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For the Employee-Owned Clearcut Sound Studios, Every Job is Personal



The award-winning studio, specialising in post-production and sound design, tells LBB about the benefits of employee-ownership and why their small size is an industry advantage

For the Employee-Owned Clearcut Sound Studios, Every Job is Personal

While many companies claim to be ‘like a family’, Soho’s Clearcut Sound Studios actually walks the walk. Established in 1993, it became the very first employee-owned post facility in the UK when Chris Wrigglesworth, managing director, and James Clark, senior sound engineer, took over the company in 2012 together with the team, without looking back. Since then, the team has grown, won plenty of awards, and established long-standing relationships with the likes of the BBC, while championing up and coming talent.

The opportunity to turn Clearcut Sound Studios into the company it is today came about when the original owners, Pete and Carolyn Leggett, decided to exit the industry and offered Chris, James, and the team a chance to collectively take ownership. “This was far from a traditional business sale; the founders saw the potential of employee ownership and a way of exiting the industry that ensured the safety of its existing employees and the company’s hard-won reputation. They helped us to make the transition, passing on the knowledge and skills we needed as a team to start managing the company. We all quickly learned from that point onwards that we were in charge of the company’s destiny and our personal careers too,” says Chris.

Working under the employee-owned model for close to a decade, the team can’t imagine doing it any other way. “Running a company is a two-way street; the company has to look after its employees. But the employees also have to look out for the company, in our case, so that it continues to do well. With employee ownership the consequences of your actions are very plainly seen,” adds James.

Clearcut Sound Studios’ business model benefits both clients and employees. All new hires – the team currently stands at a strong seven –are carefully chosen, as they’re being “invited to have actual, physical ownership of the company as a whole,” explains Chris, adding: “you want that to be the right person. That’s why we look for like-minded people with the right skills, but we can also allow our  staff the time and space to apply their craft and learn the trade.” Taking the time to nurture and invest in talent is helping Clearcut Sound Studios shape the next generation of highly-skilled sound engineers. It’s not often that the more junior employees get to work with brand names like Jaguar, but when a client came to Clearcut with a truly creative brief, James worked with then junior engineer, Lucas Trigg, on the project – which won a Kinsale Sharks Music & Sound Design Craft Award. “Seeing the young engineers do good work, rise through the ranks, start forming relationships with clients and earn repeat business –that’s what I really love,” says Chris.

For clients working with Clearcut Sound Studios, the benefits of the employee-owned model are reflected in the personal approach the team brings to every project. Giving Clearuct a call means you’ll be speaking with someone who has a direct stake in the success and future of the business, no matter how small or big the project athand. For James, this is most evident in the way “everyone that is involved in a job is truly invested in that job and will perform at  their absolute best.” Chris adds: “Our ethos is that we’re a trusted brand partner; you’re always speaking to an owner when you get in touch with us,” which for the team translates into great customer service and a desire to go the extra mile. It’s also reflected in the production service Clearcut offers, including casting, led by audio producer and company director, Lindsay Grant.

“We’re a small company and we’re really proud of that; that’s deliberate. We offer quite a unique service to our clients, they get the family experience” says James. Small but certainly mighty, Clearcut have worked with some of the industry’s biggest names and collaborated on huge ad campaigns in the process. Recently, the team completed the new commercial for Cornetto and a number of promos for BBC big-hitters, TopGear and Planet Earth, plus Netflix’s Ragnarok. Clearcut also worked on the Bafta-nominated animated short, A Whale’s Tale, praising the message and purpose behind it. 

Purpose, or “restoring the balance” as James put it, is something that’s important to Clearcut Sound Studios. The team are proud supporters of Alzheimer's Research UK, having established a relationship when the charity approached them to do a voice recording. Recognising that they could help beyond one job, Clearcut are now partners with the charity, fundraising as well as supporting their media work.

Besides ads, animations, promos, and now a feature-length documentary (Lexus’ ‘Takumi: The 60,000 Hour Story of Human Craft’) too, radio work has always been a mainstay for Clearuct Sound Studios and it only increased during the pandemic. The team have worked on more than a few spots for Spotify, notably for Porsche, which James says they’re doing a lot more of as of late since “everyone is listening.” He adds: “Everyone’s got headphones in now. Audio ads are definitely getting a second coming, in part thanks to podcasts, and the ads you hear are getting more creative, more interesting. There’s the pre-roll, mid-roll and the post-roll. They’re designed to be farmore attention grabbing. The Porsche ad was very unlike traditional radio, it wasn’t about relaying information, but all about the sound experience.” James is of course right on the money when it comes to podcasts; in 2020, over 15 million people listened to podcasts in the UK, with the figure set to rise to 20 million by 2024. That’s a lot of listeners and a lot of opportunities for great ads. 

“It's important that agencies continue to push for radio scripts and see the creative opportunities at hand. When we get interesting scripts, we can create something really great. We worked with Leith for German Doner Kebab and they had quite a bold idea that we loved and both the agency and client were fully committed to; it was fantastic - one of my favourite radio sessions to be a part of,” says Chris, adding that “radio is special because you’re creating the whole world from scratch; there are no visuals, just a script, so it’s all in the audio.”

From speaking with Chris and James, it’s obvious that the tightly knit team at Clearcut Sound Studios is onto a winning formula that makes business personal to everyone involved. 

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Clearcut Sound Studios, Tue, 07 Sep 2021 09:50:14 GMT