Name Murat Aktar
Company Sterling Sound
Role Title Company President
Headquarters 88 Tenth Ave, New York, NY
How did you get started in the music business?
I’ve always loved music and two friends I grew up with wanted to start a mastering studio. It sounded interesting. They needed someone with business acumen and so it was a natural partnership.
How did you come to be at Sterling Sound?
In 1997 I met Greg, Tom and Ted who for years had wanted to do something on their own. Of course everyone wanted to hire them but no one had showed them a vision of how to put the whole thing together. So that’s what we did...we raised the money, build the facility in Chelsea and bought Sterling from its founder.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
I wouldn’t describe anyone as critical in the way that perhaps an artist might point to a manager or A&R executive that discovered them. That said, many people have had an enormous influence on the way I think and act. Carey Taylor, our partner in the UK has been very influential and Don Russell and David Nix, my first bosses, were as well. Often it’s a subtle, offhand comment that sticks with me. I was speaking with Carey once about a startup company in our building that had raised and burned through $25M in venture capital. I made the comment that I couldn’t imagine losing that much money and he said “that’s your problem, you don’t think big enough”.
What does the Sterling Sound brand stand for?
First and foremost engineering talent and experience. And then technical excellence, innovation, and a very high level of service.
How do the Sterling values impact upon the way the company operates both internally and externally?
If I was to pick one, I would say that we play things “long”. We rarely go for short term fixes. We take chances, we invest in people, infrastructure, equipment and other things that will benefit our clients in the long term. Sometimes we are wrong, but generally this has allowed us to navigate the
incredibly tumultuous nature of the music business.
Is there a particular area of talent that you are seeking to add to the company?
No, there is very little turnover in the staff.
Looking into the future, what excites you most about Sterling’s potential?
The global music business moves at an incredible pace. The time to market is often so compressed. An artist performs on a show and the track needs to be on iTunes the next day. What’s always excited me about Sterling is that we have enough scale to make investments. One area we continue to make significant investments in is custom software. We are always looking for ways to speed up the process and allow our engineers and staff to track, organize and then deliver the huge number of files that are generated for a project.
How would you describe the culture at Sterling?
The team is extremely serious about the work, but they are a group of fun people who don’t take themselves seriously. We instinctively shy away from formality, so no 360 degree reviews or company retreats. The engineers have
hand-picked teams that suit their personalities, work habits and client requirements. The company provides a layer of services on top, such as technical support, IT, accounting and the website etc. It works very well.
How does this impact on the kind of talent the company seeks?
Well the basis for the company is the talent of the mastering engineers and that’s something you either have or you don’t. Basically we hate managing people so we hire people who intuit what we want.
What sort of person thrives at Sterling?
Competent people thrive at Sterling. Covered in tattoos, a spike through your nose? whatever.... people who are really good fit right in.
In what ways can people be more socially responsible for the health of our music industry community?
Being willing to pay for music would be a good start.
Tell me about something you learned the hard way?
Basically everything. I’m convinced that experience and wisdom (the ability to see around corners) comes from failures and struggles.
What is art to you?
Something that touches your soul.
*Photograph by Isaac Rosenthal
Shot on location at Space4shoots http://space4shoots.com/blog/