Dig Baton Rouge

Growing Up

By Cody Worsham

Since 2006, Baton Rouge Music Studios has opened its doors to the city’s musicians, serving as a starting point for aspiring performers of all ages.

Now, it needs bigger doors.

Owner Doug Gay is attempting to raise $50,000 by May 12 to help fund a $160,000 move to a larger space capable of housing the studio’s vast potential. Its current 2,000 square foot spot off Bluebonnet between Perkins and Highland – the organization’s third location since opening in 2006, an indicator of its rapid growth – is no longer sufficiently large to house the studio’s students – or its ideas.

“Right now,” Gay says, “we’re confined to our own little bubble. A new place would open us up to bigger things.”

Those bigger things include an expansion of the studio’s signature program, Young Band Nation, which takes hopeful musicians aged 7 to 17 and places them in band, where they learn real songs and play real gigs. Combining traditional musical education curriculum like music history, theory, and notation with practical applications of gig etiquette, self-marketing, and booking skills, Young Band Nation addresses a gap between the classroom and the venue that so many musicians – who assume it’s record-deal or bust – struggle to navigate.

“We don’t want to just teach music,” says Carolyn Ray, office manager and director of marketing and events. “We also want to teach kids how to make it in the music industry.”

“And the only way you can get ahead in the music industry,” Gay adds, “is to have all the playing and engineering skills. That’s the beauty of the music industry that so many people don’t realize: You can make a comfortable living without being world famous.”

To do that, however, BRMS knows it has to make it in the business industry, itself, something that Gay admittedly has had to learn on the fly since opening his own business in 2006. There was a failed expansion from one facility to two several years back, when Gay tried to run another location out of the old Bebop Music Shop on Government Street. That premature move taught Gay the important lesson of steady growth.

“We were too young,” he said. “But it was a learning experience. I realized we needed to make one location the best it could be.”

Hence the IndieGoGo campaign, which looks to take the studio’s big ideas into a larger location. They’ve eyed a 4,200 square foot space off Burbank a short drive away from their current location, which is so tight they’ve had to move their offices into a kitchenette and features a recording studio that is literally a garage (“Everytime a dog barks or a plane flies by,” Gay jokes, “we have to start over.”)

Twice as large as the current space, the new location would allow BRMS to house all its programs under one roof, with the key addition being a multi-purpose venue for hosting its own shows.

It’s not massive – Gay is even considering scrapping his would-be office to free up room for another practice room – but they’re okay with a tight fit.

“We’re not worried about tight,” Gay says. “We’re worried about opportunity.”

And that’s exactly what they see a bigger facility as: an opportunity – and not just for them. Long entrenched as go-to resource for lessons, camps, and weekly program, the studio hopes a bigger facility – and the all-important in-house venue – can help open doors not just from the inside, but from the outside.

“We see this as being a community center for music,” says Ray. “The lack of room has prevented that from taking off. It’s been a huge roadblock.”

The $50,000 IndieGoGo campaign goal won’t entirely traverse that roadblock, but it will certainly get the process started. Ray said the decision to shoot for $50,000, instead of the full $160,000, was aligned with their overall business and fundraising approach.

“When I would watch other Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the videos that appealed to me weren’t the ones where people were going out of business and begging for money,” she said. “The ones that appealed to me were successful businesses trying to grow. That’s what we are, so that’s our approach.”

Likewise, Gay said he’s tackling the project like he would any other in the music industry, while remaining carefully optimistic about their chances.

“In the music industry, they don’t look at you until you’ve shown them your work ethic,” he said. “We’re taking the same approach. Also, we felt with our market, we wanted to be realistic. I think we are still shooting high, but we can push ourselves. We hope this is just that last little bit to get us over the hump.

“It’s like we’ve been hanging on by one finger to a cliff. This is the hand to grab us and pull us up.”

As of press time, the project had raised just over $15,000, or 31 percent of its goal. To keep the funds rolling in, the studio is throwing out a unique assortment of incentives, ranging from tickets to their Spring Jam on May 10 at the Dunham School to recording sessions. Gay’s even Photoshopped Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum record plaques for donors of $500, $1,000, and $2,000, respectively, which will hang on the walls of the new facility. The parodies play on donors’ names and musical stylings, and they get pretty funny, which is something Gay and his team hope to always keep at the forefront of their mission.

“We want everything to show our personality,” he said. “We’re serious about music, and serious about mentoring. But kids are weird, and we’re weird. That’s what’s fun about it. They keep you young.”

If all goes according to plan, the studio will raise the money and make the move as soon as possible. Future plans include franchising the Young Band Nation program into something any music academy across the country can implement – “the Crossfit of the music industry,” Gay calls it.

“We want to make a style of program that could exist in any other system,” he says.

It’s a big dream, but Gay has long in the business of making dreams come true. That’s the purpose of Young Band Nation: to teach kids how to make their musical aspirations a reality.

Now, he hopes it’s his turn to experience the realization of a dream.

“When I started this, I saw myself as an artist-slash-teacher,” he says. “I’ve slowly learned how to be a businessman. It’s not in my nature to profit, but that’s what you have to do to succeed. Without the resources to grow, you can’t provide the services to the community, which is your ultimate motivation.

“We hope karma will reward us with help. We do things for free all year and a lot of things we do, we do without expecting anything in return. Now we’re hoping it comes back to us when we need it most.”

To help Baton Rouge Music Studios reach its goal, visit their IndieGoGo page here.

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