Zakk Vega: Opening a Music Studio + Building Community in Unlikely Places
I truly believe that having a good conversation is one of the best ways to learn — especially in the arts.
That’s exactly why I sat down with Zakk Vega, owner of Studio 270, a music studio in Yuma, Arizona.
When I found out that my friend Zakk was returning home to open a music studio after a couple of years touring, I was definitely taken by surprise.
Although Yuma isn’t a place short of talented artists and musicians, there has always been a lack of opportunities available to help develop and refine their creative skills. And when places did open up, they didn’t last for long…
Well, after a year since opening it’s doors, Studio 270 is still going strong. They offer affordable lessons, practice space, and a recording studio to a growing community of musicians in the far southwest. Not only are they providing a service that is greatly needed in Yuma, but they do it with contagious passion and dedication.
So if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to open up your own creative business (or what it takes for follow your creative dreams), whether it’s music-based or not, you’ll definitely find value in what Zakk has to say!
In this interview, you’ll learn…
- The balance between taking risks and following your instincts
- What Zakk did to start his business on a budget
- The benefits (and difficulties) of managing a close-knit creative team
- Why location doesn’t necessarily matter anymore
- How to follow your dreams, no matter where you live
- What to avoid if you want to be a successful artist or musician
Read the full Interview below:
Amanda: Hello and thank you for watching the very first aftrART artist interview. My name is Amanda and I am here today with Zakk Vega, owner of Studio 270, located in Yuma, Arizona.I’m doing these interviews so that early career artists can get an idea of what it takes to pursue their creative goals.
I’m doing these interviews so that early career artists can get an idea of what it takes to pursue their creative goals. I am more of a visual artist, Zakk here, is a music … Or a musician, musical artist, so I really want to gather this variety of stories and share how people are following their dreams and doing what they love to do.
So Zakk, can you tell me more about Studio 270 and what services you offer and a little bit about the community that’s here.
Zakk: We are a recording studio that also does music lessons and rehearsal space. We want to help people create and push people, no matter what your musical experiences. We just want to give you a place to create in the quest to become a better musician and we cater just to the music scene here, no matter if you’re in a death metal band or in a bluegrass group or just some kid with a microphone and a ukulele. We want to make sure that we’re giving everyone the opportunity to play and we do that with our open mics, which are located at … We do those at North End Coffee House and those are free and we record those and we promote those because we want to … It’s awesome because we see people that come out and perform that don’t ever get the chance to, because they don’t ever have that outlet to do it.
Amanda: Awesome. You mentioned that, it’s very affordable and in that way, it’s accessible to really anyone that wants to get involved.
Amanda: So Zakk, what were you doing before you opened the studio and what kind of inspired you to start your own business?
Zakk: This had always been an idea since high school and I always wanted to … But before here, I worked at a record store, Zia Records, for over a year and unfortunately, things didn’t work out there. I got let go. I did not know what to do, did not know what I was going to do, how I was going to make money, so I started touring. I got into bands. I didn’t ever bother to write my own music but I just played as the fill-in guy. So I did that for about two, two and a half years and then I got a phone call for this place. I wasn’t really happy because I wasn’t creating my own music, so I kind of just, looked at everyone, and said my peace, and I was on the next flight home. That was May of last year.
Amanda: You’re from Yuma, originally.
Amanda: We went to high school together. So, we’ve known each other for a while.
Zakk: Born and raised.
Amanda: Yes. What did you need to do, in preparation, to open up this studio, other than getting that phone call?
Zakk: Preparation, I’m just observing business practices. Like my mom is a single mom who opened her own business and had a successful business for 12 years. Overseeing that, and monitoring, getting my experience through there to doing some of the management stuff over at Zia to seeing how management worked for bands. That gave me the prep I needed for the business aspect. But, other than that, I mean, it was just playing, and asking questions when I was in recording sessions. There really wasn’t any … I didn’t have a schooling in doing this. I didn’t have a lot of training, it was a lot of just hands-on.
Amanda: I think that’s really common now, and it’s going to continue to get more common as people have so much access to information. Opportunities come up and you have to take them.
Zakk: Yeah, yeah. It was one of those, just did not think twice about it and just was, “All right, let’s go.”
Zakk: Gabe, who works here, I gave him a phone call the next day, “Hey dude, I’m going to open up a recording studio.” He was just like, “Okay. You sure?” I was like, “Yeah. Why not. Let’s do it, let’s figure it out.”
Amanda: That’s awesome. What do you wish you would have known before opening up this studio?
Zakk: Saving money, like we talked about, that was definitely one. From that, and more importantly, just the trial and error thing that comes with doing this. And having no experience, and having like, “Oh, hey, that was an expensive boo-boo. Don’t do that again.” From that to developing relationships been being a business owner. Especially with hiring people that are like family, making sure you’re maintaining that separation between business and home. That’s been a constant challenge, but you learn as you go.
Amanda: It’s also more rewarding when you get to make a business grow with the people that you really care about, right?
Zakk: Yeah, and trust. My guys, I trust 100% and I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.
Amanda: Why was it important to open up this studio in Yuma and bring something like that here.
