New Zealander, new to Milaca, built a professional home recording studio


Paul Campbell is hoping to turn the music industry upside down from the comfort of the Dorothy Ranch, his property in Milaca.
Campbell has constructed a fully functional recording studio in his house and a rustic wooden stage in the yard. He is planning to host small concerts on the stage and record acts in the studio. His biggest ambition, though, is the launch of Applaudus, an online livestreaming platform for musicians.
Campbell comes from New Zealand originally, where he worked for many years as a concert promoter and advocated for radio support for native New Zealand
“I put on large concerts, 60,000 to 70,000 people, some of them,” Campbell said.
Campbell quit the music business before he moved to the United States 18 years ago, spending time in Delaware before making his way to Minnesota. He and his wife, Julie, a Minnesotan, settled down north of Milaca a little over a year ago. They run an online business which allows them to pursue music as a passion, rather than a profession. Julie sings, and Paul writes songs and plays various instruments, most prominently guitar.
The Campbells chose Milaca because they could acquire a few acres of land relatively cheaply and they also found the landscape more appealing in Minnesota than out east.
“It’s clean here,” Campbell said. “Milaca’s beautiful.”
The ranch is named after both Campbell’s mother and the most famous character played by Minnesota-born actress Judy Garland, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Campbell’s big idea, Applaudus, was born slowly out of the desire to get his and Julie’s music out into the world without the thankless grind of gigging.
“We’re both getting too long in the tooth to run around being pop stars,” he said.
Campbell decided the answer was streaming – not just audio streaming, but live video.
“I wanted to create some sort of situation that was like a virtual bar, or a virtual venue,” he said.
The vision is that individual, up-and-coming artists will create pages for themselves on Applaudus where they will perform livestreaming concerts and sell their music directly to their fans.
Campbell is working with partners from New Zealand, including a professor of computer science, on the service.
The site is also planned to include buttons to purchase recordings, both studio recordings and livestreamed recordings.
Campbell sees Applaudus as a plausible way for musicians to take control of their economic interests in the digital world, creating an economic model that monetizes recordings again, instead of using music to sell advertising.
“All the young people in the business are telling me you do albums to promote live concerts,” Campbell said. He wants to push back against that idea and create a web-based model that will return the recording to its place of economic and artistic primacy for musicians.
“You take the old formula and bring it into the virtual world,” he said.
Campbell cited a statistic that the chances of a consumer purchasing a product go up 40 to 50 percent with a live pitch. Applaudus is his effort to bring the live pitch into the digital economy.
Campbell plans to separate label-signed, established artists from up-and-comers, making it easy for listeners to discover new music, and he intends to charge a moderate fee to host content on Applaudus, so that only those who are serious about selling their music are willing to sign up.
“I believe it can work,” Campbell said.
If it doesn’t, Campbell said he still intends to record albums in the studio. He misses the high production quality of albums from the height of the recording industry’s financial success, which disappeared as online piracy took off and money in the business got tight. He is open to working with singer-songwriter-type talent in his studio; he doesn’t think it’s quite right for recording larger bands. He also hopes to help interested people learn about recording and sound.
If the Applaudus site stays small, “It’s just a small version of a successful thing,” Campbell said.
The first event Campbell is planning to hold at the Dorothy Ranch is a small festival on July 15, featuring Benny James, who has played at the Milaca Arts Center, and others.
He intends to have Applaudus up and running in time for the event. Right now its website,, has a few live concert photos and a message: “For the people by musicians – coming soon ….”