A longtime musician, Mark Thies is one of those people who has been able to turn his avocation into a vocation. Thies owns Markosa Studios, which he describes as a full service recording studio for music and voice. The 1,500-square-foot studio is a separate structure connected to his Roeland Park home.
“I record everything from voiceovers to full-size bands and choirs, and the music styles are all over the map,” Thies said. “I do a lot of jazz, Mexican music and rap.”
About 10 percent of Thies’ business is voiceover recordings for various companies including Hallmark Cards and several local advertising agencies. The rest of his business comes from various musicians including Jim Cosgrove (aka Mr. Stinky Feet) and Krista Tatschl Eyler (Funky Mama).
Thies continues to write his own music when he can.
“It’s harder and harder to find time,” Thies said. “My wife sings most of my stuff.”
Q: How did you start in the recording business?
Thies was working full time for a printing company as a manager when he started the recording venture.
“I started playing and writing; there was no way to get my ideas out the way I wanted,” Thies said. “I got a cheap four-track recorder … and it went from there.”
Thies began helping friends with their projects during his off hours. After reading the book “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” Thies decided to make the recording business his fulltime venture.
“My recording was making pretty good money,” Thies said. “I hated what I was doing as a manager at the printing company.”
Thies came up with the studio’s name – Markosa – merging his first name with the word makossa, which is a type of dance music from Cameroon.
For about 20 years, Thies worked from his basement studio. Five years ago, Thies moved out of his basement studio into his new space, which he designed and helped build. Thies financed the new studio – which came in around $100,000 for the space alone – with a traditional bank loan.
Q: W hy the move from the basement studio ?
“We decided to have a baby, and a lot of the music I was recording would shake the house,” he said with a laugh. “The ceiling height was also detrimental to what I was trying to do. And it didn’t have any class to it working in a basement.”
Thies said the quality of a space is very important in recording.
“The theory is it’s a box within a box,” Thies said. “There are two sets of walls and there’s air in between them to sound proof.… The floors are on rubber and floated so when you jump up and down it prevents that sound from going through the microphone.”
Thies has various rooms to record in; all have 12-foot ceilings for maximum sound production, he said. The studio also includes a lobby.
Then there is the equipment.
“Equipment you keep and it’s never ending,” Thies said. “There’s sound boards, and mixers and tracking.… The magazines they send out we call ‘gear porn.’ You can keep adding and adding.… Most everything you do today is done on a computer.”
Because his studio is in a residential area, Thies had a few hoops to jump through.
“I got everyone’s permission locally,” said Thies, and that included the City Council. He must also quit any recording by 10 p.m.
Thies gets most of his business through word of mouth.
“I don’t think I want to court complete strangers, so I like word of mouth,” he said.
Over the years, Thies said his business has steadily grown.
Q: What was the impact of the recession on Markosa Studios?
“I’ll have two- or three-month down cycles but the recession really hasn’t impacted me,” Thies said. “Getting here was the greatest challenge. I’m one of those people who floats. The bounty keeps showing up.”