“What does it actually look like for a creative person to get paid to be themselves?” – Will Toms
Calling all creatives in the Philadelphia area. Are you looking for a place to grow and expand your craft, brand, and ability to get a bag? Then REC Philly is where you need to be. Their creative facilities just expanded to a 10,000 square foot space in the fashion district of Philadelphia.
REC (Resources for Ever Creator) Philly began as a response to the lack of visible and accessible resources for Philadelphia creatives looking to take their craft to the next level.
Instead of heading towards New York and L.A. to grow their base, co-founders Will and Dave set out to make Philadelphia the place to be for local creatives.
We got a chance to interview the innovators about how REC’s ecosystem is the way forward.
Co-Founders Will and Dave
Co-founder Dave Silver graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia. He created stages for his musician friends to perform after realizing there weren’t many venues for up-and-coming artists. He began by creating a stage in his basement and later booking small then larger venues for the music community.
“I really got my start by turning my basement into a concert venue for my friends to have a platform to perform” -Dave
Will Toms studied media communications and economics and joined forces with Dave to grow opportunities for undiscovered artists and exploring how to navigate the industry on their behalf.
Toms was also working full time in the agency world and brought his digital agency skills to help build brand and revenue streams through the internet.
“Working with Will, we essentially turned these basements into our own little business; The Broadstreet Music Group” -Dave
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“Now this whole idea of the independent artist journey is more possible, why do folks still think that they need to go elsewhere?” – Will
Artists come from cities and towns all across the U.S. and beyond. And more are taking the non-traditional route and staying independent. But the trend and mindset of moving out to L.A. or New York to get to that next level are still prevalent.
“The resources are here. The information and the strategies and the experts are here. How do we make them more accessible?” -Will
Working out of Philly was a no brainer for natives Dave and Will because of Philly’s rich artistic history and specifically its rich music history.
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Philly was a hub for Jazz and Soul with recognizable names like Patti Labelle and the Delfonics. Philly’s hip hop scene could not be overlooked either.
Philly is known for producing legendary duo Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Tuff Crew, Lisa Lopes of TLC, and group Boyz II Men. With a growing Caribbean community in the early 2000s, Philly gained its own Dancehall scene. More recent artists like Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert also hail from Philly.
“The idea of it all being in one centralized hub is really important”-Will
REC Philly started out on the fourth floor of a warehouse. The new location has 14 private studios from recording studios, visual labs to podcast studios, video and photo lab studios. It also has a venue space and retail store.
“Our space is the only ecosystem where you can get access to all those things in one spot.” -Will
Creatives with memberships can attend REC sessions free of charge. REC sessions are informational and educational workshops. The workshops take a holistic approach with some focused on personal finances like credit and homeownership. Other workshops are tactical with tutorials on how to use Photoshop.
Some sessions are more inspirational like a recent “Trust the Process” panel. Full-time entrepreneurs from the community spoke on how to trust the process and the journey each creative follows and takes to reach their goals.
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“We built a curriculum around this idea of ‘how do I get paid to be me?’” -Will
There have been over 60 creative REC sessions to date, and many more to come. The workshops are also acutely focused on the bigger picture of how to create a revenue stream and expand.
Keeping the creative dollar in-house
“When it comes to building financially healthy communities it’s all about how long are the dollars actually gonna circulate within that community.” -Will
With a sentiment echoed by prominent Black activists like Killer Mike, REC seeks to keep money in the local community for as long as possible.
In order to do that Dave and Will created the ‘Job and Opportunity Board’ through a creative directory to make it easier for creatives to find other creatives to collaborate with.
“It’s not that other creators don’t want to spend with other local creatives in Philly. They just don’t always have access to them or know where to go.” – Will
REC seeks to also attract more dollars to Philly’s creative community by tapping into the market where corporations look to hire creatives from large agencies outside of Philly.
REC continues to establish relationships with companies that need creatives for content, creatives that can be sourced locally.
“Instead of making these millionaires more money, how can we teach these similar things to some of these artists that we care about […] to build sustainable and scalable businesses right here in Philly?” – Will
Use what you have
Dave and Will advise creatives to start creating with what they already have. It’s important for creatives to use the resources they have to make that first film that may not be cinematic yet or that first record that may not have the best sound yet. The first draft does not have to be perfect.
Start and then grow and get better from there.
The co-founders also shared that it’s okay to think smaller and focus on a niche reliable community to reach your goals. It’s not always the best course of action to try to please everybody from the start. It’s important to try to build an authentic following.
Look for fans who are loyal and connected to who you as an artist are. The rest of the world will follow.
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When a group of creators come together for a common goal, something special happens. For the month of August our theme is easy—> #CollabandConquer All month we’re dedicating to the importance of collaboration. We’ll also be collabing with other spaces to host REC programming — like our #RECSession Creators Panel 📍 @wework, #LIVEatREC📍@cicphilly and #RISEandSHOOT 📍: @theovalphl ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Dave also added that it’s important for new creatives to network across rather than above. The relationships you build now with your peers will be handier, in the future, than focusing on getting your big break from a contact that doesn’t value you as much.
Start. Stay. Grow.
“A space was important to house all of these resources, these strategies, this community we wanted to be a part of and build in a meaningful way.” – Will
Similar to the mantra of contemporary tech startups, REC believes in growing the local community. They’ve started an amazing model in Philly, stayed to watch it expand, and have consistently grown.
Because of its strategies and innovative ideas, REC Philly has been able to move from having the fourth floor of a warehouse and a community of 800 creators to include a 10,000 square foot creative facility in the fashion district of Philly.
5 years in the making!
What started as one room at 9th & Dauphin, The REC Room is now expanding to a 10,000 square ft creative facility at 9th & Market. (@FashionDistPHL)
— REC Philly (@RECphilly) July 31, 2019
After perfecting the model, Will and Dave are seeking to expand and create REC affiliates in more cities suffering from the lack of a centralized ecosystem for local creatives.
This would make it possible for creatives to have a stable and reliable network when they’re touring.
“The problem we decided to solve was not just a Philly problem” – Will
REC Philly is here for you Philadelphia creatives. If you live elsewhere, make sure to take in the heart of what REC’s philosophy is. Use your resources, collab, and network with peers and stay true to you.
Create intentionally. Create purposefully. Be different by being yourself.
— REC Philly (@RECphilly) October 9, 2019