Magic bus: Verizon Wireless uses recording-studio bus to gain mind share

RCR Wireless News
NEW YORK CITY — “This bus has been my home for the last three years,” said Jesse Jensema, supervising producer on Verizon Wireless’ Mobile Recording Studio, while Madonna’s rehearsal for her performance later that night played on screen.

“I live here and I sleep here,” the young and energetic recording engineer said. “I live in a recording studio.”

Parked just around the corner from the Roseland Ballroom where Madonna played for an intimate crowd of 3,000, the 45-foot-by-8-foot bus has lived a few lives before it came under Verizon Wireless’ watch, beginning at the Grammys earlier this year.

Its first act took it to schools and wherever students congregated as the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, which gave youths a free opportunity to make music and video under Jensema’s supervision.

Now the bus travels around the country, mostly on the West Coast, moving from one artist to another as a one-stop-shop for songwriting, rehearsal, recording, production and mastering — from idea to final product.

Why is Verizon Wireless sponsoring a recording studio bus?

“Increasingly, music matters to our bottom line,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson in an e-mail. “We’re now the second largest digital music seller in the U.S., after iTtunes. Vcast Music draws in news customers (they start paying attention when you are aligned with, say Madonna, or Timbaland, or Fergie), and then stay with us because of the cool offerings.”

Some of the songs recorded inside the bus are being made available exclusively to Verizon Wireless customers, oftentimes before the album hits store shelves. Video footage is also shot throughout the bus to give fans a backstage glimpse into the creative process.

Verizon Wireless has also brought on a “producer in residence,” Timbaland, to use the bus as home base for mixing and producing his new album.

Later this year, Verizon Wireless plans to compile a group of tracks from various artists for what it says will be the first-ever full album distributed straight to mobile.

“Usually it’s a very long, arduous process to get something to market,” Ed Ruth, Verizon Wireless’ director of music, said next to a drum kit, guitars and plush red leather bench seats onboard.

With the recording studio on a curve that’s unknown at this point, Jensema said it’s exciting to be working on this recording studio on wheels, which comes to the artist rather than the other way around. “The best part is it comes to you, you don’t have to go to the studio,” he said.

Plus, you always get the same equipment, the same people, the same environment and the same vibe, Jensema added.

“The vibe is where the creative juices flow from,” he said.

“We’re very versatile and we can manipulate the bus to do whatever it needs to,” said Jensema, who oversees audio and video production on a pretty consistent workflow.

He’s been working on the bus since he graduated from recording engineering three years ago and loving every minute of it. “History shines through these walls everyday,” he said.

Changing channels in mobile TV

Madonna concert sings of the potential for mobile broadcasts