Worldwide music company marks 50 years in Farmington Hills

From a 300-square-foot renovated bait shop to professional studios around the world, Yessian Music has grown significantly over the past 50 years.

Still, the second-generation family business remains headquartered in Farmington Hills. With studios in Los Angeles, New York City, and Hamburg, Germany, why have they stayed?

“We get asked that all the time,” said Brian Yessian, chief of operations. “There’s just so much great talent in the Metro Detroit area that you can’t find anywhere else. We’ve brought in a lot of talent from local colleges and universities and cultivated that talent, some of whom are senior level members of the team now.”

The Yessian team even includes Grammy Award winners, he added. 

Dan Yessian (middle) with his sons Michael, left, and Brian, right, in Armenia for the performance of Dan's classical composition An Armenian Trilogy
Dan Yessian (middle) with his sons Michael, left, and Brian, right, in Armenia for the performance of Dan’s classical composition An Armenian Trilogy. (contributed)

Farmington Hills also has logistical perks for the business. Metro Detroit has a lower operational cost than larger cities, Yessian said, and is a great middle ground between global studios. Detroit’s variety of industries also presents opportunities for sustainable work.

A true “jazz man”, company founder Dan Yessian started his career playing in a band.

“Someone approached him to write a jingle after a gig in Traverse City, and he didn’t know what a jingle was but he knew how to write music so he said yes. He made $1,200, which was a lot in the 70s, and he realized he could make a living that way.”

Dan is now semi-retired; Brian and his brother Michael, who is head of production, run the company. 

Some of Brian’s favorite projects among Yessian’s portfolio are more experiential, like theme parks and live shows. He mentioned One World Observatory in the World Trade Center and the Hudson Yards Observation Deck in New York City, Wings Over Washington flying theater in Seattle, and Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, in particular. 

He is also looking forward to the Sky Flyers ride opening at The Island in Pigeon Forge in June. His team just recorded a 75-piece orchestra for the attraction’s sound.

“It takes three or more senses involved for complete immersion, to feel realistic,” Brian said. “Using technology to develop and implement music in new ways–simulating real environments in various digital and real-world experiences–that’s really exciting work.”

The company has created and provided sound for high-profile brands in advertising, film, TV, gaming, and theme parks all over the world over the past five decades. Notable clients and partners include Disney, RAM, Budweiser, Macy’s, United Airlines, Walmart, Coca Cola, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Porsche, Nintendo, Proctor & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Bosch, NBC, Disney Channel, HGTV, Lifetime, PBS, US Navy, and US Air Force.

The Yessian team also works with local neighbors, like the Detroit Youth Choir, School of Rock, Axis Music Academy, and more.

“Working with youth is especially exciting, because we know so many icons in music started right where these kids are,” Brian said. “It’s thrilling to be a part of that journey.”

Perhaps what has kept them thriving for so long is a “what’s next attitude,” as Yessian puts it.

“We’ve always been a little wary of talking too much about our history, but more about our future. What’s in store for the next 50 years? How do we evolve not only the technology, but the media platforms, and our own creativity? That’s where our focus is.”

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