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Farmington Resident's Groovebox Studios Helps Bands Fund Recordings, Tours

Jeff Wenzel and his business partner Shawn Neal of Detroit say their business model keeps their services free to the bands they help.

Farmington resident Jeff Wenzel and his business partner Shawn Neal of Detroit say they're helping bands all over the world raise the funds needed to record their music – all at no charge to the bands. 

Through their Detroit-based incubator project, Groovebox Studios, the duo has over the past two years recorded more than 150 bands from all over the world, raising more than $100,000 in capital for full-length EPs (extended play albums) and a small national tour.

“The birth of Groovebox Studios was a very deliberate effort,” Wenzel said. “Deliberate, in the sense that it was more than building the business plan, finding out the quirks in the model, ensuring the equipment was always top notch ... it was connecting an artistic community and industry that was rapidly unraveling on a global level.” 

Neal recalled that bands initially thought Groovebox Studios was a scam.

“After all, this industry is full of so many people promising the world and delivering minimal results, if anything at all," he said. "Here’s our group going to them, showing them how to ignite their fan base, creating their music in a very inviting, intimate space, and then providing them with a seven-song EP and video to use for publicity and a tool to book acts and upcoming live showcase performances."

On top of that, Groovebox cuts the bands a check for everything raised over $1,200, plus the fee charged by the Kickstarter fund-raising website.

Wenzel describes the fund-raising method as opening the band's merchandise booth 15 days before their show. He said Kickstarter has reported that Groovebox Studios supports one percent of all the music funds raised in the world.

"It blows my mind that our 800-square-foot, cinder block building in the middle of Detroit is making that much of an impact on a global level," he said.

Wenzel and Neal met seven years ago, via a Craig’s List ad for a band called The Sugar People, a group that played to sold out venues, had a massive audience buying their material, but minimal interest from recording labels. Neal had switched from a career in teaching to working for Apple computers.

“Having the ability to work in such a highly ethical and corporately sound environment really gave me the tools when co-creating Groovebox Studios,” Neal said. “Jeff and I really pride ourselves in sticking to the boundaries we have implemented and staying loyal to our brand initiatives. We never compromise the act’s intention with our own opinions. When they walk into the session, they know it is going to be ‘One Band. One Room. One Take.’” 

The response landed Wenzel and Neal on the cover of Crain’s Detroit Business in September of 2012, but the partners still hear from people who are suspicious of their business.

“I face palm myself and scream at the top of my lungs every time I hear this,” Wenzel said. "Trust me, we were there, I sold my soul to the devil and then some to try to build The Sugar People. This is why at any time bands can see how much they are raising.” 

Groovebox Studios is currently located 1604 Clay Street, Suite 501, Detroit, in the Russell Industrial Center, and will be in Chicago by the time 2014 arrives, with locations in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon on the drawing board. To learn more, contact Wenzel at fuzzy@gbsdetroit.com or call 248-987-2202.

Source: Groovebox Studios press release

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