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Historic RCA Studio A Building Sold to Developer

Ben Folds
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

The 50-year-old building that houses Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A has been sold to a development group operating out of Brentwood, Tenn.

According to Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, Bravo Development filed a deed on Monday (July 28). The final purchase price for the building and land was $4.075 million.

The move comes weeks after Nashville-based rock musician Ben Folds (pictured above) wrote an impassioned open letter, making his case for preserving the studio in the face of the ongoing development of Nashville’s Music Row, which preservationists say could not only threaten the historical legacy of country music, but the future economy of Nashville’s music business.

Studio A was founded in 1964 by Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley, two top Nashville guitarists who were among the chief architects of the Nashville Sound. Elvis Presley, the Monkees, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert are among the many top acts who have recorded there. Folds has rented the studio for the past 12 years, and he has produced many artists in the space.

“I’ve recorded all over the world and I can say emphatically that there’s no recording space like it anywhere on the planet,” he wrote.

But Bradley himself was not on the preservation bandwagon. He and his family, along with Atkins’ family, opposed declaring the location a protected historical landmark, which would have interfered with the sale.

“What makes a place historic?” he questioned in an open letter of his own. “The architecture of the Nashville sound was never 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.”

He added, “Music city isn’t about a perfect room, or hanging just the right baffling. Turns out, the architecture of Nashville’s evolving sound is a synergy of creative energy. That’s still here, and it has nothing to do with this building.”

The building’s tenants — including country musician Jamey Johnson, who rents office space there –  were notified of the sale Monday. Bravo Development owner Tim Reynolds sent a letter to tenants saying that the building’s operating expenses currently exceed rental income, and that rents would likely increase going forward. Tenants are expected to receive new lease agreements soon.

Reynolds had recently given Folds his assurance that the sale of the building would only move forward if the studio space could be preserved, but his latest assessment doesn’t mention preservation.

“The elevator’s bad. The roof’s bad. The wiring is bad. The plumbing is bad. It has asbestos and the duct work has mold,” he tells the Tennessean. “These folks who are passionate about the building must stop and take a deep breath.”

He also said that Folds is welcome to put together a bid to purchase the building from him, adding that he is already in negotiations to re-sell the property to interested out-of-town investors.

The Music Industry Coalition, which sprang up in response to the pending sale, responded to the news with the following post to its Facebook page:

While the news of the sale of RCA Studio A doesn’t come as a surprise to us, it exemplifies the rapid residential development happening on Music Row. This isn’t the first Music Row beacon to be sold, and it won’t be the last. Our organization simply wants to be included in the planning and future development of this vital business district. RCA Studio A is a place where artistic exchange and collaboration has been thriving for years. As these spaces disappear, there will likely be a continued decentralization of Nashville’s music industry which has long been a global leader in music creation because of the close proximity of our musical creators. If planning takes this fact into account, Nashville may still be able to keep its creative legacy alive through preserving spaces like Studio A.

Next: Is Traditional Country Music Dead?

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