Sony Music Nashville
In recent years, the music industry has changed dramatically. This is especially true for the country genre and its unofficial capital, Nashville, Tennessee, where Music Row has been the heart of the city’s entertainment industry since the 1950s. Large corporations have continually acquired smaller labels while streamlining operations, from staffing to real estate holdings. This has led many labels and other entertainment companies to seek leasable space in neighborhoods outside of Music Row.
The country division of Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Music Nashville (SMN), which has acquired the Nashville branches of RCA, Columbia, and Arista, recently sold its Music Row building and moved into a 26,000-square-foot space spanning the entire 13th floor of a new 15-story glass tower, 1201 Demonbreun, in the nearby Gulch neighborhood. A former industrial and railway hub located southwest of downtown, the Gulch has been transformed into a trendy, upscale destination and has attracted several other entertainment companies.
“A lot of labels don’t want to own buildings anymore and just want to be in the business of music,” says David M. Powell, principal at local firm Hastings Architecture Associates. SMN engaged Hastings to design the interiors of its new office, which was familiar territory for the firm: Hastings had previously created a master plan for the block and designed the core and shell of 1201 Demonbreun as well as several tenant interiors.
Early in the design process, SMN appointed Randy Goodman as chairman and CEO, and he requested a vibrant new workplace that mirrored his aspirations for the company, focusing on transparency, creativity, and collaboration.
“Since Randy took the helm at SMN, he has provided a clear connection to our past, an understanding of the present, and a vision for our future,” says Ken Robold, executive vice president and COO at SMN. “His first remarks to our staff were about the new chapters we will write in the storied history of Sony Music. We provided a copy of these remarks to Hastings. They became a key source of design inspiration for the project, and you can see them reflected throughout the space.”
An open office with acoustically reinforced retreats
To support SMN’s evolving culture, Hastings provided expansive open office areas as well as enclosed spaces, such as breakout rooms, conference rooms, and phone booths. “A record label workspace is all about music, so you might imagine that everyone needs private offices, but the truth is that it’s not so different from most other office types,” Powell says.
Furnished with sit-stand desks, the open office area is pushed to the perimeter, taking advantage of daylight and views through floor-to-ceiling windows, while flexible workstations are located toward the center.
“The openness has changed our communication style,” Robold says. “Proximity instantly improves collaboration; quick answers can be obtained in person rather than through email. Face-to-face interactions have become commonplace; therefore, discussions are more inclusive, creative, and robust.”
While most enclosures were built using standard construction methods, some spaces, such as listening booths for artists and repertoire (A&R) staff to play music—often loudly—for musicians and clients, required more robust acoustic isolation, like specially designed partitions and acoustical door seals.
Adapting global branding to a relaxed locale
Hastings exposed architectural features and painted most ceilings and walls white. The white walls offered blank canvases upon which abstracted graphics were applied to incorporate Sony Music branding, particularly splashes of red, the company’s signature color.
“The design shows respect for the label’s tremendous history but also acknowledges that Sony is a global, forward-looking company on the cutting edge of technology,” Powell says. The architects infused the interiors with elements that capture the unique vibe of Nashville without coming across as stereotypical or hokey. They coined the term “relaxed sophistication” to describe their design approach.
In the lobby, bold red and black wallcoverings convey the Sony Music brand in a modern, playful way. Front-of-house zones—the reception area, boardroom, listening room, and Hub cafe—are connected by a central corridor with an “icon wall” depicting legendary country artists who have been associated with the label throughout its history, including Willy Nelson, Keith Whitley, Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap, and Kris Kristofferson, as well as a quote from Waylon Jennings.
The tensions between raw and refined and nostalgia and progressiveness are further reflected in the designs of two showcase spaces: a large, Johnny Cash-themed conference room and a sumptuous listening room, designed in collaboration with renowned Nashville acoustic engineer Steven Durr.
Throughout the office, photographs highlight SMN’s current artists, including Miranda Lambert, Kane Brown, Brad Paisley, Maren Morris, and Luke Combs. “The office offers a great blend of the past and future,” Robold says. “When Dolly Parton or Johnny Cash first started out, I bet that they would never have imagined people taking selfies in front of their pictures on our icon wall!”
Who Architect and interior designer: Hastings Architecture Associates, LLC. Project team: David M. Powell; Kate O’Neil; Derek Schmidt; Heather O. Mathias; Lauren McCloud. Contractor: Brasfield & Gorrie. Lighting consultant: Sesco Lighting. Engineering: Power Management Corporation. Graphics: Jarvis Designs; Tolleson McCoy; custom graphics designed by Hastings Architecture Associates and fabricated by Designtex imaging specialist Ryan Crist. Mural: Sarah Gonzales. Artwork/ photography installed by The Ambiance Group Concepts in Art. Acoustician: Steven Durr. Furniture: Alfred Williams & Company; Herman Miller.
What Wallcoverings: Designtex. Paint: PPG. Laminate: Formica. Drywall: USG. Movable walls and glass panels/partitions: DIRTT. Wall Panels: Innovations; Cumberland Architectural Millwork Inc. Carpet: Shaw Contract. Ceilings: Armstrong. Lighting: Intense Lighting; Erco; Nora Lighting; Fine Lighting; HE Williams; CB2; Sonneman; SLV Lighting; Schoolhouse Electric; Zero Lighting; Tech Lighting. Doors and hardware: Slayden. Architectural glass/glazing: Alexander Metals. Window treatments: Draper. Seating: Herman Miller; DesignForm; Bernhardt; Keilhauer; Cumberland; Blu Dot; Hightower; Source Lighting; Arper; Geiger; CB2; Allermuir; Industry West. Upholstery: Knoll; Designtex; Pollack; Maharam; Ultrafabrics. Tables: Arper; custom by Adam Cremona; Herman Miller; custom millwork by Cumberland Architectural Millwork Inc.; Keilhauer, CB2. Files and lockers/cubbies: Herman Miller. Plumbing fixtures: Steinhouse Supply Co; Kohler.