Why Didn’t Ben Folds Just Buy RCA Studio A?

At a rally organized by Ben Folds on Monday, he called on the attendees to band around saving the history of Music Row. ( Photo: Stephen Jerkins)

At a rally organized by Ben Folds on Monday, he called on the attendees to band together around saving the history of Music Row. ( Photo: Stephen Jerkins)

UPDATE: Folds explains why he doesn’t buy the studio.

Some developers say musician Ben Folds shouldn’t be given too much credit for saving a historic Music Row studio that’s being eyed for redevelopment. As has been noted, Tim Reynolds, the Brentwood buyer, says it “is, and always washis aim to preserve Studio A, suggesting that Folds’ ostensible victory didn’t really change the plans the buyer already had.

Commercial real estate veteran Tom Frye has been watching the sudden rush of support for RCA Studio A. He said dealing with community resistance is part of a developer’s daily life. Wielding star power might help spread the word, he said, though it rarely changes a developer’s opinion.

“There are people who are on the opposite side of the developers in almost every instance – whether it’s Ben Folds or Betty Sue next door,” Frye said. “If there’s a developer hellbent that he wants to do one thing with it, and Ben Folds wants him to do something else with it, it’s like any other community development issue.”

The building is owned by Country Music Hall of Famer Harold Bradley and his wife. Its latest property assessment says it’s worth around $2.4 million.

Somewhat unclear: what Reynolds’ plans called for and whether Ben Folds’ clarion call moved the dial. Reynolds now claims that, all along, he planned to preserve the historic studio space. And Folds, in his initial message to supporters, said: “We don’t know what this will mean to the future of the building,” which most interpreted as: the studio’s about to be razed.

When contacted by WPLN, developer Reynolds said he had nothing to add then hung up.

For Folds, it’s more than saving a historic site. He’s a tenant in the building, and he runs a recording business there.

Frye said there’s another option not many are talking about.

“I mean, the ultimate solution, if Ben Folds has that strong of an opinion, is that he can buy the property himself,” Frye said. “And he can probably afford it.”

Through a manager, Folds said he’s a musician, not a real estate investor, noting that he’s nonetheless poured more than a $1 million into restoring the studio over the past decade. “From a financial standpoint, the studio has been a break even venture for him, but not any big profit generator,” said Mike Kopp, one of Folds’ managers.

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