When I first looked into James Moore, CEO of Independent Music Promotions and author of the book Your Band Is A Virus…I had no real purpose other than to see what options were out there for independent musicians and poke around for information; it was sheer curiosity and a quest for knowledge that took me to his site online. When I haven’t officially met someone…and all I can see is promotions & price-tags…guarantees…I’m naturally sceptical – and such was the case when I first looked into James long ago.
After taking the time to talk out any questions I had regarding the validity and true-heart in his project…all I can say is that my skepticism was completely unfounded. I say it sincerely; after reading the answers to my questions…I have no doubt in my mind that James Moore is one hell of a stand-up guy and tirelessly-devoted servant to the music-scene in all areas & genres.
So in complete honesty – I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to set the record straight. Not just for me – but for all of you out there as well; over the course of this interview, if you’re somehow not convinced that he’s the genuine real-deal…you’re nuts. He’s put it all out there as clear as it gets – he didn’t dodge any tough questions and his honest answers are loaded with integrity and knowledge. The short form of saying everything I’m saying is, it was a complete honour, privilege and pleasure to learn about the true-passion that James has for what he does – and how it leads to helping others.
He is truly an inspiration to me…I can fully admit – I underestimated James way, way back when in first checking into him…and now I truly understand the invaluable-resource he truly is and has been for the independent music-scene over the course of the past five years-plus. A man of character and drive, with an in-depth understanding of music I can truly respect – I’m proud to present to you all, our interview with James Moore, CEO of Independent Music Promotions. Enjoy!
Interview with James Moore
SBS: James! Thanks so much for your time brother. Means a lot to us that you’d take some time to let us pick your brain on all-things-music, as from what we’ve learned…you being the CEO of Independent Music Promotions & all your other stunning achievements have definitely made you a valuable resource and guide for many bands out there and I’m stoked to be able to get the opportunity to discuss much of this with you today. However…before we get started officially into questions I’ll have some sort of knowledge to ask you…the one thing I honestly couldn’t find when looking out there through the info James…was actually where it all started for you. I can see the accomplishments & achievements from the timeline of Independent Music Promotions and forward…but before that even came around…what led to the street-cred brother? What led you to loving music & how did you get to the point where starting IMP was something you knew you could not only create, but something you were convinced you could succeed & thrive in? Was there a lot of support in the beginning as you created IMP?
James: Thanks for having me! Well, I think my path towards music was pretty typical. As a child I would listen to pretty much anything, but things took a turn around age 12 when I started getting specifically into more intense art – metal, hip hop, punk, the 90’s alternative movement, etc. It was Nirvana that made me want to play music. I started playing guitar religiously, and eventually started playing in bands.
I was always the guy in the band who was stuck doing all the work, but I actually enjoyed it. I would sit at the computer for hours researching marketing tactics and looking for new ways of doing things. Over the years, my main focus, and my favorite thing to do, was to land press. Something about having your music written about by another music lover felt like paying respect to the art. It felt good.
I started promoting local bands on a freelance level to get more experience. But the main motivator for I.M.P was when I hired a music PR company and got ripped off. They delivered 3 reviews in the end, and I can’t tell you how mad I was. I turned around and got 70 plus features for the same album. It planted the seed for doing this. I decided I could write a better guide for musicians, one that was actionable and not packed with stories or case studies. Writing “Your Band Is A Virus” was an experiment, but a happy one. It struck a chord with musicians pretty soon after it was released.
Before starting I.M.P, I was sidelined with cancer and surgeries for a year, and it was when I moved to Vancouver after this that I knew I had to do something, make a change. I knew I was good at landing press for artists, and the idea for a different type of PR company came about. No, there wasn’t much support at the start! I had to use my own tactics to get people starting to know about me. I worked long hours at the beginning and promoted the book heavily. Eventually, artists started coming to me, and it spread from there.
SBS: You’re five-years deep into the project now…an accomplished author and reliable-resource for many out there who is well-established…how did the project itself change over time? Did you find yourself changing and adapting with it personally? As a creator of something somewhat-similar, I know exactly how much blood, sweat and actual-tears end up in a project like this before it tends to find traction and feel somewhat-stable. From where it started…to where it is now…was it all a logical progression? What obstacles were in your way as IMP was developing throughout in its first-five years and how did you overcome them?
James: I think that if I did what most people do and imagined where I am now from the starting line, I never would have done anything because it would have been too overwhelming. It’s all about micro-transactions. You start with one thing, like setting up your site with WordPress. Then you do something else, like testing some Facebook ads, learning about that, getting better at it. Then maybe you write a guest post for an industry blog. Then you read up on SEO, backlinks, etc. Then adding yourself to link directories. Then landing interviews. Then personally contacting every music blog and publication you can find. On and on, and it never ends.
Your business, or your music for that matter, improves with every small thing you do, every email you send, and often the progress is permanent. For example, getting the chance to talk with you today is something I really value because I understand the permanent nature of the interview online. There’s the potential to reach a talented underground artist two years from now through this very communication. So, while many people want too many analytics and that keeps them from advancing, I get excited about the potentials.
I think the main obstacle I.M.P initially faced was obscurity, and I tackled that step-by-step. Now we’re very easy for musicians to find, and I’m happy with where everything is at.
SBS: We’re familiar with many of the bands on your roster and have reviewed songs, albums, EP’s from several of them over time…as you already know of course, much of this music-scene experiences less than six-degrees of separation quite frequently. When it comes to your own roster…bands that you take on…if we can get some insight on that, I guess that’s what I’m looking for. Basically James…I suppose what I’m hoping for at the end of the day is that there’s a form of symbiotic-relationship where both artist/band & yourself are working together on one unified goal…and that there’s more criteria to them becoming a part of your roster than ‘will pay’ – know what I mean? So…let’s handle this one from all-sides… If you can shed some light on it all…maybe let us know a little bit about what connects with you personally to want to work with a band…and maybe a little about how THEY end up knowing that it’s more than just about a paycheque-job…that they’re a part of something special, growing & evolving?
