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Thieves Break Into John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studio

Aug 26, 2023

On April 15, burglars stole recording gear and instruments worth thousands from John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone Studio.

By Clive Young ⋅

Oakland, CA (April 20, 2023)—On April 15, burglars stole recording equipment and musical instruments worth thousands of dollars from the Bay Area's long-running Tiny Telephone Studio. Owned and operated by indie music stalwart John Vanderslice, the facility lost all its electric guitars and basses, as well as numerous high-end microphones, including a 1961 Telefunken U47 that he estimates was worth $38,000.

According to a GoFundMe page that Vanderslice set up earlier this week, no one was hurt during the burglary, but the damage to the studio and its staff is difficult to bear. He noted, "Early on the morning of April 15, we experienced every recording studio's worst nightmare: A crew forced their way through two reinforced doors, broke into Tiny Telephone and stole a number of items from the studio."

Over the years, acts like Death Cab for Cutie, St. Vincent, Sleater-Kinney, Deerhoof, Spoon and The Magnetic Fields have recorded at Tiny Telephone locations. Originally based in San Francisco, Tiny Telephone was founded in 1997, and with help from crowdfunding, built out a second Oakland location in 2016; the resulting 3,000-square-foot room with 22 1/2-foot ceilings was originally created to ease demand for the San Francisco location, which was perpetually booked solid at the time.

Nonetheless, in late February, 2020—just two weeks before the pandemic kicked in—Vanderslice announced that the original studio would close by August that year, as its landlords were planning to raze the site to make way for a new apartment building.

With Tiny Telephone's Oakland location now burgled, the challenges remain. "We’re a small arts organization in Oakland, without any kind of corporate backing or tech money behind us," he wrote on GoFundMe. "At our current rates, it would take years of booked studio time to pay for everything…. The cost of fixing and reinforcing all three points of entry alone to prevent future break-ins is around $15,000."

Vanderslice has set a crowdfunding goal of $70,000 to replace some of the stolen items, repair damage to the facility and improve the studio's security. His aim is to refrain from raising rates for clients, which currently stands at $400 a day. He wrote, "We want to remain affordable for new artists and foster a democratic and accessible culture for bands of all levels to make masterpieces here. (And they do!)"

At the time of this article, the GoFundMe campaign had achieved roughly a third of its $70,000 goal.

Clive Young

Clive Young is the co-editor of Mix Magazine and editor of Previously, he was the editor in chief of Pro Sound News (Future's U.S. Magazine of the Year - 2019), and has been nominated twice for "Best Range Of Work By A Single Author" in the annual Neal Awards. He is the author of two books, "Crank It Up: Live Sound Secrets of the Top Tour Engineers," and "Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind The Camera." Additionally, he has spoken at more than 400 libraries, universities, museums, academic symposiums and conventions. Young earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Hofstra University and is an adjunct professor at St. Joseph's University New York.

Tags ⋅ Burglary ⋅ crime ⋅ GoFundMe ⋅ John Vanderslice ⋅ stolen ⋅ Telefunken U47 ⋅ Tiny Telephone