Boston’s The Record Company — it’s not about ownership, it’s about access

| Matt McArthur

The Record Company My name is Matt McArthur and “I’m with The Record Company.”

(It’s supposed to be funny.)

Lore tells us that those five words were dreaded among musicians working under the traditional music industry paradigm.  Inevitably some “bean counter” from your label would show up in the studio to offer their commentary about the music you were making.  I could just be remembering a scene from Spinal Tap.  I digress…

Boston is an incredible city.  We set a national example in so many areas. Contemporary music is not one of them.  After college, young musicians leave here in droves to live and work elsewhere.

Now we can argue all day about how the Allston kids don’t talk to the Somerville kids don’t play shows with the Roxbury kids — but if we drill down past who has the coolest haircut and the most boutique guitar pedals we get to the real barriers:

  1. Cost of real estate
  2. Transportation
  3. Liquor licensing

In 2009 I founded The Record Co. (TRC), a non-profit recording studio committed to fostering a nationally recognized modern music scene in Boston.  We think we’re just as crazy as you do, but don’t worry, we’re going to do it.  

We’re not a label, but there are some similarities.  Back in the day record labels sought out bands early in their careers and made a commitment to develop that talent.  Today the story is very different.  The few remaining labels look for well-packaged, profitable acts they can “partner” with.  

The Record Company

At TRC we take an old school approach.  We invest in musicians early in their careers with the predication of an eventual return — just not a financial one.  The social/cultural return we’re after is at the core of our non-profit mission.

We offer:

  • Affordable studio time to indie musicians
  • Grants of studio time to native Boston bands
  • Live performances to connect emerging musicians and fans
  • Access to our facility and expertise for youth, our next-gen creators

The Record Company

How can musicians get access to The Record Company?

Independent musicians (musicians that are funding their own projects) can purchase studio time at The Record Co. at the most affordable rates in New England.

How does music help the city of Boston?

Music makes our city and better place to live and work.  It’s not just about musicians and ramen, it’s about economic development.  The arts account for more than 46,000 jobs in Massachusetts and are reported to bolster the state’s economy by more than $1 billion annually.  It’s a huge economic activity.  Running a non-profit, I think a lot about the effect that cultural vibrancy has on the for-profit sector.  Greater Boston is home to some incredibly innovative companies that rely on young creative talent to continue their tradition of innovation.  There’s a direct link between music and a city’s ability to attract and retain young creative talent.  Sure, our colleges and universities attract a huge population of young people, but we don’t keep them here.  That’s where arts and culture, and for us music, comes in.

What does the “small biz” aspect of The Record Company mean for musicians? For the city?

The shuttering of well-loved local rock institutions like TT the Bears and Johnny D’s in Somerville are just the most recent examples of music’s evaporating middle class.  Don’t get me wrong: venues and other music businesses run by corporations are necessary.  Corporate venues in particular are able to bring larger acts to town which can have a very positive effect.  The challenge is we also need small businesses: clubs and venues and studios where small up-and-coming artists can cut their teeth

How was the concept of The Record Company formed?

“It’s not about ownership, it’s about access,” was the initial seed in 2009.  There was a whole community of musicians that didn’t need to own a studio, they just needed access to one.  The non-profit model fits that perfectly.  I filed the paperwork a couple days later and we were off to the races.

What does a day at The Record Company look like?

Oh, it’s a real mash up: recording sessions, managing youth employees, Beat Bus workshops driving around the community, writing grants and asking people for money, jamming out to good tunes, etc…

What does it mean to you to give musicians access to recording space?

To me it’s about collaboration.  There aren’t a lot of technical reasons for recording studios to exist anymore.  The argument is psychological.  Leave home, go to work, collaborate, have a schedule, etc.

What kind of technology do you use in your space?

Lots of cool toys! Recording software and hardware from Audio Technica and AVID, vintage and new analog and digital equipment, mostly donated, some purchased.  Among the cool vintage toys we have an analog 2” 16 track tape machine.  It’s pretty, and rock and roll, and pretty rock and roll.

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