Boston, MA—“I didn’t set out with the grand scheme of starting this company,” says Bryan Hinkley, founder and executive producer of Boston-based original music company Gratitude Sound. “It was almost out of necessity, because I really didn’t know what else to do.”
Hinkley had been touring the world for a couple of decades with a succession of hardcore bands, working as a guitarist, guitar tech and stage manager with bands such as Tree, Gang Green and Clutch. But the excitement of the road began to wear off, he says, and he joined up with some friends he had made during his touring days who were in similar situations—with families and mortgages—and fell into the world of advertising. “It just kind of happened; it was not a planned-out thing,” he says.
Hinkley had already established himself as a songwriter, recording several of his compositions with Clutch and producer Joe Barresi at Sound City in 2006. As an auxiliary guitarist, he says, “I also did a live record in Australia and another at the BBC with Clutch.”
Off the road, he turned for a time to composing for film, TV and advertising in Nashville before returning to his hometown of Boston, where he established Gratitude in early 2014. In just four years the business has grown to such an extent that he has charged Scott Feldman, a 10-year veteran of the L.A. music scene, with establishing a West Coast office.
“I brought Scott in as a partner because I was trying to do everything and manage the business side of it all myself. It became too much for me to handle,” he says.
“Plus, I needed someone to bounce ideas off of. My wife will only listen to so many of my theories.”
The two had previously worked together as composers. Feldman has his own music company, Darkbloom Productions, having gotten into the business as an assistant and music supervisor on FX’s Sons of Anarchy.
“The other thing I knew was that he’s a people person. When I met with him in a bar in L.A., I could tell that everyone he knew there genuinely liked him. That’s more important to me than a lot of things because that’s not a teachable trait.”
Despite Feldman’s proximity to Hollywood’s film community, there are no immediate plans to stray from the core commercial music business, according to Hinkley. “When I first started, I was naïve and thought we would do both, but I realized that they’re very different worlds. Advertising is like a machine gun. Film scoring is like fly fishing.”
Feldman has his own project studio, and Gratitude Sound will shortly be opening an office in the L.A. area. “I like to be around other music-related businesses,” says Hinkley. “I think community is a good thing. Having a network and being able to share resources, and conversation, usually sparks creativity.”
He speaks from experience. Having outgrown his own home studio, several years ago Hinkley moved into an office at The Record Co., near Boston’s Newmarket Square. Founded by Berklee College of Music graduate Matt McArthur, the nonprofit organization offers recording facilities to the community at an affordable rate (and at a higher rate to commercial ventures). The Record Co.—which lists iZotope co-founder and CEO Mark Ethier on its board of directors—reportedly hosted 1,219 subsidized recording sessions for more than 3,500 emerging professionals in 2017.
“They really liked the idea of a music-related business renting the office,” says Hinkley. “It’s a great symbiotic relationship. I get to see and work with a lot of the bands and musicians who come through there. If I need to hire musicians for a session, sometimes I’ll find people that I’ve met there.”
There are two studios in the building: one outfitted with a Sound Workshop Series 34 mixing console, Pro Tools HDX rig, MCI JH-24 tape machine and a wide selection of plug-ins, microphones and outboard gear, and a smaller B room with a vocal/voiceover booth, also nicely equipped. “We use both of those studios for different projects,” he says.
It’s an ideal situation for his company, says Hinkley: “We do a lot of work with different composers and I don’t always need a studio. Not having the overhead is a benefit to me, but I still have the luxury of having a studio right there when I need it.”
Indeed, Gratitude can call on collaborators across Europe, he reveals. “We’ve got a composer in Paris who is the ultimate EDM guy, one in Italy who is a film score guy, one in Berlin, in Spain, and a few in the UK. We’ll reach out to them for specific things, or if a client asks for a specific style.”
The company has built an impressive client list of local, regional, national and international brands in a short time, such as Reebok, Dunkin’ Donuts and GMC. Recent projects have included spots for Wawa, Gulf States Toyota and Wrangler Jeans.
A current project, for a healthcare plan, offers a welcome change of pace. “It’s fun,” he says, “because we’re doing a whole song with lyrics. It’s cool when you get to do that and not just background music.”
And that’s what it’s all about—fun. “I just want to continue to have fun,” he says. For a while, Gratitude Sound’s expansion was causing him some stress. But, he says, “I’m not trying to become so big that it’s not fun anymore.”
Gratitude Sound • www.gratitudesound.com
The Record Co. • www.therecordco.org