Recording in REO Town

“Great, that’s all I needed,” says Elm Street Recording owner Ryan Wert, as the soloist finishes singing the powerful Pat Benatar arrangement, “Heartbreaker,” for the second time. She takes off her headphones and makes her way up the stairs, passing through the kitchen to get to the sound mixing room where Wert waits to commend her on a job well done.

While many people head home at 5:00 Friday evening, 27-year-old Wert works from home all day.

“In general, weekends are always my busiest time and, unless I schedule it in, I rarely take one off,” Wert admits.

For many, a seven-day-a-week schedule is not synonymous with “dream job.” But for Wert, who is a successful entrepreneur, working in Lansing makes it worthwhile. A graduate of Hope College with a degree in recording arts, Wert had the chance to work in New York.

Instead, he chose a career in Lansing for the opportunities in small businesses and musical diversity.     

Getting Started

Wert started Elm Street Recording in Lansing in 2004, shortly after deciding against interning in New York at the recording studio occupied by music sensation Cyndi Lauper. Instead, Wert chose to work for Glenn Brown Productions, a studio in East Lansing.

“I ultimately decided that helping to run sessions and be the only intern at a small studio here would be a much better education than making coffee and running errands for a big studio in New York,” he says.

In order to launch his business, Wert had to renovate his house. “Starting up was a fairly organic process,” he explains. “I bought a condemned house and started refinishing it with my family.”

When Wert refurbished his home in order to transform it into a professional studio, the REO Town Commercial Association newsletter tracked his progress. The renovation was valuable to both REO Town’s reputation and Ryan’s business.

Wert’s studio started in a few small rooms and “gradually took up more and more of the house until it reached its current size.” Wert’s studio now consists of the sound mixing room on the main level, where he spends most of his time, and the microphone room in the basement, where clients produce their music.

Wert’s microphones are set up so he can listen, respond and fine tune sound from upstairs. He recently invested in a camera, which sits in the basement, and a built-in television screen for the sound mixing room. These new additions let Wert watch clients as they play and sing, which helps to ensure proper communication between him and the artists.

Wert’s business has prospered substantially in the past few years. With a 20 percent increase in revenue from 2007 to 2008, he wants to find new space and he wants to find it in the Capital region.

Cultured Community

Though financial success is important to Wert, he values Lansing on other levels as well.

“I think Lansing has a great sense of community that’s missing from a lot of larger cities,” declares Wert. “A lot of neighborhoods are sort of functioning microcosms. Within walking distance of my house, there are a couple of little restaurants that everybody frequents.”

Wert feels comfortable in REO Town, with its pockets of historic residential neighborhoods and a small commercial district that’s working to encourage more business and pedestrian traffic. Wert is on the board of directors for the REO Town Commercial Association, an organization dedicated to attracting new people to the Lansing area.

“It’s great to walk into a place and not only have the owner know your name and how you like your burger, but to always see lots of familiar faces,” Wert says. “I’ve had the neighborhood mailman Fred walk into the local diner and hand me a package because he was walking by and saw me and knows I don’t always answer my door when the musicians are making lots of noise.”
Working with rappers, local bands, a cappella groups, jazz musicians and a few different symphonies, Wert also appreciates the mixture of musical styles Lansing has to offer. “There's a lot of diversity in Lansing's music scene, which keeps things fresh and interesting for me,” Wert explains.

Geography is another asset for Lansing. The work of a recording engineer doesn’t end in the sound mixing room; traveling to other cities to record live sounds is a must.

“For me, the great thing about Lansing is that it’s centrally located," West says, which allows him to go to west to Holland for a recording, down to Battle Creek for a CD release show and back to Lansing for a rap session at his studio — all in one weekend. For Wert, there’s always a new show popping up, which means chances for both business and entertainment.
Rave Reviews

While Elm Street Recording is praised for its ability to capture any musical genre, the business’s charm is also reflected in its atmosphere.

Claudia Molter, treasurer of Michigan State University’s all-female a cappella group, Ladies First, loves the comfortable feeling of Wert’s homey studio.

“I like that it’s in his house. It gives it a really homey, comfortable feeling,” she says. Molter says the group chose to work with Wert not only because of his close location, but also because he is willing to negotiate finances. “He has reasonable rates and is very flexible and understanding that we are young adults with limited funds,” she says.

According to Molter, Wert is “nice and generous, and professional at the same time” – all qualities that help him fit right in with the character of Lansing.

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Danielle Sharp writes for as Detroit's Arts and Entertainment Events Examiner and reads for The Red Cedar Review literary journal at Michigan State University. 

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Ryan Wert works with the band “iZwicky” in his Elm Street Recording studio

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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