Criteria Studios

Coordinates: 25°54′48″N 80°09′50″W / 25.913245°N 80.163905°W / 25.913245; -80.163905
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25°54′48″N 80°09′50″W / 25.913245°N 80.163905°W / 25.913245; -80.163905

Criteria Recording Studios
Company typeRecording studio
Founded1958; 66 years ago (1958) in Miami, Florida, U.S.
FounderMack Emerman
Headquarters1755 NE 149th St., Miami, Florida 33181, ,

Criteria Studios is a recording studio in North Miami, Florida, founded in 1958 by musician Mack Emerman. Hundreds of gold, platinum, and diamond singles and albums have been recorded, mixed or mastered at Criteria, for many notable artists and producers.[1]


Criteria has seven studios, each with its own letter designation. Studio A is Criteria's largest live room, designed to be large enough to record a symphony orchestra, with a ceiling outline of 3,000 square feet and a Solid State Logic 9096 J console, multitrack tape decks, and a Pro Tools HD3 system. Studio B is a Pro Tools suite with a Solid State Logic AWS900. Studio C has a 20 x 30 foot live room with 19 foot high ceilings, and the 40-input vintage Neve 8078 mixing console formerly in Criteria's Studio A. Studio D has an SSL ORIGIN, the John Storyk-designed Studio E with its 27-foot peaked ceilings also houses an SSL9096J. Studio F is a digital production suite, featuring an SSL Duality console. Lastly, the Studio M7 production suite has a Slate RAVEN.[1][2][3]



In 1950, musician Mack Emerman, a former trumpet player with the Les Brown-led Duke Ambassadors, relocated to Hollywood, Florida and began recording on location and in his parents' home for release on his own short-lived Criteria Gold Coast jazz label. Emerman eventually acquired property at the corner of 149th Street and West Dixie Highway in North Miami to build the original 30 foot by 60 foot building designed by architect Charles C. Reed Jr. that would open in 1958 as the Criteria Recording Studio.[4][5] Emerman enlisted the help of Grover 'Jeep' Harned, owner of a local hi-fi shop, to troubleshoot and rebuild Criteria's first mixing console, which had been custom-built by the chief engineer at the nearby local NBC affiliate WCKT. Harned would go on to found MCI, whose success as a recording console and multi-track recorder manufacturer would be closely tied to Criteria Studios' success.[4][6]

1958-1969 - Early years[edit]

Criteria's early sessions included jazz bands, commercial work, and small film work. When production for CBS The Jackie Gleason Show moved to Miami Beach in the early 1960s, Criteria Studios was hired to produce the show's music. Criteria expanded in 1965, building Studio A with a live room large enough to record a 72-piece orchestra, still Criteria's largest live room today. The same year, King Records owner Syd Nathan visited the studios with James Brown, and was so impressed by the sound of the studio's 8-channel custom recording console (cutting-edge technology at the time) that he booked an October recording session, during which Brown recorded his hit song "I Got You (I Feel Good)".[4] The Albert Brothers (Ron and Howard) established themselves as a production duo at Criteria in the late 1960s with their signature "Fat Albert" drum sound.[7] In 1969, Brook Benton recorded his hit song "Rainy Night in Georgia" with Atlantic Records producer Arif Mardin.[8] Wilson Pickett and Betty Wright were also among the artists to record at Criteria in its early days.[7]

1970-1975 - "Atlantic South"[edit]

In the 1970s, Atlantic Records' executive Jerry Wexler, producer Arif Mardin, and staff engineer-producer Tom Dowd utilized Criteria Studios for numerous Atlantic projects, earning the Miami studio the nickname "Atlantic Studios South".[7] Wexler hired a group of Memphis musicians, the Dixie Flyers, to become Atlantic's studio band in Miami.[9] After encouragement from Atlantic executive Ahmet Ertegun, Stephen Stills first recorded with the Albert Brothers at Criteria in 1971, beginning a relationship that would continue through the '70s.[10][11] Criteria expanded in 1972 with the addition of Studio C (a 20 x 30 foot room with 19 foot high ceilings) and Studio D.[1] The same year, Aretha Franklin recorded 5 tracks of her Grammy Award-winning album Young, Gifted and Black at the studio.

