Before the pandemic hit last March, the practice spaces at Dog House Music Studios in Lafayette were booked two months out for acts slated to play Red Rocks and the Pepsi Center, including the Motet, BoomBox and Lotus. But just as national tours and local shows started to cancel, the business, which Gary Lennox originally opened about fifteen years ago, closed down under COVID-19 restrictions.
About a week before lockdown, some bands approached new owners Kenny Vasko and his wife, Liz Vasko, who bought Dog House about two years ago, about livestreaming from the building. Over the next two months, the Vaskos spent $10,000 on two stages and lighting systems, turned their largest rehearsal studio into a livestream studio, and piped high-speed fiber-optic Internet into the building.
Since some bands, stymied by poor Internet connections and unreliable phones, were having problems offering high-quality livestreams from home, musicians started booking Dog House to produce their shows.
“The quality just wasn't there,” Kenny Vasko says. “And we said, ‘We can give you that quality just by coming in and plugging into the amps and plugging into the console and going.'”
During 2020, the studio livestreamed more than 120 hours of music, much of which can be found on its Facebook page. In July, Dog House hosted the Underdog Virtual Music Festival, which showcased fourteen acts over one weekend, over half of which included artists rehearsing there, such as Backroom Velvet and Man of Words. More than 50,000 people tuned in over that weekend. Dog House also hosted benefits to raise money and awareness for Black Lives Matter as well as end-of-season shows for School of Rock Broomfield and School of Rock Boulder.
This month, the Vaskos are finalizing acts for 2021’s livestream series, including Dirt Monkey, Crimson Deep, Card Catalog, Big Dopes and more. While bands were paying Dog House to stream shows there last year, this year the Vaskos are working to bring sponsors to pay bands anywhere from $100 to $500 per musician per concert.
Kenny says the goal is to pay a hundred acts this year and raise $150,000. He and Liz had discussions with a number of nonprofits, but this month they’re pursuing corporate sponsorships. His pitch? “Hey, let's get your name in front of everyone who loves Colorado underground [music].”
“It's the first thing we've ever done to this scale,” Vasko says. “And it's a grand experiment as far as I see it — but it's worth it for us to take that shot, because just about every artist that comes in says, ‘I lost seven months of gigs...almost a year of gigs.’ We'd love to at least give these artists one [gig] back.”
While the Vaskos were looking to turn part of Dog House into a music venue and apply for a liquor license, they put that on hold until COVID has been managed. For now, Vasko says, he wants Dog House to be a vessel for anyone to come into one of 23 rehearsal studios, which include two stage studios, eighteen that are rented by the month and two smaller spaces rented by the hour, and do whatever they want, whether it’s a livestream concert or anything in between. Dog House also started offering recording services over the summer with Berklee College of Music-trained audio engineer John Remington.
“We think that there's always going be a market for streaming, even when the world gets closer to normal,” Vasko says. “So we want to be ready for that. If we can just become one of the many hubs in the Denver area where we can just be a place where artists can create and where artists can get paid and where artists can reach their audiences, then I’m a happy man.”
Find out more at the Dog House Music Studios website.
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