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Tony Brooke- A Brief History
My Professional Life Story
My life has been a constant quest to make music and to broaden listeners' horizons. My career began in radio because I wanted to turn people on to music. I had already spent seven years as a radio DJ and one year as a program director before graduating college, so I got entry level jobs at a few commercial radio stations. I immediately found that it had little to do with music. The commercialism really soured my enthusiasm for exposing people to music, and I suddenly found myself uninterested in my chosen field. Well, if radio didn't offer the right gateway to music, the logical step was to get closer to the source of music: recording.
The recording studio was the perfect destination, as I had a natural skill with technology, and I had a unique understanding of music. With a degree in Psychology, I also understood the mechanism of how music affects people, and the ergonomic human-machine interaction. After college I explored a bit at UC Berkeley, taking courses in Mass Communications and Journalism. And, with experience as singer in a few well-received bands during college and attempts at playing bass, I also knew the artist's perspective.
It was at this point that I made a conscious decision to go into a business that I knew would be less profitable, but hoped would be creatively satisfying. It took a lot of contemplation, but I knew that I needed creative fulfillment more than I wanted money. Technology also seemed to be advancing so fast that it would be soon be much more affordable to start my own recording business. I named the business Silent Way. Why? Because Miles Davis told me to.
In 1992 I enrolled in SF State's Music and Recording program, and took all of their technology courses. In 1993 I took a year-long program at the California Recording Institute. After graduation I was offered a position as a teaching assistant in CRI's studio lab sessions. I also invested in and worked on the construction of their San Francisco studio/classroom.
Following that, I continued my education "in the real world" and got a feel for the realities of the business as I started assembling my own remote recording system. I did the obligatory studio assistant internship at SF's Brilliant Studios, had a stint reading radio news, and had a job in a North Beach advertisement studio duplicating reel-to reel tapes for radio stations.
I had accurately predicted the rapid technological advances that would soon radically alter the studio business. The cost difference of recording on the new DA-88 spelled it all out to me before it was even released. The "home studio" revolution was coming. I aimed to create a new market: affordable on-location multitrack recording. I positioned myself independently to ride out the swings of a volatile market, and to avoid what I saw as the studio's biggest enemy: overhead expenses and rent. My independence and mobility allowed me to adapt when new competition closed many long-established studios, and I've recorded lots of stellar live performances and studio projects with a wide range of artists.
When people started calling to rent my DA-88s, I saw another opportunity and seized it. Equipment rental seemed a perfect way to capitalize on expensive equipment which wasn't always in use. Later, the technical consulting side of my business came about as another logical extension, as I had become an authority. This brought about a close association with David Denny and Stephen Jarvis, working with studios to solve technical problems. I was straying from my musical focus toward the technical side, but a guy's gotta eat, and the cost of living in SF was skyrocketing throughout the 1990s.
So, what started as a remote recording studio has grown into an equipment rental business, a consulting service, and multiple extensive websites. When more opportunities arose, I built "departments" to host websites, train people, and trouble-shoot technical problems. As an independent engineer and producer, I've had the chance to work with dozens of major artists and hundreds of really talented smaller artists. We have made some incredible music.
This diversification has kept me going through the inevitable ups and downs of each facet of the business.
Now Silent Way is diversified enough to survive the cycles of a fickle industry. When one aspect of the business is hot, I devote more time to that. Things slow down in recording studios whenever record companies tighten their budgets (or get run over after staring like a deer caught in the headlights of progress). For example, in the late 1990's my business shifted from studio recording projects to more computer consulting, internet music and web development. When the Bay Area economy shifted in the early '00s and again in the early '10s, Silent Way adjusted to suit.
In the early '00s I started developing TastyCast.com, which at first was a guide to the the best of streaming radio, with hundreds of stations. There are very interesting things to come from TastyCast which I can't reveal yet, so stay tuned... To keep my music mojo workin', I sometimes DJed as DJ Appropriate.
Pluralism in the music industry is very important to me. For more on that topic, see my article The Future of the Music Industry.
In the '10s I seek new challenges in information management, expanding upon my life's work to create, organize, and utilize media. I expanded into media asset management for large collections of audio, video, and related metadata.
In May 2014 I completed a masters degree in Library and Information Science. My master's research concentrated on media asset management and audiovisual metadata. I've collected my research here. I am also actively involved in the industry, I serve on the board of governors of the San Francisco Chapter of The Recording Academy, and I work on standards development as a full member of the DDEX standards consortium.