The Allman Brothers Band recorded Idlewild South with Dowd at Criteria, leading to Duane Allman playing with Eric Clapton on all but 3 tracks of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.[12] The Allman Brothers Band returned to Criteria to record tracks that would be released on Eat a Peach, and Clapton took up residence at 461 Ocean Boulevard in Golden Beach, Florida to record his 1974 solo album by the same name at Criteria. Clapton and his manager Robert Stigwood later suggested to RSO label mates the Bee Gees that relocating to the house to record at Criteria may similarly benefit from a change of scene.[13]

In 1973, Todd Rundgren produced Grand Funk Railroad's recording of We're an American Band at Criteria,[14] and The Average White Band recorded AWB with Arif Mardin at the studio the following year. In 1975, producer-engineer Bill Szymczyk recorded Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" with Mickey Thomas on vocals at Criteria, and returned to the studio the following year with the Eagles to record half of their 1976 album Hotel California (Eagles album) in Studio C.[1][15][16] At the same time the Eagles were recording Hotel California, Black Sabbath was recording Technical Ecstasy.[17] Fleetwood Mac recorded parts of Rumours in Studio C,[15] and Crosby, Stills, & Nash recorded parts of their album, CSN, with the Albert Brothers at the studio.[7]

1975-1979 - The Bee Gees[edit]

In 1975, on the advice of Eric Clapton and Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees rented 461 Ocean Boulevard in Miami to again record with Arif Mardin, this time at Criteria Studios. Working with Criteria's Karl Richardson, Main Course marked a change of direction that would become the template for numerous successful projects at the studio for the remainder of the decade.[18] The Bee Gees' next album Children of the World and its hit single, "You Should Be Dancing", was the first to feature the Gibb-Galuten-Richardson production team consisting of Barry Gibb, Albhy Galuten, and Criteria's Karl Richardson.[19] The combination of Galuten, Richardson, and one or all of the Gibb brothers would become responsible for a record-breaking string of hit recordings produced at Criteria, including several songs on the chart-topping Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, Andy Gibb's Flowing Rivers (1977) and Shadow Dancing (1978), and the Frankie Valli title song "Grease" from the musical motion picture of the same name, culminating in six songs topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the first six months of 1978, breaking records previously set by the Beatles. At the time, Criteria was Florida's largest independent studio facility.[20][21]

The Bee Gees recorded at Criteria again for their 1979 album, Spirits Having Flown,[22] and utilized the studio for successful production and/or songwriting collaborations following 1979's disco backlash, including Barbra Streisand's Guilty, and Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker.

In 1978 and 1979, Criteria was utilized by Ted Nugent, AC/DC during the recording of Highway to Hell, and Bob Seger for 3 tracks from Against the Wind. Emerman and Dowd began planning an additional John Storyk-designed studio complex in Southern California at the former Walter Lance Animation Studios, which was going to be called Criteria West, but in light of a drop in demand and rising interest rates, plans for a west coast location were abandoned.[23] Grayson Hugh's self-titled, first studio album was mixed here in 1979 by Ron Scalise.

1980-1998 - Changing times[edit]

In 1981, Criteria utilized John Storyk's design expertise to expand the original location, adding Studio E, a large space with 27-foot peaked ceilings, decorated with Cuban tile, stained glass, and even a waterfall. Studio E was outfitted with a custom 56-channel MCI console and twin 24-track machines.[24] It was in the brand-new Studio E that Criteria staff producer-engineer Don Gehman helped John Mellencamp record "Jack & Diane" during the sessions for his 1981 commercial breakthrough album, American Fool.[25][26] The following year, Bow Wow Wow recorded "I Want Candy" at Criteria,[27] and The Romantics recorded their 1983 album, In Heat at the studio. In 1984, Criteria was the first studio in the southeastern US to install a Solid State Logic mixing console.

In 1987, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine recorded what would become their most commercially successful album, Let It Loose, at Criteria. Estefan would return to the studio two years later to record her debut solo album, Cuts Both Ways. But Criteria Studios struggled to balance its debt with the 1980s music industry slowdown, and Emerman ended up selling Criteria to Joel Levy in 1991.[3][7][28] In 1993, Marilyn Manson recorded their debut studio album, Portrait of an American Family, at Criteria.[29] Other artists recording at the studios in the 1990s included David Coverdale and Jimmy Page,[28] 2 Live Crew, Noreaga, Malevolent Creation and Julio Iglesias.

1999-2012 - Hit Factory Criteria Miami[edit]

Criteria Studios in 2011

In 1999, in an effort to tap into the growing popularity of Latin music, The Hit Factory purchased Criteria Studios and, after 9 months of extensive remodeling and rebuilding all of its five existing studios, as well as the addition of a sixth studio space, Studio F,[3] re-opened the studios under the new name "The Hit Factory Criteria Miami".[7] In 2003, Monica recorded her hit song "So Gone" at Hit Factory Criteria,[30] and the following year, CeeLo Green recorded Cee-Lo Green... Is the Soul Machine at the studio.[31] Maná recorded their 2006 album Amar es Combatir at Criteria[32] Other artists recording at the studio in the 2000s included Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Alicia Keys, Cliff Richard, and Nelly Furtado.

