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New Louisville recording studio aims to give back to artists

Two men stand in front of a wall of anime images. Jon Woo stands on the left in a pink bandana-print hoodie. He has one arm around Kojin Tashiro who wears a light wash jean shirt.
Breya Jones
Jon Woo (left) and Kojin Tashiro (right) opened Soundbase Studios at Portal at fifteenTWELVE with the aim of helping local musicians have access to the tools and money they need to further their careers.

The creators of Soundbase Studios want it to be a place where local musicians can foster their craft without breaking the bank.

Jon Woo has been part of the Louisville music scene for two decades. He’s been an artist, a producer and a manager. He’s worked in the industry in larger markets like New York.

With those experiences, he said he gets the needs artists have and the obstacles that make it more difficult to reach their goals.

“I understand the marketing side of the music business, and it's very important,” Woo said. “The need for artists is the marketing; not so much of just creating, it's also the business side. And a lot of these artists don't have a budget, but they do spend a lot of their money on studio time.”

That’s how Soundbase Studios came to be. Woo partnered with music and podcast producer Kojin Tashiro to bring the idea of an incentive studio to life in Louisville at Portal at fifteenTWELVE in the Portland neighborhood. Tashiro does sporadic audio production work for Louisville Public Media.

Woo and Tashiro decided to start by offering below-average costs for studio time.

Artists using Soundbase to record will be charged $45 an hour. Studios often average $60 an hour or more.

Woo and Tashiro want artists to take the money they don’t spend on recording and use it to market their music on social media or save up to make music videos.

They also plan to reward familiar faces with studio time on the house.

“Every month we're gonna identify key contributors to the studio artists who have come here that who's interacting with us a lot. And we're gonna always offer a free four-hour block of studio time every month, just random artists,” Woo said.

Woo and Tashiro said they’ll choose an artist quarterly to help fund a project they’re working on.

“Let's say, an artist is doing some music, and we made the song, we might say, ‘Hey, do you have a video’ and they’re like 'No, can't afford one,’ and we're gonna say, ‘I will pay for the video,’” Woo said.

Woo said reinvesting in the music community that helped him get to where he is the key motivation behind creating Soundbase Studios.

“I just hate people putting a lot of effort into something, and they don't make it not because they're not talented, simply because they didn't understand something or the right tools wasn't given to them,” Woo said.

Tashiro was one of the people who has been supporting Woo in his career since its early days. When Woo pitched the idea of Soundbase to Tashiro, he quickly realized he and Woo were in the same head space.

“I was a little worried about this weird process of artists that are trying to make something out of themselves and do something with their music,” Tashiro said. “And, you know, the lack of information as well as the lack of just support from the community, and other musicians in town.”

Both Woo and Tashiro want to see musicians locally thrive without having to leave the city.

“We don't have a lot of investment, but because of that there's a lot of talent that grows a little bit more unadulterated by what we might know as mainstream music and other things,” Tashiro said.

He said he wants Soundbase to be a place where musicians can go to comfortably record with high-quality systems and equipment.

“I'm hoping for the studio to become a kind of a personal and safe space for someone to come here, vibe out to their music, develop their sound or record, record their vocals, record their instruments and create music,” Tashiro said.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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