By Camilla Mhute, Editorial Intern
The evolution of Atlanta’s music industry has been revolutionary dating back to the success of James Brown, Outkast, TLC, Usher, and more recently, rapper Future. Economically however, Atlanta-based recording studios and labels have been unable to maintain a steady uptick that would ultimately bring more artists to the city. The relevance of Atlanta’s dynamic music scene has declined in the past few years, with more than five recording studios shutting down or relocating, including Doppler Studios and LaFace Records.
Staying in business in any industry takes more than a village and good wits. What’s more, creating a brand that is known nation-wide and has been in business for over 20 years requires the humility and adaptability that Curtis Daniel III and Mike Wilson, owners of Patchwerk Recording Studios, have mastered.
Patchwerk has surpassed its role as just a recording studio, expanding its reach as a brand that hosts listening parties, meet and greets, live performances and parties.
Since purchasing the recording studio in 2009, the duo created the dream partnership that allows both to maneuver — Daniel III develops his ideas creatively while Wilson initiates the execution. “It’s hard to be creative and come up with ideas for the place to run and do more things when you’re always worried about doing the tedious things like worrying about when the bill is getting paid,” says Wilson. “Now, Curt has more freedom to expand on other things. He’s the idea guy and I’m more of the ’Oh you got the idea, I can make that stuff happen’
This formula mixed with providing the best customer service and building the best team results in Patchwerk serving as the driving force in the Southeast’s music industry.
Before this partnership emerged, however, it was Bob Whitfield, former Atlanta Falcons player, who partnered with Daniel to birth the legacy of Patchwerk. As a start-up, they foresaw the importance of staying in their own lane and serving the “southern hospitality”Atlanta is known for.
“We came in with the idea that anybody can buy the same equipment, same space, have a pretty girl sit at the front desk, and have beer and snack machines. But the thing that would separate us would be our people,” Daniel explains. “So from day one, the thing that has helped us was our motto which is ’we don’t sell studio time, we sell customer service.’”Furthermore, it has been crucial for Patchwerk to recruit the right people to work together, and Daniel made sure of this by formulating a test from the book, “How to Win Customers and Keep Them For Life,” which every employee had to pass.
By also seeing the importance of engineers and actually employing them and putting them on payroll, Patchwerk was able to grow its clientele. That’s where Mike Wilson comes into the picture. Inspired by Wilson’s work, Daniel knew he had to have him on his team, but not without passing a few tests. “I’d already done TLC, ‘Waterfalls,’but I had to come in and prove myself. Curt wasn’t sold on the ’hype’ and that’s one of the key things that will help you choose good people,”Wilson says.
The recording studio has worked with prominent artists such as One Direction, Mariah Carey, Gucci Mane, Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, just to name a few. Such an elite client list is not easy to acquire, but the key, Daniel claims is“The difference between if you pull the refrigerator out here, and it’s clean behind it; It’s not just clean in the front. If you go downstairs to the shop, everything’s labeled, machine rooms are in order, so nothing is a gimmick. From the ground up, we’ve built this place to be successful.”
And successful it has been. From 1995 to this technology-based era, the studio has been able to adapt quickly to the revolution of the music industry. Wilson confesses, “Back in 2000, I didn’t want to change from tape. When we first started, we were working with tapes. There weren’t CDs or computers. I didn’t want to use computers because I thought it sounded better on tape, but you have to go where you’re pushed. If you don’t’keep up with technology, you’ll get left behind.”
The music industry has taken quite a leap from older operations, but one thing that hasn’t changed much is the way businesses interact with others. Unlike the film companies that are flourishing here in Atlanta, forming a music union group that determines standards and rules is a much more difficult task. “We haven’t gotten there yet in Atlanta,”Curtis admits. “It’s harder because we’re creative and there’s a culture of being an individual in this industry so it’s not that easy to talk for one voice. Ironically, though, I think the smaller we get, the better we get.”