Studios That Do More Than Make Records

Vortex Music Magazine

Whether intentional or not, some Portland studios have developed extracurricular specializations in offering multimedia services or event space—because for The Rye Room and The Hallowed Halls, being resourceful was always a part of the plan.

The Rye Room's Matt Greco always has plenty of his namesake spirits on handThe Rye Room's Matt Greco always has plenty of his namesake spirits on handModern studios are perpetually adapting to shifting landscapes—musically, technologically, culturally and economically. A couple of Portland locals, Matt Greco of The Rye Room and Greg Allen of The Hallowed Halls in particular, are proactively evolving by expanding their palette of services. While the specifics differ slightly, both want to be useful in whatever way they are needed, even if it’s not what they originally set out to do. And both want to be partners—with artists, with local companies and with the community.

Greco recognizes that today’s artists are no longer afforded the luxury of simply writing, recording, releasing, and performing high-quality music. They are expected to be multimedia content creators, feeding the public’s eyes and ears with a distinguishing online presence. Greco’s business partner and wife, Kelsey, says that need prompted them to ask, “How could we be a partner to musicians... where they could get awesome video content that looked really good, that sounded really good, that was still accessible to them?” The answer became The Rye Room Sessions, a well-produced video series that gives fans an intimate view of artists.

Sounding every bit like a seasoned businessman, Greco describes the sessions as an effective source of marketing with a high ROI, giving the viewer an idea of the experience you might have recording at The Rye Room. But in the same breath he switches back into artist mode, acknowledging that the sessions help shake up his routine, ultimately improving his creativity as a producer and engineer. Looking forward, The Rye Room’s goal is to partner with local businesses—ideally a whiskey-focused distillery—to offset some of the costs for artists.

“There’s not a limit to the sharing of resources and ideas that the world needs right now.” —Greg Allen, The Hallowed Halls: Photo by Jason Quigley“There’s not a limit to the sharing of resources and ideas that the world needs right now.” —Greg Allen, The Hallowed Halls: Photo by Jason QuigleyFor musician-turned-entrepreneur Allen, The Hallowed Halls’ 1,600-square-foot live room allows him to think beyond the music scene to engage his fellow Portlanders in a more holistic way. After all, the bones of the building are imbued with a history of serving its community. Birthed in 1919 as a library, the location also spent almost four decades as headquarters for county social programs. And while the website specifically touts the space as a distinctive wedding venue, Allen found there was a need for a gathering place that could support a wide variety of events, from yoga and workshops to pop-up shops and film screenings.

That’s not to say he’s turned his back on musicians. Few other studios these days can boast the amenities of The Hallowed Halls—including rooms full of natural light, open space to host concerts and large band rehearsals, and multiple live, iso and control rooms—yet Allen has consciously decided to keep his pricing on the same level as most folks around town. There’s certainly a desire to bring in larger touring acts looking to utilize such a substantial, beautiful venue—as evidenced by a recent series of live videos for Vance Joy (watch below). But he still wants smaller, locals artists to have the option of a unique recording experience, declaring that it’s “the feeling of the space [that] you can’t recreate with a plugin.”

Allen simply wants his studio to be accessible to whomever can put it to a positive use. His hope is to partner with similarly minded Portlanders and provide them with an elevated platform. In his own words, The Hallowed Halls seeks “to bring together creative visionaries, innovators, thought leaders—people who are shifting culture in a more sustainable direction. There’s not a limit to the sharing of resources and ideas that the world needs right now.”

Neither of these studios initially sought out their extracurriculars; however, like the city of Portland itself, they have resourcefully utilized their environment and talents to round out their businesses—adding value for themselves, for artists and for their communities.

Watch Anna Tivel's Rye Room Session below (and see many other artists here). Then explore the economics behind running a studio in a changing city while reading about notable spaces, producers and engineers who span all genres of the local scene in our Recording Issue.

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