In order to highlight Boston's recent blossoming music scene, the people behind The Record Co. are releasing a new compilations entitled The Boston Sessions. Here they discuss both the project and their organization as a whole.
Guest Post from PledgeMusic News
In case you’re unaware, the Boston music scene is blossoming these days. With a wide variety of incredible musicians, the folks behind The Record Co. have decided to celebrate and spread the word with a brand new compilation series entitled The Boston Sessions. Volume 1, entitled Beast is now available for pre-order and we spoke to Matt McArthur about their vision and hopes for helping Boston’s finest.
What specifically is The Record Co. and what role does it play in the local scene there?
We call ourselves a music incubator, but it’s definitely up for interpretation, depending on who you ask. If you’re an artist, you might say we’re an affordable recording studio. If you’re a fan, you might say you’ve seen a show at our studio or that we produce compilations of local music. We’re starting to look and feel a bit like a label — a nice, mission-driven one! — but surprisingly, very few people mention that we’re a non-profit organization or that we rely on public support and philanthropy. About 40% of our operating budget comes from the generosity of donors and sponsors. Studio time costs us twice as much as we charge artists.
To answer the question, our role: as an organization we don’t make art, we facilitate the art of others. We’re here to make sure creators can create and increasingly to make sure fans know about what’s being created in their community.
You mention in your campaign video that there are two problems with the Boston music scene: the reputation and the infrastruture? Can you go into detail on both?
We believe there are three main components of any solid, sustainable music scene. People, infrastructure, and reputation or marketing. Ideally you’ve got all three, but you can swing it with 2 out of 3. In Boston, we’ve only got 1 of the three: the people. Artists and fans here are super talented, super passionate. But people don’t think of Boston as being a place for music the way you think of an Austin, a Nashville, an Atlanta. That reputation is key internally and externally. It’s a point of pride for locals, if they understand how excellent their town is musically, and it drives discovery for people outside of the city. “A lot of great bands are coming out of Boston…” compels people from other cities to seek out the art being made here.
The infrastructure piece is pretty straightforward. Are there enough venues, enough practice spaces, enough producers and managers to have a diverse, vibrant scene? Space is so expensive in Boston. That cost along with other limiting factors make operating space almost impossible for small, creative businesses. The result is that our town appears more conservative and homogenous than it actually is.
Where did the idea for the Boston Sessions first come from?
Boston Sessions was a natural evolution of our work. We’d been providing subsidized studio time for local artists, producers, and engineers for about five years. That flagship program was becoming more and more sustainable, a fixture in the scene. Now we needed to add something for fans, to bridge the gap between artists and creators and the fans that are ultimately the driver of financial sustainability for artists.
Jesse and I worked together to flesh out and customize the concept of a compilation to match our mission. Unlike your typical compilation, we wanted to pay into the local scene so we commissioned new work from each artist and allowed folks to work with whomever and wherever they wanted. In total 57 artists, producers, and engineers got paid to make work for Beast at 7 different studios.
How do these particular artists you’ve chosen reflect the spirit of Boston?
This album is a melting pot, just like Boston. As diverse as it is, as different as we all are, we all live here together. We need to make our diversity our strength, as a music scene and as a city. This project is our small contribution to that end.
Obviously this lineup is just one group’s interpretation of the Boston scene. We did the best we could to represent the diversity of our city without making something that was too eclectic to listen to straight through. It’s about 40% rock, 30% hip-hop, and 30% other. We enlisted some outside help twice in the process to cut list of 170 artists down to the 13 that ultimately made it onto the record.
This is Volume 1 of what you intend to be an annual project. What are your hopes for this first set?
This year we’d like to reach as many Bostonians as possible. We’re a small organization, so we’ve got to be realistic about our reach. If we can get Boston fans discovering new music being made in their town and start building that awareness and pride at a local level, we’ll be well on our way. In a more granular sense, we need to sell 1,000 units of the album before the end of the year to financially justify taking the project into a second year. And time is running out….
If you could dream without limits, where would you love to see this initiative a few years from now?
We’d like to see a review in the music section of the New York Times, a feature about Boston’s musical potential in a publication like Rolling Stone, a dedicated South by Southwest showcase and regional retail distribution no later than the third volume of the project. But we haven’t really thought about it. [Laughs]