The Giving Groove: A Record Label Dedicated to Making a Difference

The Giving Groove is not your ordinary record label. Operating under an “artist-friendly, socially conscious” model, this Philadelphia-based indie label was launched by local musicians and studio owners who are on a mission to help artists find success and give back to the community at the same time. Under The Giving Groove’s model, half of all of after-tax album proceeds go to the artist, and half is donated to a music-related charity that the label works alongside the artist to select.

The label, which features an expanding roster of national acts and Philly favorites  including the Dead Milkmen, OOLALA, Hoots & Hellmouth, and DECONTROL, was founded in 2015 by longtime friends Matt Teacher and Mike Lawson. They had been operating their Philadelphia recording studio, Sine Studios, for more than a decade, hosting sessions with the likes of Bon Jovi, Boyz II Men, Steven Tyler, The Fray, Natasha Beddingfield, Ed Sheeran, and Gavin DeGraw. During that period, they cultivated a large community of artists and industry partners through Philadelphia’s vibrant music scene, and launching a record label seemed like a natural next act.

“Working with musicians in the studio for the past ten years, I’ve witnessed a lot of the pitfalls they face trying to promote their records in the marketplace,” says Teacher. “Now I feel like I’m in a position where I can help them overcome those obstacles and reach the next level of success.” At the same time, they wanted to make a difference somehow. “It's just a confusing business, and it didn't seem fair for a lot of artists in a lot of ways,” Lawson explains. “We just said to ourselves, "How can we help?”

Teacher took inspiration from Burgess Lea Press, a cookbook publishing company run by his father and stepmother. “They were printing high-quality, beautiful cookbooks, and 50 percent of all after-tax profits would go directly to the author of the book and the other 50 percent would go to a food-related charity that the authors are passionate about,” he says. “I started thinking, ‘I should try to adapt this for the music industry.’” “Matt presented that idea, and that seemed amazing,” adds Lawson. “It just seemed to make sense.”

It certainly would have been easier to perhaps hold an occasional fundraiser, or simply solicit donations, but Teacher and Lawson wanted to make philanthropy the core of their business model. “In this day and age, it just really feels like there are a lot of forces against the music community,” says Teacher. “We want to see our artists do good for the community. And we wanted to come up with a concept that could be explained in one line, in one sentence, that makes everybody feel good about the artists.”

At the end of 2015, Teacher and Lawson, along with philanthropy director Katie Barbato and lead designer Randi Lawson, launched The Giving Groove, and the response from artists throughout the music community has been positive. “With The Giving Groove, we're connecting in a more practical way with a larger, global network of souls influenced (and yet-to-be-influenced!) by the deep, transformative power of music,” says Sean Hoots, who fronts the label’s newest act, Hoots & Hellmouth. Jon Bon Jovi adds, “The Giving Groove is giving artists the chance to achieve their dream.”

The label’s first release was Philly space-rockers OOLALA’s debut album, The New RockRoll Cosmology. Following The Giving Groove’s model, the band is donating half of album proceeds to MusiCares. For OOLALA’s drummer Korey Jones, the MusiCares connection is deeply personal: “Back in 2007, I was touring with my former band and we had our van, trailer, and everything we owned stolen,” he says. “MusiCares helped us out with a donation to the band, which helped us get on our feet so that we could finish our tour and replace some gear.

“It feels good to be part of a business model that can give back to organizations such as MusiCares,” Jones adds, “and to help out not only musicians in similar situations, but future musicians through education services that they support.”

The Giving Groove team is thrilled to support an organization that has touched so many people close to them: “Spending a lot of time around musicians, I kept hearing heartening tales about difficult times in artists’ careers when MusiCares stepped up and came through for them when no one else would,” says Lawson. “Whether for something as practical as replacing stolen gear, to offering assistance in the life-and-death situation of a musician battling addiction, MusiCares has shown that's really what they do: care.”

Lawson adds that he’s proud to be able to motivate artists and fans to act upon social concerns. “Our arts community is fundamental to the fabric of our society, and I want that to be the prevailing attitude of the music industry.”

To learn more about The Giving Groove, visit thegivinggroove.com.

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