Three young musicians huddle in the corner, engrossed in a serious discussion around the end of a long table. Some entertainment industry insiders step off the elevator, catching the attention of one of the musicians, who wonders aloud if that was someone they should recognize.
Not far away, standing under a mural emblazoned with the name of the company — Mass Appeal — is Nas, one of the great hip hop artists of our time, best known as a rapper, a songwriter, and a music producer. Today he’s also an entrepreneur, showing off the new offices for the media powerhouse he helped to relaunch in 2013.
Mass Appeal — which started out in publishing and has branched out into music, film, and television — used to have its own office in New Your City but when it outgrew the space, the company decided to take an entire floor at WeWork Soho South.
He’s especially proud of the state-of-the-art recording studio, tucked away in the back, that’s nearly ready to start cutting tracks for Mass Appeal’s long line up of artists.
“We’re doing everything here in this office, down to making the records,” says Nas. “It’s like Motown in the making. But the next level version.”
Peter Bittenbender, Mass Appeal’s CEO, is also passionate about taking the company forward.
“For us, it’s always about how we can take things to the next level,” says Bittenbender. “We needed a good partner to help us grow.”
That partner was WeWork, which renovated the space to Mass Appeal’s specifications. Some parts are pure WeWork design, such as the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that let light stream in through the massive windows on the north and west walls. And others are inspired by Mass Appeal, like the oversized Scrabble tiles near the reception desk which spells out the company’s name. The staff loved the DIY feel, and ordered the tiles directly from the artist.
And then there’s the eye-popping mural that takes up one entire wall. It tells the story of company, including the huge “96” that signifies the year that Mass Appeal magazine was first published. It covered everything from hip-hop stars to graffiti artists to video games.
Bittenbender says it wasn’t a difficult decision to move Mass Appeal into a coworking space, especially one that would be “filled with all these creative people.”
“It’s so much more than being just a tenant in a building,” says Bittenbender. “It’s like a community. And it’s great that we now have this gorgeous space that’s helping to further all of our creative endeavors.”
And there’s that recording studio, packed with the latest technology. It’s a multipurpose space that can be used to mix the sound for the film and television projects taken on by Mass Appeal.
But its main purpose is music. Recording artists have already been dropping by, just to check out the space.
“In the short amount of time we’ve had the studio, it’s been great just in terms of getting artist to come in and play music,” says Bittenbender. “The conversations back there are incredible.”
Although Nas is quick to point out that it’s not his studio — “It’s Mass Appeal’s. It’s for artists.” — he’s clearly attached to the place. He’ll be the first to record there.
“I never had a place that I was kind of like a part of,” he says. “There were rooms built in Sony Studios just for me, but that’s not around any more. And this is more me. It’s a great feeling.”
Photos by Lauren Kallen and Katelyn Perry