What is HitRecord? How Joseph Gordon-Levitt has fostered a creative community primed to change the industry


Though the internet provides plenty of outlets to fledgling creators, getting work out into the wild still requires a little help. Most of the time, some of the best creative projects are born out of a community fostering a great idea. That is what HitRecord is all about. 

HitRecord is different from other social media platforms. Along with providing an outlet for creators—amateur to professional—it actively fosters participation and collaboration. No project is “closed” per se. Any individual project on HitRecord doubles as a collaborative effort with other community members. People can chip in financially on a project to help complete it and bring it to life. The site is a creative-forward medium where revenue and accolades take a back seat.

JGL Hits Record

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a Hollywood heavyweight now, but that wasn’t always the case. Gordon-Levitt began HitRecord with his brother after seeing roles for acting jobs dry up. Instead of waiting around for acting gigs that probably weren’t coming, JGL decided to start working on his own. Gordon-Levitt used to say “hit record” as a mantra for his desire to get to work. The phrase became the name for the small-scale website in 2005.

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HitRecord started as a space where Gordon-Levitt and his brother would post informal videos, stories, and other creative things that they were working on. The brothers initially envisioned the site as an outlet where viewers would provide feedback on their work. However, as the site grew, JGL and his brother realized that people not only would provide feedback, they wanted to work on the projects as well. Thus, the doors for collaboration opened. As a result, HitRecord’s unique approach to “remixing” a project was born. 

“You know, it started as just a hobby that I was doing for fun. We launched it as a production company as a way to do more ambitious, creative things and do it with everybody,” Gordon-Levitt told TechCrunch. “But if you talk to our users, what people really enjoy is having that experience of being creative and being creative with other people because I think honestly, being creative is really hard alone.”

All About the Art

Since the beginning, Gordon-Levitt has insisted that the goal of HitRecord is not to make money. Rather, the goal is to create. This is different from sites like YouTube where the unstated ambition is to generate views and revenue.

Though cash isn’t at the forefront of HitRecord’s mission, the way the company pays artists is both unique and murky. Essentially, those working on a project at HitRecord shouldn’t expect a huge payday. Even so, when a project sells, the company pays the creators and community members that worked on it. Gordon-Levitt has stated previously that, while he doesn’t know the exact breakdown of payments to contributors for a given project (in this case, a $50,000 pot for an episode of “HitRecord On TV!”), HitRecord manages to pay out differing amounts to contributors. 

In a more recent interview with AdAge, JGL provided more insight: 

“Our payment process, for one thing, is extremely transparent. It’s also, I should say, done by human beings. There’s not a single algorithm going through our productions determining by computer or by mathematical equation what someone deserves to be paid.”

He goes on to say, “Our business model is a high quality—not necessarily a high volume model where we’re scaling up, but we’re not one of those companies that’s trying to churn out a million videos every week or something like that. We take pride in each and every piece that we do. We also pride ourselves on the relationship between each and every individual person who contributed to our productions.”

HitRecord the Tech Startup

So, what has HitRecord produced since its launch all those years ago? To the site’s credit, HitRecord has had its hands on several high-profile projects. It’s only continuing to get bigger. Last year, Gordon-Levitt participated in Ubisoft’s E3 conference, where he announced that the HitRecord community will help produce in-game assets for the developer’s longtime coming “Beyond Good and Evil 2.” 

That is only one example of HitRecord’s track record for creative partnerships. In the past, the community has linked up with LG, Samsung, Sony, the ACLU, and the National Parks Foundation. HitRecord also produced JGL’s underrated 2013 feature film “Don Jon” and the aforementioned Emmy-winning “HitRecord on TV!” In many ways, the site has transcended its message board roots and is becoming a multifaceted creative juggernaut. At any point in time, it is a television and movie production company, a creative agency, a social media platform and, most recently, a tech startup. 

Earlier this year, HitRecord announced that it secured $6.4 million in Series A funding. This marks the first time that the company has ever received outside investments. It might sound counterintuitive for a company like HitRecord to secure capital, especially since the company has been cash-flow positive for the past five years. However, considering the snake oil that plagues the tech world, HitRecord seems like a safe bet for investors. Indeed, they are placing chips on a company that could transform the way the public thinks of the traditional, aging industry that is Hollywood.