Tyler Bryant @ Hyde Street Studios for a Bay Area Music Collective session. Photo by Ganesh Photography.
Remember when the San Francisco Bay Area was an internationally renowned musical destination? Michael Starita remembers, and he wants to go back to the good old days. But he’s not just pining away for the days of yore; no, he founded the Bay Area Music Collective to do something about it.
The BAMC is all about connecting musicians to Bay Area producers, studios, labels, filmmakers, publicists, and anyone else who can help them make music and get it out into the world. Starita, who is a musician himself as well as co-founder of Faultline Studios and an audio engineer with a resume that lists Rick Rubin as a former client, plans to restore the Bay Area’s status as a premier hub of the music industry by both bringing out-of-towners in to work with local talent and by helping homegrown musicians get their work out to the masses.
Here’s a little taste of what the BAMC is up to: watch the intimate video below, featuring Texas blues guitarist Tyler Bryant playing a song he wrote about his mentor, bluesman Roosevelt Twitty, recorded at Hyde Street Studios by Steve Rosenfield Photography and engineered by Starita himself.
I chatted with Starita via email to get the lowdown on the BAMC, how in the world he plans to attack a “problem” this large and daunting, and what artists he plans to bring to the City by the Bay in the near future. Check out the interview below.
The Bay Bridged: What is BAMC and why does the world need it?
Michael Starita: BAMC is a movement designed to offer big label support to independent musicians by offering the range of services needed for an artist to go to market with their music. It is also aimed at rebuilding the Bay Area music industry by creating collaboration between the all the players in the community.
Today’s ever-changing music landscape has fostered an entire “DIY” approach requiring artists to take personal initiative to get their music to market before labels or management will consider signing. It’s left up to the artist to wear many hats ranging from recording and manufacturing a product, marketing, and playing shows while holding down a day gig in most cases. The days of an A&R executive showing up to your show and offering a major recording deal are long gone. Labels provide these services exclusively for the small percentage of artists they hand-select to be part of their final roster. That being said, we all know how difficult it is to make it onto that limited list. While this has been the model of many decades past, it is in question whether this is still a feasible model to propel a thriving and profitable music community of today. Bay Area Music Collective believes the answer is ‘no.’ Technologies, community engagement, and a new mindset to achieve a thriving artist career has fueled a demand for a new way of supporting artists. The demand is for one central resource to support and direct artists through an integrated process independent of the controlling entities of years past, making a music dream accessible to everyone.
Bay Area Music Collective has stepped up to the challenge by serving as an independent resource connecting musicians with the right partners and resources to guide them through the end-to-end process of music creation, funding, marketing, and distribution. Our Artist Services Program is custom designed for each project based upon need and go-to-market strategy. Unlike labels and management companies, our services are offered to everyone.
Over the years, the Bay Area as music industry and scene has become segmented. Everyone seems to be in silos with their heads down doing their own thing. There are many different talented people in the area, but none seem to know what the other is doing or work together in any capacity. In order to make the Bay Area a major music destination again we need to work together towards this common goal. This takes trust and integrity between all players and collaboration is a great way to build these two things. BAMC creates collaborative projects with the mission of getting a great deal of exposure for everyone involved.
TBB: I’m intrigued by you saying that the scene has become segmented. I notice this all the time: I’ll read in Rolling Stone or on Pitchfork about a band from San Francisco who is generating lots of buzz, and even though I’m pretty on top of the local scene I’ve never heard of them at all. How do we fix that? How do we make a more cohesive scene where everyone, including people in the Bay Area, is more aware of the incredible amount of music coming out of the Bay Area? And where bands don’t even want to launch their career elsewhere?
Starita: Well first, I believe having one central resource that acts as a conduit to connect everyone together through collaboration is the first step. This will make everyone aware of each other and start working towards the common goal of making the Bay Area a cohesive music scene and destination again. Once that happens, people will actually have a much more supportive scene to start their career in and it will gain more attention nationally. Then we will start seeing more people breaking on a national/international level from the actual Bay Area music scene.
TBB: Was it really that different in the past, in terms of scene unity? Like, when thrash metal was huge in the 80s or the Bay Area punk scene exploded in the 90s, was there way more cohesion in the Bay Area music scene? Was the Bay Area hip to claim as your home in a way it’s not now? How did that change?
Starita: There was more cohesion because people were on the cutting edge of a new sound or movement like thrash or punk that had never been done before. People that were carving the way of a movement would band together to create a bill at a club to show off their new sound. It seems these days people are moving in different directions on their own instead of finding like-minded bands and creating a style or new sound. This is because they probably don’t even know they exist. It’s very ironic because this is a day and age where everyone is online in some capacity, but they may not be doing everything they can to be heard. I think promoters hold a great deal of power in creating nights with bands that are of the same style, finding trends that may be happening right under our noses and showcasing that. BAMC helps artists put the pieces in place to have an online presence and to market themselves so promoters, fans and other bands know they exist. This will make it easier for people to band together, collaborate on shows and create a new musical movement that will gain the attention of the rest of the world.
TBB: What net result do you ultimately see BAMC having for the Bay Area music scene?
Starita: We aim to drive industry back to the Bay Area and make this the #1 music destination in the world again. This will be accomplished through building the community and showing our talents to the rest of the world.
We produce videos with touring artists that show off the talents and studios of the Bay Area. These videos are distributed through large online channels showing the world that we are here and making kick ass records. This also gives out of town bands a taste of talent so maybe they will come here to make their next record instead of LA or Nashville. I’m not knocking either, but I’d like to see more work coming through the Bay so studios stay open and engineers/producers stay busy.
