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Annandale recording studio owner provides grant to boost local music scene

A local recording studio owner is putting money where his music is to help the industry thrive in the area.

Dave Mallen opened Annandale’s Innovation Station Music about six years ago in his house near Little River Turnpike. Now, he’s launching an annual grant to help locals record and promote their new music.

He says there are plenty of great musicians here in the D.C. area, but many need more resources to thrive.

“We have a ton of talent right that is homegrown,” Mallen told FFXnow. “[Innovation Station] is an incubator for local talent. I’m trying to get people to reach further and push the envelope with their music.”

The “Pay It Forward Grant” is for $2,000 and will be awarded annually to one applicant who demonstrates a vision and a need for assistance. The money can be used to record at Innovation Station. The deadline to send an application and work samples is Jan. 31.

“I’m trying through my…business to do the things that I think the local government, local arts councils, and other institutions should be doing, which is directing a whole more money to the local independent music scene,” Mallen said.

There are grants available through several local public-private organizations, but those are often aimed at venues, theaters, and established institutions with “name recognition,” said Mallen.

He also hopes that by supporting local artists, independent music venues will also come back.

“There’s quite a lot of talent and folks are not necessarily…well known because there aren’t a ton of outlets for people to play anymore,” he said.

He cites Vienna’s Jammin Java as the only venue now catering to the scene, particularly after Epicure Cafe suddenly closed earlier this year. With the advent of streaming music and consumers not really paying for music anymore, the need for venues where artists get paid to perform live is even more essential, he said.

This isn’t the first time he’s awarded grants to local musicians. Previously, after a break-in at his studio, Mallen provided grants to two Maryland-based musicians who now both have albums coming out in early 2023.

He also co-founded the DMV Music Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at bringing together musicians from across the region to better develop and promote the local music scene.

Mallen has been part of the music in the D.C. area for close to three decades, graduating from American University and performing as both a solo artist and in bands. He says he can play “a bunch of different instruments.”

He eventually found his way into government consulting work, but still has a “burning desire” to be creative. He started taking online courses at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

What he soon realized was that the music industry wasn’t simply about creating music, but building a business out of it.

“I could release an album of my own stuff and have my own label…but even if that there were to be successful, I would have to do it all again in the next year or two,” Mallen said. “I really didn’t see that being sustainable for a career. I really wanted to…create something that is really the reflection of everything that I bring to the table.”

He opened his first recording studio in 2006 in his Arlington townhome. A decade later, he moved his studio — and family — to Annandale, with a studio constructed to his exact specifications.

Innovation Station Music, which recently won a regional award for “best music studio,” is a “one-stop shop,” he says. A priority was to provide the artist with everything they could possibly need, from a digitally controlled patch bay that allows access to gear on an IPad to a professional business plan.

“I just don’t think there’s anything else like it in the metro area or Fairfax County,” Mallen said.

With the Pay it Forward grants, he hopes recipients add to the local music scene and help build the arts community in Fairfax County as well as beyond.

“It’s going to make the…community better. That’s the spirit of it,” Mallen said. “Their contribution is musical; it’s through the art.”

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