Music of various genres. Podcasts. Business presentations on green screen.
Slam poetry. Music videos. Making movies for film school.
These are the types of works that customers have produced in free recording studios in the Arapahoe Library District that spans part of the south Denver metro area.
“And it’s all free for everyone – not just our library (members),” said Tim Fritz, Digital Media Librarian for the Library District. “We don’t ask for a card.”
It is a service that has seen patronage from younger and older local residents – from people living around the Sheridan Library studio at the western end of the district, to residents of other areas using the other two studios in the district. in the west and east ends of Centennial.
“We brought in a (kid) and used the Sheridan studio, and he’s now a touring rapper,” Fritz said, referring to an artist by the stage name Jay The Rarest. “There’s a high school right next to the studio, and when school comes out, the studio is booked.”
All three district studios closed in March, along with Arapahoe Library locations as a whole, as the spread of COVID-19 gripped Colorado. But libraries are considering checking out some studio equipment — such as for digitizing film or possibly lending keyboards — as the trend of public health restrictions indicates studios could remain locked down until 2021.
On the other hand, some Front Range commercial recording studios have seen work resume as Coloradans have more time at home amid the pandemic, said Dave Devine, lecturer in jazz guitar at the Metropolitan. Denver State University.
The artists used that time to “record the basic parts at home and send the parts out to be finalized in the studio,” said Devine, who served as a producer at the metro area studios. He also set foot in studios as a member of bands and ensembles and as a session musician to record for other artists.
Some local spots are well known
Metro area residents looking to get into a recording studio have a variety of options, some of which have seen big-name music artists.
One might be “shocking” to hear about West Denver’s Side 3, located in an industrial area near North Santa Fe Drive.
The studio recorded Kanye West, Devine said, as shown on his website. Their clients also include “Green Day, Ed Sheeran, Lil Wayne – it’s crazy,” he added.
Mighty Fine Productions in east Denver is “reputable and does a variety of music,” said Devine, who lives in Lakewood. Colorado Sound in the Westminster area – another location mentioned by Devine – lists the Colorado folk band The Luminous and pioneer of neo soul D’Angelo among its customers.
In response to the pandemic, Mighty Fine began broadcasting concerts live from its studio, Devine said. To avoid the virus, some have turned to home recordings, he added.
“You can check in on your computer and drop the file into the ‘cloud,’ and the engineer can turn them into magic,” Devine said. “The engineer I was talking to today from Longmont said he had more work than he could handle because people had more time.”
Some recording studios are also located in people’s homes, which can make them more profitable without the overhead of a building with plumbing, electricity and taxes, Devine said. “But another thing is that it feels like a much more comfortable environment. They’ll go make you coffee… it seems a lot more communal.
For hobby artists, a home studio can be a great starting point, Devine said.
“You can search online for home studios where maybe the time is more flexible,” Devine said. Some will start there, and if an artist thinks a recording needs something more, they can take the project to a bigger studio, Devine added.
Prices can be high: Devine estimated that most places in town can cost between $500 and $750 for a day of recording. He wasn’t sure about home studio prices.
An artist recording a vocal performance might say, “$700 is a lot of money,” but this is an opportunity to sing in equipment that can be worth thousands of dollars, Devine said.
Free studios always a quality bet
Fritz, the digital media librarian for the Arapahoe Library District, said that at the Smoky Hill and Southglenn libraries in Centennial, “you get a professional-grade studio,” and at the Sheridan Library, it’s a little less sophisticated but always able.
Electric guitars, keyboards, DJ equipment and electronic drum pads are among the equipment patrons can use in library studios, Fritz said. Middle-aged residents often come to produce audiobook readings, he added. Fritz also helps newcomers familiarize themselves with the equipment, and before the pandemic, studios could be booked for up to three hours a day.
As the studio shutdown continues, Arapahoe Libraries plans to check out some equipment but isn’t as sure about providing large items such as guitars due to the cleaning they require, Fritz said.
“I think we all hope like January” to reopen the studios, Fritz said. But the library district needs to play it by ear given changing public health guidelines.
Douglas County Libraries’ Parker location offers “state-of-the-art software and equipment for creating videos, music, animation, e-books and more,” according to the district’s website. Denver Public Library locations also offer several recording studios listed on that district’s website.
The Wright Farms Library Studio also offers “state-of-the-art video, audio, and design equipment and software,” according to the Anythink Library District website in Adams County.
The Wright Farms Library is near East 120th Avenue and North Holly Street in the Thornton area. The Wright Farms recording studio was closed, according to its website, in early November. Other library studios in the metro area will likely be closed or restricted as well.
Fritz wants to get the message across, especially to “underserved populations,” that his libraries offer studios.
“A lot of people don’t know the places exist, and when they (find out) they’re pretty shocked,” Fritz said.