A retail-ready compact disc, like so many worthwhile products and ideas, starts out as a small and simple thing: a polycarbonate pellet no larger than a BB from a toy gun. But from those humble beginnings something truly special can develop, given the right circumstances. The same can be said of AudioGraphic Masterworks, a local CD and DVD manufacturing business that has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade or so.
Founded by partners Mark Yoshida and Brandon Seavers in 1997, AudioGraphic Masterworks started out as an audio-mastering and graphic-design studio in a tiny space on Summer Avenue. But growth was always a part of Yoshida and Seavers' plan.
"When we started, we knew we wanted to get into packaging eventually," Seavers says. "So when we moved to a larger place across the street in 1999, we added that capability."
It was from that second location, a warehouse at 5068 Summer that AudioGraphic Masterworks called home for nearly nine years, that the business took off. AGMW quickly established itself as the destination for local bands and indie labels in need of product, though not all of the services offered were completed in-house at the time. Still, largely through word of mouth, the company was able to carve out a niche for itself.
"We've never focused on advertising or marketing in this business," Yoshida says. "We're successful because of customer referrals, which speaks to the quality of our service."
Those services include custom graphic design and artwork, audio mastering (the final stage in the recording/production process), short-run CD-R duplication, and larger-scale mass replication, including all the necessary packaging materials (covers/booklets, jewel cases, shrink-wrap, etc.).
Both Yoshida and Seavers have a wealth of music-industry knowledge and experience to draw upon — Yoshida ran the successful Rockingchair studio and label throughout the early to middle '90s, and Seavers was a member of one of the Rockingchair label's most successful acts, the 6 Million Dollar Band — and are always happy to share it with up-and-comers who do business with AGMW.
"I think our understanding of the music industry, both from the band side and the label and recording side, really helped us in terms of being able to assist our clients and help them make the right business decisions for where they are in their career," Seavers says.
"I mean, we're happy to get the business, but it doesn't always make sense for an artist or band just starting out to press up thousands of CDs that will end up sitting in somebody's garage for the rest of their lives."
Around 2004, Yoshida and Seavers began to consider making another move to a larger location to meet the growing needs of their business and to allow for expansion into actual disc manufacturing, thus eliminating the need to farm out any work to a third party. In 2006, the two began the search in earnest, though difficulties finding a suitable spot quickly arose.
"We looked for a building to lease for around eight months and found several spaces that would have worked," Yoshida says. "But when you figure in the renovations and upgrades that would have been necessary, it turned out to be a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something we wouldn't even own. So a friend of ours introduced us to a developer, who in turn suggested, because we needed all this custom build-out, that we should design our own place. That was last September. From there, it took us a year to find a lot, design the building, and move in."
And so this September, Yoshida and Seavers opened the doors at a brand-new, custom-designed facility at 3015 Brother Boulevard in Bartlett. In addition to adding two CD-manufacturing lines to their arsenal, they've doubled their capacity for short-run duplication and packaging materials and have expanded their warehouse. Despite all they've added, Seavers sees the need for further growth all the time.
"I think that we will need some sort of expansion at some point, and there is land available around us. As we get settled in and used to the volume we're doing here, we will probably have to grow."
For more information about AudioGraphic Masterworks, visit agmw.com or call 821-9099.
Meanwhile, in Midtown, the semi-annual Gonerfest kicks off with an early party at Goners Cooper-Young headquarters and a full slate of bands later at the Hi-Tone Café.