An Interview with Matt McArthur of The Record Company at the AES Show 2014

On day one of our Ask Me Anything Livestream Events at AES 2014, we sat down with Matt McArthur, executive director of The Record Company.

After graduating from the Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in music production and engineering, Matt McArthur co-founded The Record Company, New England’s first professional nonprofit recording studio, to give Boston’s community of young musicians a place to hang out, learn and record their compositions. According to The Record Company’s website, the organization bridges the gap between up-and-coming talent and access not only to a recording studio, but also to “the decades-long tradition of professional musical recording: a tradition encompassing concepts of professional conduct, mentorship, technical expertise, creativity, and more.”

The Record Company features two studios and a live recording space, in addition to lounge areas for the participants of the organization’s key programs. These programs include field trips and workshops for all ages, after-school recording programs for teens, professional internships for college students, and affordable studio time for both students and independent artists. Each year, in fact, the studio hosts more than 900 of these affordable sessions, giving indie artists a place to call their own.

Matt was one of several music industry professional kind enough to join us at AES 2014 to field questions from conference attendees and those on Twitter. Here are some highlights from Matt McArthur’s AMA session.

Matt MacArthur Audio-Techncia

Question: How does a kid go about getting involved with The Record Company? What’s the process?

Matt McArthur: So right now we have a single facility in Boston… most of the youth that we recruit are through partner organizations. We do a lot of work with other youth-serving organizations, like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, YMCA, things of that nature. We sort of augment the capacity of those organizations. Lots of those centers have workstations with Pro Tools and things like that, but our facility is a fully functioning, commercial facility, which is much more flexible than some of those other environments. So kids can actually talk to the youth center where they attend programming and get in touch with us that way, sort of B2B. All of our contact information is on our website, so if youth would like to get involved, they can call me! My number’s on the website.

Q: How long has The Record Company been in existence? 

MM: I founded the organization with one of my professors at the time from Berklee in 2009, and she and I got the organization booted up shortly thereafter. The operation, as it stands today, we’ve been operating for about three and a half years – we celebrated three years at our current location back in March [2014].

Q: Has anyone come through the Record Company gone on to do big things or get any radio play? Or is it too early to tell? 

MM: At The Record Company we are just sort of on the cusp. We’ve had students who were 17 or 18 at the time who are now coming up on 20 and 21 and have been gigging for a few years now. We’ve seen some flashes in the pan, but I hope if you ask me that question next year, and for sure the year after, I’ll have some exciting alums to share with you.

Q: I heard you offer affordable studio time for independent artists. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MM: So part of our mission was to create access to a professional environment for individuals who might not otherwise have access. We noticed in the college population that if students weren’t recording in their schools, which often have a number of constraints like not a lot of studio time available, no ownership of your masters – when you record at a school, you typically do not own the master recording – if they weren’t recording at school they were recording in their apartments. That approach certainly has merit and has worked for a lot of people. We are passionate about making sure that young artists can make an informed decision. So that they’ve had the experience of working in a very professional studio – we assume that they’ve already had the experience of working in their home or apartment – and then they can make an educated decision about how they want to work going forward.

With all that said, yes, we provide sessions at an affordable rate at our facility in Boston, a rate that is below market. But the most important consideration is that we don’t provide a recording engineer. We are trying to create an environment where artists can learn to vet and hire their own recording engineers in kind of a traditional style. We host about 900 or so of these sessions every year, and each one is staffed by a young, college-aged, freelance engineer. We are creating a new economy that never existed in Boston.

Q: Was it hard to find funding in the early days? Give us your early pitch that you used to encourage early donors.

MM: Oh gosh, you’re bringing me back to scary times! We came to the AES shows as a place to network and meet with individuals we hoped would give us equipment, and this is the first time that I’ve ever been on the other side of the table. The number of people that come up to us… I feel so bad for the individuals that we originally walked up to and said, “Hey, can you make a commitment to help us out with this right now.”

So I’m sorry to all of you. And to those early adopters like Audio-Technica, AVID – Adam Audio gave us some speakers in the very beginning – thank you so much! But the pitch really was, “We’re trying to build this studio so the community has a place to record can you please give us equipment now thank you the address is…” It’s evolved, needless to say. The thing that our sponsors care the most about is seeing the work that’s being done, seeing and hearing the projects the youth are doing, seeing the organizations that we work with, seeing that the kids are getting something meaningful out of it. Without the stories to tell, and without actually having helped a young person, you’re kind of ‘SOL’.

For the complete AMA interview with Matt McArthur, please check out the video below!

We would like to thank Matt for taking the time to take part in our AES Ask Me Anything Livestream event!

Learn more about The Record Company here.

Audio-Technica

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