Nexus Studio Sends Sound Waves Worldwide

By Dan O’Brien

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Alex Thomas was working in Akron nine years ago when he noticed that the network and camaraderie there among musicians, artists and engineers in the recording field was something the Mahoning Valley lacked.

“I saw a community that just didn’t exist in this area,” says Thomas, owner and founder of Nexus Sound Studio, which operates two production facilities in Warren and Youngstown. “There were back-to-back sessions – a huge network between engineers and artists helping each other to expand.”

Today, that network has extended its reach to not just a regional market, but a national and global audience, too. “There are artists from all over the country and the world who come here to record their albums with me,” Thomas says.

The void in the local market spurred Thomas into action, and kick-started his transformation from a trained engineer into a full-fledged entrepreneur. Using some of the money he had saved, plus some help from his mother, he established his first Nexus studio in Warren. “We had very little help, and it was just me and my mom at first,” he says.

But Thomas had built up his name in the recording industry and had made the necessary connections to move the business forward.

“I had a little name recognition and got in with good people quickly who were active in the area,” he says. “When we opened in Warren, there was just one studio in the area, and we were new and fresh.”

Nexus soon added other services such as video production, graphic design, mixing, mastering and CD duplication. “We’re pretty much everything an artist needs from start to finish,” Thomas says.

Business improved rapidly and hit a point where the small studio was looking to expand.

That meant scouting for another location that would be suitable for a second studio – this one incorporating more room for video production and stage performance.

Having more clients enabled Alex Thomas to expand to his Mahoning Avenue studio in May.

About 18 months ago, Thomas found a vacant building at 715 Mahoning Ave. in Youngtown that was once used as a car and truck leasing business.

“I had been looking for a site in Youngstown for a long time,” he says. “It was in pretty rough shape. But it’s in a really good area and I fell in love with it.”

Fourteen months of renovation followed and the new studio opened in May. “Every square inch of this place has been touched,” he says.

The garage area has been transformed into a photo and video production stage, while the front of the building is now a sleek, but small, digital recording studio that complements the one in Warren.

So how does a recording and production business thrive tucked away in a sleepy entertainment market sllike the Mahoning Valley when the industry is mostly associated with major metropolitan regions such as New York, Los Angeles or London?

Easy, Thomas answers.

“The internet has opened the door for a lot of things,” he says. “You could be in the middle of nowhere and as long as you have internet access, you can reach the world.”

Still, the internet is clogged with performers and artists who post their talents on social media and YouTube only to be swallowed alive in cyberspace in their quest for fame and fortune.

The challenge, Thomas says, is to develop a package that sets a performer apart – and music alone isn’t enough to accomplish that in the 21st century.

“It’s the image and the following,” Thomas says. “You need the right visual, the right packaging, and you have to promote it right.”

All of this begins with the recording itself, Thomas says. While musicians use some of the latest digital technology to develop home studios, the results often don’t meet the standards of major record labels, which set the bar high.

“Companies no longer want to take a singer or performer from nowhere and get into artist development,” Thomas says. “That takes a big investment and the labels don’t do this anymore.”

Instead, the big companies want to see an artist already established and on the rise with high-quality recordings and a large social media following, Thomas says. “If a big label hears your song and loves it, the first thing they do is go to your social media site,” he says. “If you don’t have a strong enough following, then it greatly decreases your chance of getting a deal.”

And that’s where Nexus can make a difference. “We’ve recorded about 700 artists since we started,” he says, ranging from hip-hop, jazz, pop, rock – all across the board. “We’re in the process of mastering a jazz recording today.”

The company employs eight additional sound and video engineers to perfect the recording process, he adds.

Nexus is also working with songwriters who are developing their own sound in order to land a major recording deal, including a local musician who performs under the name Dredd Scott.

“I’ve been working with the studio for four or five years now,” Scott says, and is in the process of recording his first album. “It’s a sort of pop-funk album. There’s some rock, but it’s mostly pop-infused.”

Scott, who was born and reared in Louisiana and played football for Youngstown State University, has lived in the Mahoning Valley for 13 years. The 30-year-old is proficient on percussion instruments and violin.

One of Scott’s tracks, “Man Down,” was recently recorded and mixed in the Youngstown studio, and incorporates an upright bass, cello, keyboards and acoustic guitar. His goal is to release his full debut album by Jan.1 and then shop it to major labels such as Universal or Atlantic.

Initially, Scott plans to release the first album from his own label and then market his songwriting talents to the major companies.

“An exclusive songwriting deal – that’s what we want,” Scott says. So far, he’s received positive feedback from his early contacts with Atlantic. “They were shocked that this type of quality recording came out of Youngstown,” he says.

Patience is especially a virtue during the recording and production process, Thomas says. “It’s about getting the right recording done, mixing it properly and mastering it properly.”

Thomas says he’s produced and recorded hundreds of other groups – some of them among the biggest acts in their home country. A hip-hop group from The Netherlands, ACtive, often uses Nexus as their studio of choice to record new music.

“We have a very diverse client base,” he says. “We’re recording every day.”

The objective is to use the studio’s expertise in order to bring its clients’ to the next level in their careers. “We use all of our services to achieve the best quality we can to meet the best of industry standards,” he says. “Then, they take it from there.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.