Luci Giarrano ::: CEO, Mass Collective ::: Atlanta
I came to know Luci through a mutual friend in 2012 when I was looking for someone to take over the Atlanta chapter of Sofar Sounds. Sofar Sounds organizes monthly 'living room concerts' in more than 38 cities around the world. I was involved in the New York chapter and went on to found Sofar Sounds in Atlanta. After organizing the first few events in Atlanta from my laptop in Brooklyn, I was ready to have an enthusiastic local take the project and run with it. At the time, Luci was running The Cottage, an indie recording studio in east Atlanta. He was a perfect fit for the job: he had excellent music taste, connections galore, and was super organized. Over the next few months, I taught him everything I knew about Sofar Sounds and helped him set up a solid support team. We later collaborated to create a Pop Up art gallery at The Cottage for my other side project, YELLE. In the months that followed, he was named the CEO of MASS Collective, an organization closely aligned with the Maker Movement that produces classes related to tech, design, and building. In short, we like the same things & love working together. We met up on a rainy December evening for drinks & a good catch up.
Once we had ordered drinks from the secret menu that Luci knew to ask for, we began. It’s always a funny thing to interview people you think you know really well. I took the opportunity to find out about how his love for music & the arts began. He explained that, like many people, music sort of came to him. His parents were musical, but not musicians and yet at an early age he started to pick up different instruments and later graduated to playing in a few bands. His creative mode shifted when he went to Georgia State University, where he studied film and again when he attended The Creative Circus for photography. Somewhere in the midst of this discovery period, he started recording music for himself & also for friends. Gradually, he acquired basic recording equipment and began honing his expertise. There was evidently quite a market for people like Luci, though I suppose there’s always a surplus of original talent and a deficit of technical talent). But this trajectory was rerouted by a year-long stint in Seattle; before leaving he sold all but one piece of equipment -- something he would come to half-heartedly regret when he returned a year later with only one piece of audio equipment remaining. The appetite for recording in Atlanta was still healthy, so he began rebuilding. He started renting The Cottage, a tiny, ivy-covered house covered in east Atlanta. The upper level served as a micro recording studio and also Luci’s living quarters; the lower lever was a more public space geared towards live performance. Even in the beginning, artists performed there almost weekly. Concerts ranged from wild-n-out punk shows to stripped down acoustic sets.
Sofar, So Good
By the time I met Luci, The Cottage was a small, bustling recording studio and performance space. At that time, Luci was trying to ramp down the number performances held there, since he was living upstairs. Thus the idea of Sofar Sounds, which hosted similar events that were not at his humble abode, was very attractive. He jumped right in & after managing the first 6 months together, he took responsibility for Sofar Sounds Atlanta fully. Any volunteer knows that finding & keeping good people is a constant challenge. Sofar Sounds Atlanta was no different. In addition, curating a show of varied & inventive musicians who would play for next-to-nothing was not always easy. That time when a performer was under the influence and performed a rap nearly entirely made up of expletives for the one show my parents attended comes to mind. But a couple years later, it is safe to say the Atlanta team has reached a stable state -- which is what really allows the inspired performances take center stage. Luci has big plans for Sofar. He wants Atlanta to host a Sofar+, which is a day-long music festival that has been piloted in London & Sao Paulo. He wants to work with promoters to find more touring bands that are traveling through Atlanta. But most of all, he wants to continue support local artists.
The Death of the Music Industry
I am always interested to know how people who work in music envision the rebirth of their now largely defunct industry. I do believe that civilization on the whole needs art and that because of that, the industries that support it will never truly die, but rather reinvent themselves. But in chatting with Luci, we hit on the real reason the music industry has been changed by technology in a way that other art industries have not: music has been divorced from a physical product. For the most part, Art is still a canvas or piece of paper. Novels are still held in people’s hands, even if it’s on a Kindle. But music’s 1 to 1 relationship with the physical world: records, tapes, CDs has evaporated with the emergence of smartphones & apps. Now, music can only make big money if it is being performed live. Can you imagine if the only way a painter could make money was to paint live? It’s not a sustainable model and one which well-known artists publicly lament. Which is why I find it so interesting that Luci divulged that he was planning on expanding The Cottage by creating a music label. His current partner, Damon, is an engineering genius and will stay focused on the recording side of things. Luci’s goal is simply to become an internationally known indie recording studio & label.
The Vision for MASS in Atlanta
The Cottage is not Luci’s only productive gig. He is also the CEO of MASS Collective, an organization that provides studio space for ‘makers’ to bring their ideas to life. At the moment they are focused on people who make physical products. They currently have classes on blacksmithing, knife making, woodworking, and electronics. They are thinking of building a dark room, acquiring a 3D printer, and just bought a laser cutter. The MASS audience is The Maker Movement: people who usually don't own expensive equipment but have an idea for product or business. Ideally, the studio would also have room and resources to help people develop the business & marketing aspect of their business. Luci said he envisions a sort of open cafe-esque layout that promotes interaction, networking, and a sense of community, that could even foster business partnerships. .sharing. MASS Collective will offer memberships and classes this year.
Luci says he has big plans for this year: Launch The Cottage record label. Host a Sofar+ event. Begin offering MASS membership. As a friend & inspiration, Luci epitomizes the “Be Nice, Work Hard” adage.