Lerner makes music with Level Exchange at The Guild

Lerner makes music with Level Exchange at The Guild

Lindsey Lerner peeks out the window of the Level Exchange’s new space at The Guild in downtown Pawtucket.

PAWTUCKET – With the Level Exchange, Lindsey Lerner is making local musicians look just as great as they are.

Lerner, of Providence, has filled 1,500 square feet of space with her business at The Guild brewery on Main Street with her company, founded in 2015. Her space is on the Bayley Street side of the building.

Lerner started Level Exchange in 2015. She books all the musical acts at The Guild, making a partnership with the brewing complex through a physical space a natural fit.

She says she’s invested big in Pawtucket, bringing her team of two full-time employees and a number of local college interns to the facility, which does audio and video production in house. A 700-square-foot “rug room” is where the videos are done, and mixing happens in the control room.

The Level Exchange goes far beyond the old music studio to full-scale production helping musicians turn art into a business and assisting them in making connections in the industry. Many try to do it all on their own, and they simply can’t make it work, says Lerner.

Lerner is working very closely with city officials and the Pawtucket Foundation. She has high hopes for bringing greater nightlife to the downtown area, and says there are many ways to plan for that future, whether through zoning changes or sound ordinances. The coming train station presents a tremendous opportunity, she said. The city’s growing brewing scene is also very exciting, she said.

While on a semester abroad in Chile back in 2013, Lerner met rapper Philip Terry. In Chile, they found a culture that cherished the arts and adored artists, a stark difference from the U.S., where it’s often such a difficult scene. Back on U.S. soil, she learned that booking gigs was no longer as simple as making a phone call like it was during her study abroad, and that many artists, instead of being paid, actually have to pay to play.

A “fair play” strategy is what it would take to flip the “pay-to-play” structure, she said. What’s not fair is offering an artist $50 and some food.

The circumstances in the U.S. music scene sparked a partnership with Terry, and the two began a joint entrepreneurial venture, providing artists with opportunities to follow their passion and share their stories.

In 2015, Terry and Lerner parted ways and Lerner, still angry over the way artists were treated, began Level Exchange. She won Bryant University’s New Venture Competition that year. Her online platform, which she likened to Airbnb for musicians and restaurants, didn’t work well enough in Rhode Island, so she went with a more hands-on approach to do the work for the artists.

In 2016, she began working with George Watsky, a man she’d previously reached out to “an embarrassing number of times” through an associate, doing his social media and other work. While still running her own company, she went on the Warp Tour with him, and when his manager was fired during that tour, she took over, a time she describes as a great learning experience.

One truth she learned as she managed that tour is that there’s really no talent difference between the big acts and the smaller local ones. Photographers and videographers make the popular acts look “20 times, 100 times more important than we were,” said Lerner.

She said she immediately began using what she’d learned to figure out how to use that to elevate Rhode Island’s music scene.

Level Exchange takes the guess work out by identifying, curating and incubating incredible local music talent along with providing space, marketing expertise and music industry knowledge. The market for local music has been neglected, and Level Exchange capitalizes on the talent.

Visit www.lindseylerner.com for more.

(Photo courtesy of Cate Brown)