Imported From Detroit

A high-tech studio in Ferndale is delivering Detroit’s musical heritage to a new global audience.
Producer Joel Martin’s new studio in Ferndale is equipped witha low-frequency diffuser (right) that prevents bass sounds from building up. Photo by Erik Howard

Producer Joel Martin may not have had an uncle in the furniture business, but he administers the rights to such memorable ads like the Joshua Doore commercials from the ’70s, along with thousands of other vintage TV and radio commercials. He also handles the song rights of such musical heavyweights as Eminem, George Clinton, and The Romantics.

What makes his collection of 12,000 songs and ad jingles unique is that Martin and his team recently digitized many of the multitrack masters. As a result, custom arrangements of many classic hits can be made within hours at a new $1 million studio Martin recently opened along Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.

Here’s how it works: The creative team working on a commercial, movie, or TV series accesses the catalog online at Once particular sounds or songs are selected, a client picks one or several offerings — with the assistance of Martin’s music supervisors — before downloading the tracks. For example, a movie scene may call for The Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” but without the vocals.

“If you want something that is funky, edgy, or snaky, you type in the words and the website will search the catalog and produce various songs that fit your needs,” Martin says. “We’ve been licensing music for years, but only recently have we gotten proactive about it through”

Working with Grammy and Academy Award-winning producers Luis Resto and Jeff Bass, Martin is tapping into a ready and willing market. The online service is especially helpful for clients facing a tight deadline.

“Right before Christmas, I got a call to license the rights to Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ from Chrysler’s ad department,” says Martin, owner of 54 Sound Studios, also in Ferndale. “It’s just something we’ve never done before because the deal was never right. A different automaker had offered us millions of dollars, but we turned it down.”

What made the most recent request compelling, Martin says, was the aggressive sales pitch from Olivier Francois, president and CEO of the Chrysler Brand, and the automaker’s lead executive of marketing. As the story goes, Francois arrived late one night at Martin’s studio with an advertising campaign for the most recent Super Bowl.

“At first I thought someone was pulling my leg, but Francois himself pitched us on the campaign,” Martin recalls. “He talked about how Chrysler had its back up against the wall, and how the introduction of the Chrysler 200 was incredibly important to the future success of the company. He still had to convince Marshall Mathers (Eminem), who had to sign off on it.”

As it turned out, Eminem approved the project and agreed to star in the unprecedented two-minute commercial. The resulting campaign was a major hit, garnering plenty of attention on the Internet and drawing new customers into Chrysler dealerships. db


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