Interview with Michael Brown

Michael Brown is the CEO of Brown-Lane Studios in Dallas, TX.image-3

Q: When you first decided to become an Entrepreneur, was there any one thing that caused you to make that decision, a calling you could say?

A: Well my entrepreneurial journey first started back when I was in college. I was pretty broke and I needed a computer, so I built one. All my buddies liked what I built so I built one for each of them. More and more people started wanting computers and I realized that I could buy the parts for about $600, assemble the computer and sell it for $1500-$2000. This is where I first saw the potential for gains and turned on to an entrepreneurial path. The business grew to the size where I needed a way to keep track of everything. So, I taught myself how to design a program that could do that. While teaching myself to program, I realized the creative potential there was when designing them. It wasn’t all just writing code; I could creatively alter the program in almost infinite ways.

Seeing the entrepreneurial potential in the software industry, I moved to LA and started my own software company. I have always had a passion for music and film so I both directed and produced while having my software company on the other side of things.

Q: Did you have any form of mentor that helped you get started?

 A: No, not really. I taught myself most of the things I needed.

Q: Were there any struggles you went through or any points where the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t so bright?

 A: In 2008, I was asked to do a music video for a band. They wanted crazy video animation of them landing on an alien planet and all sorts of weird video affects. I had never worked with any animation editing stuff before, but I went out and bought all the software that was needed to create this 3D world and agreed to do it. It took me 6 months of working and thousands of hours to create this video. I thought it was cheesy kind of, but nothing could prepare me for the response that the video got. People hated it. Hated it.

Q: Did the band hate it too?

A: The band loved it at first, until their fans were not very pleased. It ended up getting a write up in The Observer that was…lets just say it was not very positive. That was a very interesting dose of reality; because here I did something that took me six months and I spent a lot of my own personal money on and it flopped. Flopped. Completely flopped. So that was a painful pill to swallow, but it didn’t stop me. That was a HUGE learning experience for me.

Q: How did you recover from that?

A: I just kept going. What it did was it made me focus even more on how important having a really quality end product was. So when I’m working with people, any kind of people, television show, music artist, whatever it is that I’m working with, I stress the quality of the end product. You will be judged on that and that is what they see. They don’t see the 6 months that went into it. They see that two-minute final product. They don’t know me, they don’t know who I am, and they don’t know my story just like they don’t know your story. They just see that end product. So now I am very cognizant of that.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about coming back to Dallas and opening Brown-Lane Studios?

A: I decided in 2009 that software was NOT what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This is what I wanted to do. I really wanted to focus on the arts on music, photography, television, and film. That is what my passion is. As you know there are millions of other people that also want to make that their life work. This makes it really difficult to do and difficult to make money in. So I had to figure out a way to monetize a business like this. Moving from LA was really difficult because I really loved living in LA, however it was not practical to setup a facility of this size there. It would have been cost prohibitive because I was funding the project on my own.

Q: Do the TV shows coming in here also help with the monetizing of the business?

A: Well, there is a lot to the business model here to monetize the facility. On the TV show front I have known for a long time that there is a huge demand for a studio that can produce quality TV programming at a reasonable rate.

Q: So that was you’re niche?

A: Yes, people would always come up to me saying “can you do this TV show for us” because if you walk into any studio it is $10,000- $20,000 an episode. I wanted to completely do away with that model. To do this I automated as much of it as possible, the cameras are automated, the audio is automated, and there are basically no people required. It can all be controlled remotely. We build the sets; we can build a set for about $500. So what this means is once they pay for their set, then they can come in, they rent a studio at $55 an hour, they can have as many cameras as they want they rent for $160 a piece. We set it up for them and they can “go to town”. We can hand them the footage when they leave and they can edit it themselves or we can edit it in house for $55 an hour. Everything is $55 an hour, which makes it simple. We currently we have five TV shows that tape here and that number is growing. Almost every day I get another inquiry about television production. On the music side, its also $55 an hour and everything that we do is completely radio ready. If you put our work next to any other studio I don’t care how big they are, it’s going to sound just as good. We also do all of our own equipment rental, even if you don’t own a single piece of equipment you can come into the studio, rent a studio, rent a state of the art high end camera and have a shoot for $200-$300.

Q: And you guys do photo also?

A: We also do photography; and yes that is very expensive, but we have effectively lowered the barrier to entry on something like this. That is the whole business model for this studio is lowering the barrier of entry to a studio of this quality.

 Q: That really seems to give you guys the advantage, high quality with the low cost?

A: I’ll put it to you this way, we haven’t even been open 6 months and if you do a Google search for Dallas video studio rental or Dallas audio studio rental, we are the number one result. That is a completely organic result, not a paid spot.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your future plans?

A: We are in the process of acquiring 25,000 sq. feet. adjacent to the studio. Seven recording studios will be built, all music production state of the art studios and we have partnered exclusively with Keller Williams commercial realty to handle our rental business. These music studios can be leased on a yearlong basis, from 1-5 years. There will be approx. 30 absolutely beautiful studios for professional arts teachers. There will be 10 rooms that are state of the art built and designed for rock band. It’s essentially like joining a gym. You pay 79$ a month and you go on our online rest system. You can reserve any of those rooms and you can go in and practice. We’ll have a full array of equipment that you can rent. There will be a café, because this is a big facility, there are a lot of people here and having something like that in the facility will keep people here spending money longer. Ultimately the bottom line with all this is I want to franchise the concept.

 Interview conducted by Kevin Brodzinski, SMU student. 

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