Battle Creek studio amplifies voices as multimedia hub
Battle Creek — The exterior has signage for the Kendall Electric Inc., a couple of campaign yard signs and a black mailbox reading “131 Studios.”
Inside the unassuming building there are photo shoots, podcasts are recorded, videos are shot and music is produced and recorded.
“The biggest thing here is it’s a one-stop shop,” Trevon Tatum said. “It’s a multimedia hub.”
Tatum, with older brother Trenel Tatum and their friend Derek Freeman, own 131 Collective Studios in Battle Creek. The group is leasing space at the site in the city’s light industrial district and running at least eight separate business offerings under the 131 Collective Studios umbrella.
“Just a place where people can collectively come together and make music and art for the city of Battle Creek,” Freeman said. “It’s a place where they can go, they know they can be creative. Once they come into these doors they can be creative, they are not around their mom, dad and friends. They got an actual place they can call home.”
Octavius Feaster and Stacy Rogers are among the musicians who have used the space since 131 Collective Studios’ grand opening on Aug. 21. The pair also have used the location as a way to connect with regional talent for their independent label, Farrocc Records, LLC.
“Everything that we do is basically for artists’ development,” Feaster said. “Any time they book a session, not only are they recording, but we’re giving insight on what they could do better, the potential they got and how to distribute their music. You don’t have to go through a major (label) to distribute your music, you can do it independently. Just making sure they are developing.”
“Also making sure they get paid for their music,” Rogers added.
Calemore Greene of Battle Creek is a hip-hop artist and said he likes to come to 131 Collective Studios, where “everything is brought to you.”
“It allows you to focus on more than one aspect of the music while not giving up some of that creative process,” he said. “I come with whatever beat I want prepared, not have to worry about engineering or certain sounds or setups with how I like to hear my voice with myself when I track.
"If I want to edit something and take away a certain element or sound of some kind of song I’m making, they have a live studio here and also drums so you can change things around, so it’s a lot of different things I’m not always going to have in my crib, so I can just come here and get everything else done,” Greene said.
Trevon Tatum originally launched 131 Collective Studios with Erik McCloud. The two studied communication at Olivet College, where Tatum serves as the official DJ for school events under his stage name “DJ Tate 5.”
The Tatum brothers grew up in Battle Creek and were immersed in music at a young age through the church where their father was the head pastor for more than 20 years, First Salem Baptist Church. Freeman, a candidate for an at-large seat on the city commission, moved to Battle Creek six years ago and met Trenel Tatum as both worked as bus drivers for Dean Transportation.
Trenel Tatum works at the studio as a producer and artist while running his own independent label and production company. He tends to work more with gospel musicians, while Trevon works mostly with hip-hop artists, although they say the building is equipped to work with musicians across most genres.
“We also do audio/visual installs outside of here,” Trenel Tatum said. “We do quotes for many different things. We do training. We’re not looking to just help on the music side but help businesses, especially churches right now that can’t have services who depend on donations, and a lot of churches are not hip to the electronic side, so we help them install streaming services, giving them options and working within their budgets so they can do what they normally do every Sunday.”
As diverse as its offerings are, the heart of 131 Collective Studios is music. And Trenton Tatum said the aim is to amplify voices of local artists and give them a professional setting they might otherwise need to travel to Detroit or Lansing to find.
“When you walk in, you should feel five-star. We want to make you feel important. When you leave here feeling important, you invite somebody else,” he said. “The biggest piece is the networking. Whatever you need, we know somebody that can help you.”
Freeman, who previously worked as a paraprofessional and a family advocate in the Lakeview and Battle Creek school districts, added that he would like to open the space up more for youth programs and internship opportunities.
“I work with youth in Battle Creek, teaching them how to work a camera, how to start a YouTube channel and how to start a podcast. We got all that stuff here at 131 Collective Studios,” Freeman said. “This is a good place to be and a voice for the people.”