Blackbird Takes Wing with DigiDelivery
By JoE Silva


If there’s any doubt that John McBride’s Blackbird Studio complex in Nashville is a forward-thinking operation, you only need gaze upon Studio C, the one-of-a-kind George Massenburg-designed space that uses 133,000 sticks of wood as sound treatment. McBride, who in 2002 purchased the facility once known as Creative Recording, has spent the last several years updating and expanding the facility from a single room to its current seven-room setup.

Despite its location in the cradle of the country music scene, sessions of all stripes come to Blackbird, and the resulting material often needs review and approval in far-flung destinations. That task is left to General Manager/Staff Engineer and IT honcho Vance Powell — and his delivery tool of choice, DigiDelivery.

Powell, a veteran of both front-of-house and studio sound, has been at Blackbird for the past four-and-a-half years. During that time, he has overseen the facility’s increasingly complex technical development. With 11 Pro Tools|HD systems, Blackbird has witnessed the birth of high-profile recordings by bands like Smashmouth, Secret Machines, and Big & Rich. It was another prestigious gig that first prompted Powell to investigate DigiDelivery.

“Last November we had just finished doing the soundtrack for the Neil Young movie, Heart of Gold. We were doing standard FTP transfers of 1.5 GB to 2 GB a night, and Neil’s people asked us if we had tried the DigiDelivery system.”

Prior to Heart of Gold, Powell hadn’t needed to consistently move that much data. But once his DigiDelivery demo unit arrived, he embraced the technology straightaway.

“I got it, installed it, and within the hour knew that we had to have it.”

The response from Powell’s clients has been universally positive, he says. “Once I show them the client, show them how it works, and explain the difference between DigiDelivery and FTP, they buy into it wholesale.”

“I got DigiDelivery,
installed it, and
within the hour
knew that we had
to have it.”

One such client was producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin, who oversaw the latest Dixie Chicks album, Taking The Long Way. As the project drew to a close, songs had to be shuttled to him from Blackbird’s Studio B, where producer/engineer Richard Dodd was finishing up the mixes. DigiDelivery became an ideal way of keeping in touch with the work going on in Nashville.

“While they were mixing, mixes were printed back into Pro Tools, exported to a folder on the desktop, and then shot out from that machine to our DigiDelivery server,” Powell explains. “And a few minutes later, he had a 44.1 kHz, 16-bit Red Book mix to listen to. As a matter of fact, I think DigiDelivery made it so simple for him that he purchased one himself.”

Last January, Powell was on hand to record the latest album by Jars of Clay. Throughout the sessions, DigiDelivery played a daily role in keeping all interested parties apprised of the results.

“We did ten days of tracking, and every night I would do rough mixes,” says Powell. “The band would leave between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. I would rough whatever songs we did that day, record them back into Pro Tools, export the files into a folder, and then drop it via DigiDelivery to all the band members,
management, and A&R.”

The process gave everyone involved a good feeling of what was happening as the record came together, Powell reports. “We were able to keep A&R in the loop in a way that most studios don’t have the ability to do. And DigiDelivery did it so easily, to 15 people every day...boom!”

JoE Silva is the host/producer of WUGA’s Just Off The Radar ( He’s a regular contributor to Music Tech magazine in the UK, and has also written for Remix, Sound on Sound, Future Music, and other periodicals that he can’t generally remember.