My name is Chris Broderick, Managing Director at Matinée Multilingual, which I founded nearly forty years ago. We provide specialist services in voice-over recording, subtitling, and translation. Today, I’ll be looking back at Matinée’s history and telling the story of the business.
Like many businesses, Matinée has been on quite the journey since its birth in the eighties, but one of our core values has remained the same throughout our passion for high-quality, professional voice recordings.
My avid love of music and my time as bass player in the mod band The Crooks played a crucial role in the conception of the business. Spending time gigging with the band during the late seventies and early eighties, I honed my technical skills through the fixing of instruments and amps, and also had the chance to learn more about recording studio setups, where we spent a growing amount of time.
These were key factors that influenced me to eventually leave the band to establish my own recording studio in Reading.
Starting Out on a Budget
I was no stranger to starting a business, I was running a successful decorating company alongside pursuing my music career which gave me a valuable insight into the business. It also helped finance the first steps in my new venture – building my own recording studio.
In 1982, I bought a four-storey townhouse with a basement I could convert into a studio. The first obstacle we faced was deciding on a name for the business, which we eventually agreed would be Matinée Music. With that decision made we were up and running.
Building and setting up a brand new recording studio was never going to be easy, and we started out on a very tight budget. Over subsequent years, we focused on kitting the studio out and improving it until by the late 1980s it was a well-established 24-track recording studio. My love of music remained at the core of the business, as we worked mainly with unsigned bands who would come to record their demos and albums for an independent release.
At this time, we were still in the vinyl era, but the digital age was soon to come, led by the evolving Compact Disc. We were growing steadily, having hired a receptionist, account managers, and another sound engineer. Our team was working hard and feeling positive about the future.
Adapting to a New Industry
Although we largely focused on recording music, we would sometimes be approached by video producers who wished to record voiceovers at our studio. Our Reading location meant we were ideally placed for the many well-known TV voice artists who lived nearby and wanted to visit a local studio, instead of traveling to London.
We enjoyed doing these recordings alongside our main focus of music, but it was during one of these recordings that we had the idea to make a change to the business. A video producer we worked with suggested moving away from recording just music to focus more on recording voiceovers for videos. Weighing up the pros and cons, it was easy to see that the increasing corporate market for, in particular, foreign language voiceovers offered a great opportunity for us to expand our business.
By now I was in my thirties and decided to make the first drastic change to my company: to move on from music and into business audio. This development prompted a name change, and we became Matinée Sound & Vision.
We may have changed direction, but we still valued premium voice recordings above all. To aid us in this move into a new industry, I purchased a range of new equipment which enabled us to synchronize multitrack tape recorders with video recorders using analog tape.
When we were starting out, this was the best way to assemble audio to video, but it wasn’t long before digital evolved and we were able to do the job on a computer, as it’s done today.
Keeping Up with New Technology
Moving into the 1990s, we’d solidified our place in the world of corporate audio, and the music recording part of the business had gradually been phased out. To expand our service offering, we began offering translations alongside recordings, so we could go direct to corporate clients and provide completely foreign language services for videos.
It was around this time that, thanks to developing technology, I became interested in computer-based presentations. We were using PCs and Macs in our studios and were keen to stretch the boundaries when it came to presentations, above and beyond the standard PowerPoint. I enjoyed seeing what a desktop computer could achieve and challenged myself to find the best way to make a computer-based presentation look and sound the most appealing.
At the time, most high-quality business presentations incorporated the use of video, but I wanted to go one step further. Along with some computer experts I hired, I set out to write some code that would enable images to sequence on screen, accompanied by a specially created soundtrack of music, various other sound effects, and, of course, a voice-over.
Through this, we found our niche. Being able to create high-quality presentations and enhance the visuals with a perfect soundtrack, which in turn improved our service offering even further. This prompted another company name change, and Matinée Multimedia was born. Utilizing our skills in music, voiceover, and soundtrack production put us in good stead for the nineties, allowing us to add a multimedia department of over twenty people, as well as a video department and a team that ran live events. The growth didn’t stop there and, by the start of 2000, we had 80 full-time staff members, working out of five buildings based around the original Reading site.
Downsizing the Business
Matinée had now been going for nearly twenty years, and we had seen exceptional growth thanks to hard work and risk-taking. We, of course, faced problems and challenges along the way, transforming from a small team to one of eighty people.
Following the amazing highs we experienced in the nineties, came one of our lows. As the tech bubble burst due to the dot.com crash, and subsequent recession, we lost some of our best clients. Seeing a drastic loss in our client base meant that I had no choice but to drastically reduce the size of the company in the ensuing years.
I now faced the challenge of reducing headcount and deciding which parts of the company were not going to survive. This phase of the business of course came with its challenges, but I try not to dwell on this as it also meant that we could return to concentrating purely on foreign languages and audio.
Now, at a more manageable size, we began working from 2 adjacent buildings, as we still do today. This prompted a further name change, and we became Matinée Multilingual to more closely reflect what we now did.
Where We Are Now
Following the hectic years of the nineties and early 2000s, we have largely stayed the same over the last decade. To expand our service offering, we added captioning and subtitling into the mix and, thanks to the ever-changing world of digital, we now deliver all our media online, instead of using tape, compact disc, and DVD like we used to.
Now semi-retired, I have handed responsibility over to my daughter and her husband, who run the company on a daily basis whilst I enjoy a bit more peace. The pandemic brought with it a new batch of challenges, but fortunately, we survived relatively unscathed thanks to a dedicated team who are able to work from home, plus a technology infrastructure that enables them to do so seamlessly.
As we look ahead to the future, we hope to continue providing high-quality, professional voice-overs, subtitling, and translation services to our clients, helping them to engage with a global audience. We remain passionate about what we do and dedicated to our clients by providing excellent value, 40 years of experience, and a friendly team to work with.