This system can also be utilized to promote our local acts to larger audiences. Local artists will also benefit from our line of services which get their career to the next level. It’s time to create the new music industry model instead of trying to save the old one. We are making it about the music and the artist again. The old industry lost touch with that and I believe that is part of it’s collapse. When you lose touch with the music you lose everything.
TBB: What’s your favorite Bay Area band of all time? What is it about the Bay Area music scene that you love and want to support?
Starita: Hmmm… That’s tough. Easy answers would NOFX, Metallica, Faith No More or Franti. BUT, The Pointer Sisters are pretty awesome too…
I’d love to support and nurture the freedom and revolutionary soul of the Bay Area and turn that into the driving force of our music scene. Can you image if we all came together in collaboration with this force in our hearts and made records?
TBB: What is your background and how did that lead you to the BAMC idea?
Starita: I moved here 15 years ago from Mississippi with a bag of clothes and a crate of records to start my career as an engineer/producer. I started engineering at Hyde Street Studios and did quite a bit of dance music with local legends David Harness, Pete Avila and Miguel Migs. It was then that I met J Bowman who is now the guitar player, engineer and co-producer of Michael Franti and Spearhead. He and I started a couple of bands and produced quite a bit while gigging locally and globally. At the same time, I started working at EDNET with Tom Scott who is a long time industry heavy hitter, having been chief engineer for Skywalker Sound doing audio for classic movies such as Amadeus and Apocalypse Now. Tom was also chief engineer at The Record Pant and helped build Wally Heider Studios which became Hyde St. Studios, ironically. This is where I really started to develop my career working for such clients as Rick Rubin, Sony, Warner Bros and Universal. After several years I moved on to a position at Dolby Laboratories for 5 years which is where I developed relationships with many people on all sides of the music industry, from gear manufacturers to major mixing engineers.
The corporate side of the music industry was not fulfilling me and I then decided to go back to doing what I loved most and was best at…making records. I jumped ship from Dolby and became co-owner of Faultline Studios in San Francisco. I went back to engineering and producing full time. I started to work with a more diverse range of clients like Trevor Hall, Los Amigos Invisibles, Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, The Aggrolites, and even did a Rihanna remix during that time… In working with so many independent artists the same question always came up after we finished the record: ”What do we do next?” As you know, there are so many things that have to be done if you are going to put a record out and get a following. Making the record is by far the easiest part!!!
I also saw that the local industry wasn’t much of an “industry” because of the lack of interaction between everyone involved in it. We started doing a community night at the studio and reaching out to the local industry to come network. There was still a little resistance from other studio owners and engineers because I was seen as a competitor. The need was for one central resource or entity to bring everyone together and to support all these artists to get to the next level. This entity had to be in the middle and neutral so as to gain the trust of the industry and the artists. I was tired of waiting around for someone to do it and during meditation it finally hit me: Leave the studio and become somewhat of a ‘music community ambassador’. So, I did…
TBB: What musicians/bands has BAMC worked with so far?
Starita: We have worked with national and local artists such as Trevor Hall, Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, Robert Francis, Joshua James, Delon, Chris James and The Showdowns, Emmett Peixoto, and The Aggrolites. Our client list is filled by other independent artists and continues to grow with local, national and international acts.
TBB: Can bands submit to BAMC for consideration, or do you select the bands you want to work with yourselves?
Starita: This is what is so great about BAMC! Labels and management provide these services, but only to their cherry-picked artist roster. We are offering label and management services to anyone who wants to do what it takes to go to market properly and thoroughly. This hugely increases their chances of more people hearing their voice…And what artist wouldn’t want more people to hear their art? We also make it affordable for artists so everyone can have access to these much needed services.
TBB: What do bands get out of this? Do you charge them?
Starita: Bands get a support system that has extensive experience in all facets of the music industry, marketing, design and artist development. We offer guidance and services to ensure the artist gets the most out of their career and money. They also have access to our huge network of engineers, producers, studios and vendors of all sorts from manufacturing to even discounts on insurance.
We offer complimentary Recording and Production consultation to make sure the artist at least can get to the right engineer, producer and studio that is the right fit. To make the best recording you have to have the right space, right engineer, and right producer for the project. We also offer complimentary project consultation to see where the artist is at in their career and what exactly they need to do next.
Other paid services include CD manufacturing assistance, digital distribution set up, administration assistance, artist brand development, and marketing and promotion. These can be bought in buckets, the whole bundle or individually depending on where the artist is in their process. This makes it adjustable to any project no matter how large or small.
TBB: What band out there today would you be most stoked to work with? Talking pie in the sky here. And why does that band intrigue you?
Starita: A band that cares about their art and is deeply connected to what they do…The Foo Fighters would be pretty cool just because I want to drink beer with Dave Grohl and play loud guitar.
TBB: I notice your client list is mostly on the rootsy/bluesy side of things. Got any punk or metal or hip hop projects in the works?
Starita: Actually there’s quite a range of clients I work with from rock to metal, dance and pop because those are my obvious strengths as a producer and engineer. As far as the metal front, Hydrophonic and BurnRiverBurn have some cool things on the horizon that I’ve worked on. I don’t have much punk coming through the studio these days and I leave hiphop projects to my good friends that specialize in that genre. I firmly believe that projects should go to people that specialize specifically in that field so as to create the best record possible. That’s why BAMC gives a complimentary consultation to artists because many just want to know where the best place to record is for their project. There are definitely certain engineers and studios that are best suited for certain projects and we want to make sure artists get to these people and places.