on Page 6
TRACK RECORD: Mementos of the studio's impressive
INSET: Martin Raymond in a recording session.
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