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Off the Avenue celebrates its 100th episode

Florida-based web series brings national attention to local bands

Photo: Bao Le-Huu, License: N/A

Bao Le-Huu

Local band Rug perform at a recent taping of Off the Avenue, a rapidly expanding Florida-based Web series celebrating its 100th episode this week at Stardust Video & Coffee.

The Florida-based Off the Avenue Web series (offtheavenue.tv) has enjoyed impressively conspicuous national exposure this year. What began as a modest but ambitious, region-specific music series in late 2009 is now partnered with influential Chicago-based indie-music website Consequence of Sound and broadcasts in-studio sessions with a weighty cavalcade of bands including notables like Lucero, Man Man, Cursive, Heartless Bastards, Yacht and Hundred Waters. And it all happens out of a little studio in the Orlando exurb of Orange City.

North Avenue Studios was started by DeLand businessman Mark Shepard and was originally intended for Christian music rather than the mainstream music industry. "I started the business because of family," Shepard says. "My son-in-law, who's a worship leader of a church, and my boys are all musical [three of whom are in area band Roadkill Ghost Choir]."

Although the intent at first was niche, Shepard wanted to build it right and so enlisted the expertise of John Sayers, a highly credentialed Australian producer, recording engineer and studio designer. The result was an intimate, nicely designed and well-furnished professional recording facility.

Having already personally invested in video technology, Shepard held a central but latent belief in new technologies. But it wasn't until David Plakon entered the equation that it developed shape and motion. Plakon's curriculum vitae – which combines a digital arts degree from nearby Stetson University, years of band membership in Orlando's indie scene and the connections that entails – presented North Avenue with opportunity, even if it would take the studio in a fundamentally different direction. After discovering it in late 2009 when it was still embryonic, Plakon's involvement with North Avenue began with website work and quickly bloomed into an official, vested interest. Now, Plakon is part owner of the studio, handling strategy, management and even some engineering. And his indie sensibility now defines North Avenue's identity.

Although the studio has already been the most ascendant name among Orlando's indie musicians in the past couple years, it wasn't until this April that North Avenue's profile vaulted onto the national stage through a partnership between its Off the Avenue video series and tastemaker Consequence of Sound, forged after COS sponsored this year's Orange You Glad Music Festival.

"In the digital era, for websites like us, video's becoming increasingly important, not just because of advertising but because people like watching more than reading, or at least I guess some people do," says Consequence of Sound CEO Alex Young. "And we've been experimenting with video and video content – original programming – for a while. Obviously, the hardest part of that is having the equipment to put out the best possible product. The appeal of working with them is they already had a structure in place, and all they really wanted from us is to curate content. And we have a ton of connections from having been up and running for almost six years now, so it seemed like a perfect match."

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