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Recording studios cautious after violent incidents

The Associated Press, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 2:23am (PDT)

ATLANTA (AP) -- DJ Montay rarely leaves the recording studio without having someone give the all-clear from outside, counting his blessings each time he's able to leave without any trouble.

"I don't feel completely safe," said DJ Montay, who has produced songs for Ludacris and Flo Rida. "I won't be by myself. It'll be a few other people there. So it'll be a bunch of us."

If the producer seems paranoid, he has reason to.

While musicians and producers are usually well protected inside the studio, danger can lurk outside. Some say petty criminals know where artists record their music, making entertainers a tempting target during tough economic times.

The latest violence occurred earlier this year in Atlanta, where Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament was attacked and robbed in front of the popular Southern Tracks studio.

Studio managers say they have been taking more precautions in recent years to keep artists safe before and after they lay down tracks — whether it be changing the locks and alarm codes each week, improving the picture quality of surveillance cameras or hiring extra security.

"A lot times people have an inside track to know when to get those guys," said Ronald Hausley, who has been a bodyguard for T.I. and Gorilla Zoe. "There's a recession out here and everyone is a target."

In Ament's case, three masked men darted out of the woods behind the studio. Ament jumped out of the car and tried to get away but one of the assailants chased him down and knocked him to the ground. The robbers stole his passport and about $7,000 worth of cash and equipment. No arrests have been made.

The studio has declined to comment, but Southern Tracks has improved their security since the incident, building a 12-foot wooden fence around the parking lot.

There have been other incidents as well. Two men were killed outside recording studios in Oklahoma City and Atlanta earlier this year. Police have made arrests in a few of the cases.

At Fifth Floor Studios in Atlanta, Joseph Nixon said they have a gated, private entrance with a card-access system. The studio also is in the same building as a probation office. "You have to be bold to do something where there's a police presence onsite," Nixon said.

While such studios as the Fifth Floor, the Cutting Room Recording Studio in New York and NightBird Studio in Los Angeles have heavily secured entrances, everyone doesn't have the luxury of a private gate, a well-secured parking garage or office building.

Some studios are located in a secluded area with an open parking lot.

In that case, R&B singer Bobby Valentino suggests high-profile artists should have a bodyguard. He uses a bodyguard often and carries a registered gun when he goes to the studio.

"You really have to watch your surroundings," Valentino said. "As an artist, you're worth a lot of money. You got to protect yourself."

All studios and artists can do is make themselves less vulnerable as possible. At ECHO Studios in Atlanta, staff changes the locks and security code once a week, allowing only the maximum of five people to come along with artist.

"We're always saying to ourselves, 'What else do we need to do?'" said Elliott Carter, manager of ECHO Studios. "Anything can happen at anytime. You've got to stay on top of things, because if not, you will get caught slipping. That could mean life or death."

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