We were lucky to catch up with Gibran Sponchiado recently and have shared our conversation below.
Gibran, appreciate you joining us today. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Nashville has an immense amount of musicians, songwriters, producers, recording engineers, and studios like no other city in the world. After graduating in the MFA of Recording Arts and Technologies at Middle Tennessee State University, diving into the local recording industry was the natural path for me. With previous experience operating a recording studio in Brazil, opening one in Nashville was a dream. In early 2017 I was in the look for a space where I could make that dream possible, as most of the necessary equipment I already owned from collecting high-end microphones and other outboard gear for nearly 8 years. The building I found had been previously used as a recording studio and my first instinct was to only do some fresh paint and re-decoration to start the new business in that location. After several meetings debating concepts and business models with my wife Jessica and my former classmate Zak Denham, we decided that a deep renovation was necessary in order to attract the audience we were looking for. The condition and layout of the building were not compatible with the quality of the equipment I was going to use and the services we wanted to provide.
Our goal was to build a large format recording studio where full groups could be recorded simultaneously with high quality, flexibility, and comfort, competing in the mid-size studio market with similar equipment and amenities that only the largest studios normally offer.
The investment and time employed to have the studio built was well beyond the initial expectations, but we always believed we were a good fit for Nashville’s audio community and we could pay everything back at some point. Coming from Brazil with a diversified musical background and working as live sound engineer for artists of several genres, we knew our clientele would be quite varied. As an example, today a good amount of our clients is from genres of music that normally aren’t seen frequently in major studios in Nashville, such as Latin music and hip-hop. Being foreigners and speaking three different languages made our business more welcoming for people of other nationalities.
The whole project from concept to execution was very exciting and thought us many new things, such as construction, business administration, and marketing. Building the studio respecting the technical standards and practices of world class studios has kept us as a competitive option for many different audio and video projects, artists, producers, and professional recording engineers.
Gibran, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Gibran Sponchiado. I am the chief recording engineer at Top Track Studios. I was born in Brazil and have been working with audio for nearly 20 years. I first got into the recording industry during my teenage, when I was part of a rock band. I used to record the groups demos between rehearsals. Those experiences led me to learn about recording engineering and music production. In 2006, while in college, I built my first studio in the basement of my house. During this period I recorded various types of projects and developed most of my initial technical foundation. After all these years working with audio and earning a master’s degree in recording arts and technologies, I am still learning new tricks with the different challenges the projects offer everyday. At Top Track Studios we offer audio recording services for music, film, and interviews. Even though most of our projects are music related, we have recorded voice overs, podcasts, and ADR too. We record, mix, and edit audio materials directly to artists, and also rent the studio for projects with outside engineers and producers. Additionally, we host music industry related events, showcases, livestreams, and pocket shows.
What set us apart from our competitors is the quality of our equipment, rooms, and our technical expertise. We are technically able to record live sessions with up to 10 musicians playing together, with a large collection of vintage and modern microphones, outboard gear, and a classic SSL 4000G console. Our rooms are acoustically designed with creativity, inspiration, comfort, and flexibility in mind. At Top Track Studios we welcome people from any music genres and nationalities, with staff that is also fluent in Portuguese and Spanish.
Top Track Studios is a very diverse business that is technically and comfortable enough to work with major artists and record labels but affordable enough to receive independent artists. We have recently been voted one of the three best new business of 2022 by Nashville Scene Magazine readers.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
Our reputation is the result of our core values and goals as a company. We treat every client with as much professionalism and respect as possible, treating every project with much care. We are very focused on the experience provided to the client and the quality of the works done in our facility.
Do you have any stories of times when you almost missed payroll or any other near death experiences for your business?
When we started, we had no experience with business planning or managing. We were entirely motivated by the passion for audio recording and music. Even though I wanted to start Top Track Studios with a business partner who could help funding the initial costs and sharing the risks, I couldn’t find one who was ready to pull the trigger with me. I had no money to start the business and entirely relied on my credit cards to fund the construction and purchase of additional equipment. I was initially counting on a source of income that unfortunately felt through after we started the remodeling process. Fortunately though, I had good credit available and already owned most the expensive recording equipment necessary.
Close to the opening date, my credit cards were already maxed out and I had to sell some of my equipment to cover some of the opening costs. The 30 months that took to build the studio consumed most of our resources.
We were able to have the studio opened in late 2019, roughly 5 months before the Covid 19 pandemic kicked in and shut down most business. At that time we only had had a few clients, which were still not even enough to cover our basic monthly expenses.
With a financial situation already delicate, in 2020 we had to sell pieces of equipment and borrow money from family every month to keep up with the business and personal expenses. In 2020 we registered business losses every month and had to postpone several payments. If it wasn’t for all the initial investment made to build the studio, we had shut down our business for good just a few months after opening. Our resilience was tested to the limit in 2020.