Zakk: That wasn’t the intention. The reason why I came here, is that I got the phone call to do it here so cheap. That made it happen here, but I’m more proud that it did, because the fact that, music doesn’t get a chance here, any form of art does not get a chance here. Rancho de la Luna in Palm Desert, which is in the middle of nowhere, but those guys have made it and made such phenomenal records from Queens of Stone Age, Eagle of Death Metal, Arctic Monkeys. If they can do that there, then why can’t we do that here? It’s just making sure that good music can be made in your place.
I think that for the next generation to come, that gives them hope that they can do it from here, you can make it from Yuma. Just because you’re from Yuma doesn’t mean you’re now unable to do your dream. Nowadays, it’s not about moving to L.A., it’s not about moving to Phoenix, not about moving to New York City, and if you want to go that route, fine. But, you’ve got to understand, nowadays, since there’s no guarantee and record labels are becoming a dying breed. But, I’m seeing so many bands, you have the Kickstarters, you have Squarespace, all these things that are kind of now evolving. It’s so neat to see that the independent game has now stepped up so much.
Amanda: Yeah. The threshold to access the information that you need to, whatever you want, is so much lower than it was before. Doesn’t make it easier, it doesn’t make it easier to become a successful artist, or just make a base living doing what you love to do, but if you have the drive to do it, you definitely can.
Zakk: Yeah. It’s just making sure you’re doing it just because you love it. I work with like-minded people and that’s what really keeps me going.
Amanda: Yeah, and it doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter where you’re located. If anything, it makes it more meaningful, knowing that you’re providing something to a community that doesn’t already have it.
Zakk: It makes this more of a badass thing, because it shouldn’t … This space does not make sense. It’s not meant to be a recording studio, but we will make it that way. We’ll use with what we got and we’ll figure it out. My business practices, it’s just kind of like, “How are you still here.” Well, we’ll make sure that we always are doing our best to our clients and making sure that we’ll keep having everyone back.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah, and you start from lessons, you’ve got the studio too, so it’s like you have different ways to cater to a young musician, even as they grow up.
Zakk: Yeah, we just recorded our band class and that was cool because … Well, it’s kind of funny too. One, they got to see how much work goes into recording. But, they got to experience that, and some of them loved it, they loved hearing themself back. I loved having kids see that, seeing that opportunity.
Amanda: Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, where do you want this to go?
Zakk: I still want to be here. I still want to be working, and pushing, and involving. I don’t ever want to be comfortable. I don’t ever want to be, “Oh that was done. We’re good. We have enough to get by.” I was even progressing to the point of Mat and I talked about opening a different recording studio that’s out in the middle of nowhere, that’s all analog gear, and evolving our lessons, and how we’ll offer different instruments, and also booking some shows in here would be really cool.
Amanda: Do you have any advice to artists or musicians thinking about starting their own business?
Zakk: Don’t overthink it and just do it. 100% I believe that.
Amanda: No, I totally get that. I don’t really think of aftrART as a business, right now at least, but if I didn’t just take the plunge and tell everyone, “In a month, I’m launching this website and this project.” Then, I’d still be in the planning phase, not even really thinking about it, but …
Zakk: Yeah, it’s a huge weight. One, you have a lot of people doubting you. You have to just push through, no matter what, push through and you’ll see it pay off in the end. I’m still pushing, no matter what, I’m still pushing to the next day, to the next month, year, whatever it be. You have to just overcome the fear of the unknown, the doubt, and just find yourself to do it. It’s a huge workload, you’re going to be working 10 times harder, but that 10 times harder is worth it at the end of the day, know what I mean? When you’re just like, “Hey, I did this for me, for my creative purposes, and I was able to accomplish it.”
There’s no guarantee anymore. You can get a degree, you can go that route, and that’s fine. But I also knew a guy with, I think he had, I want to say, 30 grand in student debt, and was working at Circle K to get by, to be honest. I’m 30 grand in debt, I’m going to be buying some nice gear, hair, and doing what I want, at least I’m going to go out that way, right?
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, if we’re going to have a job, or if we’re going to get that pink slip, or whatever. So, with that no guarantee, why not do what you want? Why not push and accomplish, because sink or swim, as long as you did it for yourself, there’s no failure in that, I think. As long as you can smile and say, “Hey, I have accomplished what I wanted to do.” There’s no fail in that.
Amanda: Is there anything else you want artists or musicians to understand about pursuing their dreams or taking on big challenges like this?
Zakk: Just make sure you have the best intentions. Don’t think you’re going to make a million dollars, have a number one record, or have a piece sell for a million dollars. Make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons, because you will do well. I tell everyone that, because you have to do that. People can see it in art, they can see when you create music, people can see it when you’re working in a 9-to-5. Those people that are killing it, are the people that took the risk, took the jump, the plunge, to give up security, to give up comfort, to make sure they were going to be able to pursue what they wanted to do.
Amanda:Thank you for sharing all of the insights you’ve learned opening up a studio, and just as a musician trying to navigate this crazy, messy world of creativity. It was a good interview. Is there anywhere that the people watching can find you or Studio 270, if they’re interested in learning more?
Zakk: Yeah, they can find us on Facebook, Studio 270, or on our website, studio270onmain.com.
Amanda: Awesome. Be sure to like and subscribe for more videos like this. I will talk to you soon!
Visit & Connect with Studio 270!
270 S. Main St.
Yuma, AZ 85364
And while you’re at it, you’ll definitely want to check out the band, Glitterfoot, too!
Listen to their EP: https://glitterfoot.bandcamp.com/