Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Interview : James Moore CEO of Independent Music Promotions
We talk to a lot of people here at Abysmal Hymns who create, but without the few people in the business who actually care about the quality of creativity and taking it to the masses like James Moore the CEO of Independent Music Promotions and author of the book "Your Music is a Virus". So I took some time to talk with James about the state of the music industry and what independent artists can do to stay afloat.
Wil - What inspired you take the leap into music promotions/ p/r ?
James - A negative motivator; I saw a lot of companies in the business not really respecting the artists and following through on what they say, so there was an opportunity to fill a simple niche for independent musicians; delivering press without the riff raff. Also, I saw it as an opportunity to use the company as a passion project, an extension of my own musical passions for underground music.
Wil- What are the most valuable tools , that you think an artist can have in today's market?
James - Take a risk. I know that many artists want to get in line to record the next potential indie iTunes commercial jingle, but approaching music that way usually leads to mediocre, safe results. If it seems risky, you should do it. Say something. Project something. After all, it's supposed to be art. Be relentless and passionate. Feathers need to be ruffled!
Wil - What do you look for when considering to take on a new client?
James - They need to fit with I.M.P's "music with depth" ethos. We accept most genres, but typically say no to demo-level material, Idol pop/contest type artists, and unoriginal club/mainstream music. If your signature lyric is "poppin' bottles in the club" or you sound like Nickelback, we're probably not interested. To put it simply, I love music done for the love of itself, not created as a business move.
Wil- Since your conception in 2010 what changes have you seen come about in the state of the music business?
James - Well, we've seen more and more of a shift to online, both in media and in music discovery. Popularity is the most valuable currency, and the artists who haven;t figured this out tend to suffer for it. Streaming services like Radio are becoming a much bigger part of our listening habits, and this is a good thing too. Many are suggesting that singles are now the way to go, but I'd advise anyone not to listen to those folks. They're usually referencing pop music, which is more of a singles game. Art should be released however it's meant to according to the project at hand. Could you imagine "The Wall" released as a series of singles?
Wil - Do you feel marketing varies from genre to genre?
James - Absolutely, although there are many similarities. Rock music still has a stronger music review culture around it, whereas EDM/electronic is completely different...post the Soundcloud link and listen. Right down to business!
Wil - Which platform do you feel is the most useful Bandcamp or Soundcloud?
James - They're both excellent. I prefer Bandcamp's look, especially for album listening, but many blogs, including all the Hype Machine blogs, only work with Soundcloud widgets, so Soundcloud has to be the main streaming link when you're working on PR.
Wil - The past decade saw Mtv transition from music videos to reality tv,so what value do you see music videos for today's artists ?
James - They're extremely valuable, but everything has shifted online. Youtube is the new MTV. People are always going to be interested in what artists are expressing visually. As long as there are creative ideas, music videos will be a huge part of the industry.
Wil - Do you feel that Youtube sensations negatively impact the public's perception of music ?
James - I think the public's perception of music was likely very low in the first place. Look at the countless reality shows and singing contest shows like The Voice or American Idol where they host incredibly awkward karaoke competitions, and the millions of viewers would much rather follow these kids then even look into an actual artist who is writing music, recording and releasing it on their own. If you think about it, that's a very significant thing and it really represents where we're at.
Youtube sensations are another mutation of the same phenomenon, really!
Wil - What musical trends of the past decade do feel are here to stay and what trends do you feel Andy Warhol's clock is ticking away on?
James - Unfortunately, I do think that edgy music will not be coming back to mainstream awareness any time soon. The mainstream, for the past 15 years or so, has focused heavily on very commercialized indie pop, indie folk, rehashed modern Americana groups, and mainstream EDM, with the general mood being cute and cuddly. Must to take to Grandma's house, and this is here to stay. The music that's popular now often sounds like jingles, which makes sense given the current music licensing landscape. Artists are trying to create music that sounds like a jingle.
Wil - In a world where illegal downloading has become the norm, what is the best avenue for someone looking to make a living playing music?
James - Remove the band mentality and take on the restaurant mentality. You'll notice a significant shift right away. Musicians often get muddled up in ideas of getting discovered/found, deserving exposure, etc, as well as ideas that promotion should be free. Business owners don't have this perspective, and they don't have any luxuries either.
Artists who want to make a living playing music should learn about marketing/business, read Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, etc. They should advertise in a hyper-targeted way to their niche audience and take responsibility for building their following. They will need to invest money in themselves just like every other business on the planet does. But once you decide on this direct-to-fan approach, it's very freeing and there are many more options available than if you take the perspective of being a needy band.
Wil - What limitations do you feel social media has ?
James - Social media is a good thing for direct advertising and fan communication/updates, but artists who think it's the be-all-end-all are sorely missing out on real social proof, such as press where someone else is talking about you. This is critical. You can't tweet your way to success. You need to be doing other things.
Wil - How do you feel blogging effects mainstream media ?
James - In many genres, more people get their information from blogs (for better or worse) than from traditional sources, so they have a huge effect. Often the effect can be a malicious one when gossip and rumors hit the forefront, with the mainstream following their lead.
Wil- What are the most common mistakes artists make in terms of self promotion?
James -They misunderstand the process. Artists often think that all a promotion company does is send their music out to a contact list, so they figure if they email all the music blogs on Hype Machine that their promotion efforts will be equivalent. There's one major difference though, and that's cold calling. You're essentially reaching out to hundreds of people who you have no relationship with and can do very little for as far as cross-promotion.
This is why, if you decide to do your promotion yourself, it's ideal to personalize and reach out to as many contributors/individuals as possible as opposed to always going through the main channels. You'll have better results this way. It will be slower, but you'll get more press.
Wil - With the Internet do you feel regional success is still necessary ?
James -The beauty of the internet is that regional success isn't as necessary. You can generate interest from tastemaker or national publications, and often this helps regional stragglers catch on after the fact.
Wil - How do feel the European music market varies from the American?
James - Europeans are still very passionate and interested in rock and metal as art forms, which is good to see. In the States, you barely ever see a rock artist at a music festival. The focus is indie and electronic almost completely.
Wil - Is blog buzz the new radio play?
James - It's very important, but it's not a complete replacement for radio. Streaming services are a huge part of the culture now, as is Youtube.
Wil- How important is image ?
James - Image is extremely important. You dress a certain way for your sister's wedding because it's important. You should convey the emotion of your music through your image, and if you don't care to do that, you're projecting how unimportant you feel it is.
Wil - What was the last album you bought?
James -The new Shabazz Palaces album. It's excellent.
Wil- What is it that gives Metal it's staying power as a genre?
James - It's constantly evolving, and although in my opinion most metal artists choose to be unoriginal by following the patterns of their subgenre, it really does benefit metal to have so many arms and legs of creative expression. You look at bands like Behemoth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Gojira, Opeth, etc, and they're all extremely creative and extremely different.
The other thing I love about metal is that it allows the expression of the human experience without repression. Screaming is not necessarily something scary or unacceptable; when used correctly it conveys deep emotion.
Wil - What does the future of I.M.P look like going into 2015 ?
James - We're continuing on our path of promoting music we love, as well as heavily promoting the company, so I'm really excited for what the future has in store. Thanks for having me!