In 2005, Lil Wayne relocated to Miami and established semi-residency at Hit Factory Criteria, doing production work on numerous projects for various artists and recording his own material at the studios, including his 2008 commercial breakthrough Tha Carter III.[33][34][35][31]

In 2017, the facility once again reverted to the original Criteria Studios name.[2]

Selected artists[edit]

Artists who have recorded singles or albums at the studio include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bieger, Hannes (May 2014). "Hit Factory Criteria, Miami". SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Shultz, Barbara (31 January 2018). "Checking in With Criteria". Future Plc. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Daley, Dan (1 May 2000). "The Merger of Two Classic Facilities: The Hit Factory Criteria Miami". Future Plc. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Cogan, Jim; Clark, William (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. San Francisco, United States: Chronicle Books. p. 212. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.
  5. ^ Woods, Sherry (3 May 1970). "Recording Studios Boom With Sounds Of South Florida". Palm Beach Post. p. G1. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  6. ^ "Biography: Mack Emerman". Mixonline. Future Plc. 1 October 1999. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McDonnell, Evelyn (22 July 2008). "Miami sound machine". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  8. ^ a b Cogan, Jim; Clark, William (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. San Francisco, United States: Chronicle Books. p. 214. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.
  9. ^ Halberstadt, Alex (5 September 2000). "Jerry Wexler"., LLC. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  10. ^ a b Zimmer, Dave (2000). Crosby Stills and Nash: The Biography. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306809743.
  11. ^ "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Ultimate Music Guide". Uncut. 2019. pp. 34–35. EAN 5010791106060.
  12. ^ a b c "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 14.) Layla (Eric Clapton, Duane Allman)". Guitar World. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 31 August 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  13. ^ Môn Hughes, Andrew (2009). The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857120045. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  14. ^ a b Myers, Paul (January 2020). "Phil Thornalley: I Want it to Sound Like This". Tape Op. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Weber, Bruce (28 May 2013). "Mack Emerman, Founder of Criteria Recording Studios, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  16. ^ Richard Buskin (September 2010). "The Eagles 'Hotel California' Classic Tracks". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Runtagh, Jordan (December 8, 2016). "The Eagles' 'Hotel California': 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Joseph Brennan (2013). "Gibb Songs : 1975". Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  19. ^ a b Joseph Brennan (2013). "Gibb Songs : 1976". Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  20. ^ McCullaugh, Jim (8 July 1978). "Industry Discovers "Gold Coast"". Billboard. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  21. ^ McCullaugh, Jim (8 July 1978). "Sunshine State Is Producer's Paradise". Billboard. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  22. ^ a b c Joseph Brennan (2013). "Gibb Songs : 1978". Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  23. ^ Johnston, William (July 1987). "Criteria" (PDF). Studio Sound and Broadcast Engineering. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Criteria Recording Studios Miami, FL - Carla Harned's newspaper clippings collection". History of Recording. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  25. ^ a b c d Buskin, Richard (September 2011). "Classic Tracks: John Cougar 'Jack & Diane'". SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  26. ^ Johnson, Heather (2007). Born In A Small Town: John Mellencamp, The Story. London: Omnibus. ISBN 978-0-85712-843-0.
  27. ^ a b Reesman, Bryan (1 October 2007). "Classic Tracks: Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"". Future Plc. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  28. ^ a b c d Daley, Dan (April 1995). "Criteria Recording" (PDF). Studio Sound and Broadcast Engineering. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  29. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon. "23 Years Ago: Marilyn Manson Issues 'Portrait of an American Family'". Loudwire. Townsquare Media. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  30. ^ a b "Billboard Production Credits". Billboard. 26 July 2003. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  31. ^ a b c d Fonseca, Anthony; Goldsmith, Melissa Ursula Dawn (2021). Listen to Hip Hop! Exploring a Musical Genre. Santa Barbara, California, United States: ABC-CLIO. pp. 65–68. ISBN 978-1-4408-7488-8. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  32. ^ a b Levin, Jordan (3 January 2008). "50 golden years for Criteria Recording Studios". Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  33. ^ Daley, Dan (March 2013). "Off The Record". Sound On Sound. SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  34. ^ Meadows-Ingram, Benjamin (7 July 2012). "The Bosses of all Bosses" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  35. ^ Barat, Nick (2007). "Lil Wayne: Eats Tapes". The Fader, Inc. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  36. ^ "Criteria Recording Studios on Twitter: "#tbt and a hearty congratulations to @xtina on all the nominations..."". Twitter. Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  37. ^ Hall, Jermaine (2009-09-05). "V EXCLUSIVE: Rodney Jerkins Talks MJ's Last Studio Album, Invincible". Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  38. ^ Joyous Lake (1976 album)

External links[edit]