By Stephen Silver, lead image via REC Philly
Dave Silver knows a thing or two about getting a band together.
Silver got his start as a music and talent impresario in 2012 when, as a Temple University student, he hosted frequent live entertainment showcases in the basement of his fraternity. The events eventually got so big that they got him evicted for operating a business in a residential-zoned area.
Five years later, Silver is the co-founder of both local talent incubator REC Philly, and of Amplify Philly, an initiative which seeks to represent Philadelphia’s vibrant music and arts communities on a national stage. Silver and his team have come very far in the five years since they began, but not so far physically—REC Philly’s current space is just six blocks away from the site of those old frat house concerts.
Silver in his element. Image via Samantha Sweeney/Rock on Philly.
Silver and Will Toms, his business partner, are the founders of REC Philly, with Silver handling business development and Toms serving as “visionary.” REC Philly grew out of a previous music-events business called Broad Street Music Group, pivoting to its current name and business model in 2015.
“We truly believed we could create a bigger impact on the community by doing more than just events,” Silver said. Artists had been asking him for advice on management, handling press and more, so they switched to this unique model.
— REC Philly (@RECphilly) August 7, 2017
As an incubator, REC Philly also includes a studio space (called the REC Room, near Temple), and a music venue in West Philly called William Street Common. REC Philly offers a membership program, which Silver likened to a gym membership “for creatives and musicians, helping build musicians and turning them into creative entrepreneurs.”
And it’s not just musicians—in addition to hip-hop, alt-rock, and singer-songwriter musicians, members include videographers, photographers, writers, designers and even models.
How do Silver and Toms make the case for members to join up with REC Philly?
“The price point alone is pretty fair,” Silver said. “We charge $34 per month for our membership. The two major selling points are access to our [REC Room] space; we gave our artists four hours every month for free. And all of our members can access all REC Philly events free for charge.” This includes concerts, biweekly workshops and more.
The membership program currently has around 100 members, with an eye toward reaching more than 300 by year’s end. Membership allows plenty of opportunity for networking with other artists and being part of a community. REC also assists artists with creation and production of T-shirts and other promotional material.
REC Philly already has a couple of success stories that they have helped nurture, including the local soul/hip hop band Hardwork Movement, and the videographer who founded Guru Media Group.
— Hardwork Movement (@HWMPHILLY) July 25, 2017
While REC is centered only on Philly for now, the company—which has been profiled in Forbes as well as various local publications—has eyes on expansion.
“Philadelphia is the seed. We thought it’s a perfect market to really get this kind of thing started,” Silver said. “The city is growing itself and we just want to be along with the ride. If we hit a certain membership number here in Philadelphia, our goal is to work with the same model where we build a creative space. We’ll want to build the community and then connect the cities together.”
The model is essentially WeWork, and Silver says that once REC is up and running in other cities, members in one city will be able to use REC resources while traveling to other locations.
However, Silver is adamant that REC could only have started in Philadelphia. And a lot of that has to do with accessibility, to sponsors and investment.
“For a young entrepreneur to be able to work with Comcast, and to be able for me to know where to go and know who to talk to is key,” he said.
“It’s a huge city/small town kind of situation. If I go to an event that I believe Comcast might be at, I can walk into that room, figure it out, and set up a meeting right then and there. So we’ve been able to get a lot of clients and big sponsors, just from the city being so accessible.”
Silver’s other initiative, Amplify Philly, was cofounded with Yuval Yarden, also of Philadelphia Startup Leaders. It has focused the last couple of years on, well, amplifying Philadelphia’s presence each year at South by Southwest in Austin. With the help of Comcast, Visit Philadelphia and more, Amplify has hosted larger and larger music showcases each year.
The goals for SXSW in 2018? To raise up to $300,000, and produce an Amplify Philly House at the event, which would take over a bar or restaurant for events throughout the festival.
But despite all of the festival travel and expansion thoughts, REC is Philly to the core.
— PhillyStartupLeaders (@startupleaders) May 1, 2017
“Philadelphia made our organization, in my mind,” said Silver, who grew up in Bucks County.
“With talent alone, I can’t believe that we’re going to go to another city and find the type of talent we’re finding in Philadelphia. There’s a global understanding that Philadelphia is a hotbed for talent, and it just might not be the hotbed for industry. And that’s where we’re trying to come in and say, we can create a structured investment for the industry to live, and definitely for this new-age digital world.
“But the talent alone, we believe Philadelphia is number one.”