Serving up the hits in Tustin
Thomas Barsoe walks into the Union Market building in Tustin.
He strolls past unusual dining and retail spaces before stopping in front of a corner spot near the rear of the building — the new home for his music production company, OC Hit Factory.
But he’s not selling coffee or clothing. He’s selling the byproducts of creativity.
“I came into this space, and I loved it,” said the Danish pop star and producer, who now lives in San Juan Capistrano. “I thought it was very artsy and rustic, like something I would see in Denmark or London. One of my goals of OC Hit Factory is to make it accessible to everybody.
“You can go bowling here at Union Market, grab a drink and record a song, if you’re talented, and we like you. It makes a lot of sense for me to be in a place with trendy, hip people.”
Some of those trendy, hip people plan to celebrate the new location’s grand opening at 8 p.m. Sunday. The 1,500-square-foot space includes three recording studios, a radio station and a separate stage for live performances.
The business began in Barsoe’s home five years ago but moved to an industrial section of Anaheim in 2012 before the eventual relocation to Union Market, a space within a bigger space, The District shopping center. He’s a long way from the improvisational nature of the business’ early days.
“We would have 20 singer/songwriters scattered about my house in rooms, and even in the bathtub, writing songs,” he recalled. “It was a nightmare, but it was fun.”
Though he’s inhabiting a physical business in Tustin, the 36-year-old founder of OC Hit Factory has embraced the digital transformation that’s reshaping his industry.
“I’m not one of the jaded, bitter people who aren’t happy with the changes in the music business,” said Barsoe, who recorded for EMI Records, home to a large and diverse roster of artists, including Queen and the Beastie Boys. “I think people are always going to want music; you just have to adjust to the times now and how it works. You have to combat the Internet and use it to your advantage. It’s a great marketing tool.”
He sees social media as a way for his clients to quickly share their music and believes the Internet encourages great albums, not just great singles, as some pundits argue.
He noted that Justin Bieber and Adele were discovered online.
“Nowadays, people are buying and downloading individual songs off the Internet,” he explained. “Artists have to write about 12 to 15 songs to put out a really great album and make their fans want to buy the whole thing. It puts pressure on the artists, and I think it’s making music today better.”
He said television programs like “X Factor,” “The Voice” and “Glee” have made it easier for musicians with whom he’s worked to gain exposure.
Union Market owner Andrea Young, whose daughter has written songs with Barsoe, is pleased to have OC Hit Factory among its unusual retail and dining mix.
“My husband and I are very out-of-the-box thinkers,” she said. “This is a great fit because we also have an amazing venue for his recording artists to perform. This makes us different and stand out. It gives people another reason to come to our market.”
Though many come calling, Barsoe said his criteria for choosing musicians with whom to work is simple: He has to be impressed and inspired.
“If they’re somebody that I really feel passionate about, I just instantly want to help them and see how far I can take them,” he said. “I think that’s something that has become maybe one of the major components of our success and what really gets me up and excited in the morning. Any day could be the day that new 13-year-old Taylor Swift walks in.”
John Lindahl, a 19-year-old Mission Viejo singer on Epic Records, said Barsoe helped him with his songwriting when he was a pre-teen.
Lindahl is working with artists like Justin Timberlake and record executive hitmaker L.A. Reid.
“I was very insecure about every move that I made, and Thomas was very good about encouraging me to go with my heart and trust myself,” said Lindahl, who is set to perform at OC Hit Factory’s launch. “I don’t think I’d be where I am today without him.”
Barsoe is looking forward to bringing his company to Tustin and working with more great artists.
“It’s going to be this big celebration of what I’ve been doing for the last couple years of my life and all the amazing talents I’ve worked with,” he said. “Seeing what they’re doing is awesome, and knowing I had something to do with that is great.”
IF YOU GO
What: OC Hit Factory launch party
Where: Union Market
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 1