If you’re enjoying live music at the Freeman Stage in Selbyville, you’re likely observing the handiwork of homegrown event production company: Mid South Audio (MSA).
In the intricate dance of lighting, sound equipment and video gear, it’s easy to forget the kind of coordination it takes to properly execute a live performance. MSA has made this its specialty since 1989.
Founded by Sussex County native Kevin Short, the now full-service event production company and recording studio was born out of an audio installation company that began in 1983. Technology and consumer preference are constantly shaking the industry up, but MSA has changed with the times, dancing to the music all the while.
“We used to be an audio installation company, but now we do what’s called ‘integration.’ That’s not even a word we used 30 years ago,” said Short, MSA’s general manager. “Today, everything – sound, video and lighting – needs to work together and be integrated. It’s all part of one package.”
In the beginning, MSA offered sound services to small local events and bands. At the time, it was a modest 16-track analog studio. Over the years, the company’s client base grew. They started supplying services for local venues like the Avalon Theater in Easton, Maryland and the Delaware State Fair. Their offerings grew too. After buying several lighting companies about 15 years ago, service integration began.
Currently, MSA provides production services for large scale national acts from New Hampshire to Florida and as far west as Texas. The studio has morphed into a state-of-the-art digital facility which has recorded Grammy Award-winning artists while still catering to local musicians and venues.
Part of what’s kept MSA alive, is their focus on the future. Now is no different. The company, currently in Georgetown, recently decided to relocate to Milton and build a new 20,000 sq. ft. headquarters.
“We’re really excited about it because we’ve always worked out of offices and warehouses,” said Short. “We’re going to have a brand new 3,500 sq. ft. recording space and a retail showroom for the first time. It’s a big expansion for us to be able to bring in customers and have them demo products – they can try before they buy.”
“Delaware is a small state, and I believe the state and the business community here goes out of its way to be friendly to local companies.”
The stage in their showroom will enable them to put on demonstrations, trainings and lectures. The new recording studio will also make their in-house productions more efficient.
“We do a once-a-month show called Tech Talk Live that we currently have to rent studio space for,” Short said. “In our new space, we’ll be able to produce it in our own facility.”
When MSA resolved to make the big leap into a new headquarters, it forced them to reexamine what being in Delaware meant to them. Doing their due diligence, they considered several other locations on the east coast. Ultimately, the state retained them for several different reasons, said Short.
“A big thing for us has been that our location helps us attract top talent,” he said. “When we’re trying to entice someone to relocate here, being near the beach communities has been helpful.”
A vibrant client base resides here as well.
“We’re an entertainment company and this is a resort area – they go hand in hand,” he said. “A lot of our customers are restaurants, bars or music venues. Anyone who’s putting on a live event or show in this area may be interested in working with us. Not every community is made up like that.”
A grant MSA recently obtained from the Delaware Division of Small Business also helped persuade them.
“We applied for a received a grant for just over $100,000 – mostly in strategic money, but some to help develop jobs,” said Short. “That made a big difference for us. We already feel like we’re swimming upstream in some ways because so much equipment is being sold online these days and everyone is moving away from brick and mortar.”
Given that the odds are being stacked against old-fashioned retail, Delaware’s lack of a sales tax makes it even more attractive.
“All the tax laws are changing for internet purchases, but Delaware is a great state for us to open a retail space in because of the tax-free shopping,” said Short. “If we can save a customer 5-7%, especially on a large purchase, it’s a great competitive advantage.”
However, one of the best benefits to staying in Delaware is a seemingly intangible one, notes Short: the business community’s dedication to supporting itself.
“Delaware is a small state, and I believe the state and the business community here goes out of its way to be friendly to local companies,” he said. “We support each other, and this state remains a pretty easy place to get things done.”
With their new headquarters on the horizon, MSA looks forward to another three decades of growth and evolution in the First State.
For more information about Mid South Audio, call (302) 856-6993 or visit midsouthaudio.com