Brian Witkin owns Del Mar--based record label Pacific Records and a record/CD store located inside the all-age Epicentre in Mira Mesa. Now, following the McDonald's business model, Witkin intends to break into recording; he says he paid a franchise fee to Riverside-based Love Juice Labs to open a studio of the same name in Chula Vista.
"They already have four locations: two in Riverside, one in La Habra, and one in Tempe." He says As I Lay Dying, Letter Kills, Panic at the Disco, and Rufio have recorded at Love Juice.
"For $380, bands can come in and get a four-song, fully mastered CD in two eight-hour days," says Witkin. "Or you can get the album special for $680. You can't do that at any other studio I know of. At some big studios, they may charge you $3000, but then, when it's over, they might say they need another $2000. If you don't have it, they keep the master."
Besides the franchise fee, Witkin says he invested in the equipment Love Juice prescribed. San Diego bands that call to book studio time won't call Witkin directly; they'll call the Riverside office, which will then refer bands to Witkin's studio. Love Juice will get a percentage of the satellite studio's gross income. He'll exercise some autonomy in that he'll "pick the engineers and they have to go up [to Riverside] and get trained."
Bryce Griffin of Our Ivory Tower says his band plans to record its first four-track collection at the local Love Juice. "Love Juice has good quality for the money, compared to other places where you pay by the hour," says Griffin. "We were thinking about going to Sushi Fish [in Mission Valley].... Some of our members have already recorded at Love Juice in Riverside."
Ben Moore, principal engineer at Big Fish in North County, has engineered the work of Switchfoot, Rocket From the Crypt, Ravi Shankar, and Burt Bacharach. Moore says, "I feel bad for [Witkin] that he made that kind of investment and he's only going to get back $22 an hour. I've been making my living at this for ten years, and I make it a point not to own any studio gear.... By specializing in the same technology that is available to anyone with a credit card, hiring engineers that are training on the job, and then undercutting the local-studio market rates, I don't see how Love Juice's business model is any different than any other garage studio in town."
Dan Maier, who has engineered or mixed records for the Locust, Some Girls, and the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, says, "Love Juice says they have cutting-edge equipment, but I find it extremely strange they don't list their equipment on their website." Moore and Maier say they have never heard of a studio that's charged $3000 and then held on to the masters in order to get more money.