Breaking Down The RCA Studio A Debate Between Ben Folds And Harold Bradley

What started as a rallying cry from musician Ben Folds to preserve RCA Studio A has now essentially morphed into a landlord-tenant dispute. On one side is Folds, the tenant, who runs a successful studio in the building and fears displacement — which came after he found out that a developer might soon finalize the purchase of the site. And on the other side is Country Music Hall of Famer Harold Bradley, the owner, who has renewed Folds’ lease 50 times and is ready to sell.

Where things stand: Bravo Development, the potential buyer, has not yet closed on the sale of the building, which might fetch more than $4 million. The developer behind Bravo, Tim Reynolds, says it was his plan all along to preserve the historic studio space, but Folds says that’s probably not true. He says that Reynolds likely has condos in mind. Yet Reynolds has remained mum about his exact plans. And again, Bradley says he’s been trying to sell the building for years.

Why doesn’t Ben Folds buy the building? For one, Folds says that “four million plus clams is well out of my range.” So he’s casting about for investors who might see his wishes through, and he’s “positive we can help pull this ambitious plan off.” But right now, details of the counter-offer remain slim.

Are Ben Folds’ public gestures about one building, or all of Music Row? At the rally Folds organized on Monday, he shifted the emphasis from RCA Studio A to all of Music Row, announcing a foundation called Music Industry Coalition (MIC) committed to preserving Music Row. And the Twitter hashtag he was pitching dovetailed that emphasis shift: from #SaveStudioA to #SaveMusicRow. Although shortly after, some Music Row property owners pushed back, saying tightening up development restrictions in the area could hurt property values.

How historic is RCA Studio A?  It shouldn’t be confused with RCA Studio B, which is far more historically significant. Still, there’s a long list of luminaries who’ve cut songs or albums in RCA Studio A, but Harold Bradley says that’s not enough to forever protect the building, located at 30 Music Square West. He writes that: “The architecture of the Nashville sound was never of brick and mortar. Certainly, there are old studio spaces that, in our imaginations, ring with sonic magic; but in truth, it’s not the room; it’s the music.” Also, its blocky concrete architecture is arguably not the city’s most visually striking site. But inside, Folds says it’s a “viable, relevant and vibrant space.” Rolling Stone put the debate this way: “Although originally built as a business, RCA Studio A has since grown into a landmark, an enduring symbol of the music that literally built Nashville into a thriving city. On the other hand, it’s also a piece of property. The owner has every right to sell the building and pocket the cash, regardless of whatever history occurred inside.”

Did Elvis record there? There are conflicting reports. Bradley, who “worked in that room as much or more than anyone,” says Elvis never recorded in the building. But Folds says engineers and musicians have reached out to him with stories about working on Elvis there. Elvis or no Elvis, among Fold’s clients have been Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and George Strait, and that, he says, lends the space some serious star cachet.

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