By Jaimie Scanlon
Let’s face it; the music industry doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being earth friendly. From gas-guzzling tour buses, supercharged lighting and sound equipment, and throngs of straw-sucking fans at festivals (Remember those days?), the business can be tough on the environment. But there are some signs of green sprouting up between the subwoofers.
Artists from Billie Eilish to Drake and Dave Matthews have started adopting eco-conscious touring practices, like using biodiesel-fueled tour buses and setting up water-bottle refill stations at concert venues. And well before the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on in-person concerts, Cold Play had announced they were suspending live shows indefinitely until they can make touring a carbon-neutral endeavor.
But for all their good faith efforts, it’s next to impossible for music industry pros to achieve true greenness in all aspects of their careers. Take the act of recording, for example. From control rooms packed with high-powered electronic gear, including mixing boards, amps, computers, and monitors; to large-format acoustic live rooms requiring AC and heating—professional recording studios are notorious energy hogs.
This couldn’t be further from the truth at Guilford Sound, a full-scale recording studio in Vermont that breaks all the stereotypes by using only clean, renewable energy sources in all of its facilities and manages to maintain a completely carbon-free footprint.
Established in 2010, Guilford Sound is the only full-service residential recording studio in the world that operates at 100% net-zero carbon emissions. Owner/engineer Dave Snyder, says that pending upgrades will eventually move Guilford Sound into net-positive territory, allowing the studio to generate more energy than it uses by the end of 2020.
For Snyder, establishing Guilford Sound as a green business was non-negotiable. Having started out in the music business in the early ‘90s as the drummer for New York pop punk trio Ruth Ruth, he went on to a successful career in audio engineering and production in NYC as co-owner of Jarvis Studios on E 4th Street, where he worked with a host of major artists, including Susan Tedeschi, Los Lobos, and Patti Smith.
In 2004, Dave and his wife, Sara Coffey, relocated to Vermont with a dream of creating a place where musicians, bands, and producers from around the country could come and enjoy the same caliber of design, expertise, and equipment offered at high-end urban studios, but in a private, tranquil, down-to-earth Vermont setting. The couple settled on a breathtaking parcel of sweeping fields and woodlands in the quaint village of Guilford; making it possible for them to dream big and design comfortable, inspiring spaces from the ground up, where clients from solo artists, to bands and larger ensembles, to educational institutions have ample room to create, collaborate, relax, and explore a broad range of creative possibilities in music and sound.
Over the next several years, Dave brought in the top names in the audio industry to help make Guilford Sound a reality, working with acoustics guru, Francis Manzella, sound tech experts John Klett, Dan Zellman, Matt Marinelli, to design studio spaces for stellar performance. A rabid gear collector, Dave has curated a collection of top-of-the-line control-room equipment and outboard elements, ranging from highly sought-after analog pieces, to rare vintage and specialty microphones, and up-to-the-minute digital technology.
Constructing a custom sound studio from the ground up not only afforded Dave the opportunity to employ the savvy and know-how gained from his years in the music business in New York City, but also allowed him to adhere to Earth-friendly principles when it came to sourcing building materials and employing the latest technology in green energy solutions to reduce the studio’s carbon footprint.
The main studio building (Studio A) features building materials sourced from the property itself or within a few miles, a 30 kilowatt roof-mounted photovoltaic passive solar array system, ground-source pumps for HVAC and radiant heating/cooling, high-performance floor-to-ceiling windows for maximum natural light influx, extensive use of LED lighting, and a wood-fired gasification boiler fed by wood from the property.
To date, Guilford Sound has hosted a wide range of recording artists, including Cat Dail, Bella White, Speedy Ortiz, Ruth Garbus, Sam Moss, Valerie June, Metric, Now Ensemble, Moxie, and So Percussion with Caroline Shaw, as well as providing working space and equipment for songwriting retreats, audio tech trainings, and music production camps for Berklee College of Music, The New Yorker, and Vermont Performance Lab.
Like everything else, the audio recording business is largely on hold at the moment. Who knows what the future of music holds and when and to what extent large-scale concerts and live shows will come back someday. All we can do is wait and continue to support artists that lean in the green direction.