James: Absolutely, well, the reason I started I.M.P with the slogan “music with depth” is because of the music I grew up on. Whatever I was into, I had to find it honest. It had to have soul. I’ve taken my own tastes into this company, so I’m very picky with the artists I take on. We say no to Idol-type music, misogynistic or boring/mainstream hip hop, typical club music and low quality demos. I like music with some edge, where the artist is doing what they want to do regardless of the so-called industry.
The other aspect is that I like to have a connection with the person so we can have a positive back-and-forth during the campaign. When I send a major feature to an artist, if they’re positive and pumped up, it energizes me and it pushes the campaign. If I sense at the beginning that the artist’s expectations are up in the clouds, I won’t move ahead.
Basically, I pride myself on choosing passionate underground artists, and this is always what I.M.P will be about. I don’t see it becoming a very major label-focused thing. I like helping artists to that next step.
SBS: What would you say is the number-one benefit for any band or artist that would potentially partner-up with IMP? Being a DIY-guy & self-made man yourself…is there any reason that you feel what you’re offering to these bands is something that they can’t/won’t do on their own? What stops them from going the full-on DIY route and start seeking-out representation & assistance from promotions, management & other areas of the industry…and how is it that what you provide bridges that gap?
James: The main reason to go with any PR company would be one simple thing; when artists attempt their own PR outreach, they’re knocking on doors cold calling. This tends to have extremely low results, hence the disappointment when they’ve contacted every Hype Machine blog and received little response.
Any good PR company will have many contacts that they don’t have to cold call. They get a response every time. This is where the high results come through. It doesn’t matter how big your list is…you could send music to 10,000 people, and if none of them know you, you’re down the memory hole.
Also, in my view, I’d almost shift the term to “RIY” – run it yourself. Doing it yourself isn’t always smart. Sometimes it’s downright wrong. For example, artists who do their own photos or their own album art when the right thing to do would be to outsource. In business, you outsource anything that someone else can do better.
SBS: Dealing with music…I’ve experienced a ton of community, positivity, love & support. Through promotions…I’ve generally been led to believe in almost nothing…or at least to question things as best I can in an effort to reveal the true intentions behind our words. Things that scare me the most…and I’m not saying all these apply to you my friend…but the things that tend to scare me the most, or make me question the potential gimmickry behind the machine…are things like people claiming to having all the answers, or the ONE & ONLY answer that exists…guarantees & promises…lists & ratings that reflect pop-culture needs more than they do relevant ideas… Out of the corner of my curious-eye…I noticed the statement that IMP is “the only guaranteed music PR company worldwide,” and naturally that made me want to know more. I feel like I learned everything I needed to know about life from that one scene in the first Jurassic Park movie where Dr. Ian Malcolm describes chaos-theory for the first time with the water-drops & T-rex stomping…that whole bit. I just have a nearly impossible time putting faith in anything that is so secure in itself to be ‘guaranteed’ – so here you are my friend…here’s your moment and I’m rolling out the red carpet in a completely sincere invitation to explain this guarantee of yours!
James: Haha, well yes, I started the company with guaranteed services because of my previous situation where I’d been ripped off by a PR company. I thought that the only way artists should pay is if they get press results, not just a ‘service’. What use is the service if the press doesn’t come through?
So, from the beginning, I decided on some numbers that, as a musician, I would be happy with. I’m my own customer. For example, our basic single month campaign guarantees at least 10 quality features. Usually we hit over 15. The publications end up being everything from The Huffington Post and Big Takeover Magazine to the Deli Magazine and Popdose.
I’ve never missed a guarantee, but we have a protective policy in place that if I did, the artist would receive a full refund. It’s not such a difficult thing to do if you’ve put years into your contact building. I just think that most PR’s haven’t considered this type of model.
SBS: How about from the other-side of the fence James…you definitely strike me as the kind of guy that considers things from all-angles… But from the band or artist’s perspective…what do they really NEED out there right now when it comes to their music & careers? When it comes to the people directly – you’re a music-fan first & foremost I’m sure as well – so help represent & speak for us all for a moment… There are obviously countless changes needed for the industry to function still after about a decade…but from a fan’s perspective…what is it that artists/bands can do directly to satisfy your ears and captivate your attention? As a fan…what do we NEED from the music we listen to – and do you feel that as our society continues to grow…do those needs change over time? Or do those needs, benefits and rewards of listening to the music we love stay exactly the same as time goes on?
James: I think that as a fan, everyone needs different things. For example, coffee shop music and the type of indie pop heard in every modern car commercial sickens me but many people find sweet music comforting. I like a sense of adventure and danger in my music. I like artists who are uncompromising and intense, artists who flick the switch and wake you up, even for a moment. They need to take risks, to speak from the depths and lay it ALL on the line. Not many people know how to go to that place. Like a shaman.
When it comes to an artist’s career, you’re the label. Run it yourself. They need to heavily advertise and build their following themselves, not relying on anyone else to do it. They shouldn’t rely on the idea that someone will find them and scoop them up. Go where the eyes are. Instead of just tweaking your homepage all the time, if the people are on Spotify, learn it. Be in front of them.
SBS: I’ll leave this one as wide-open as it gets for you James…what excites you most about the years to come and the future of music itself?
James: I like how many genres, like metal and electronic, for example, are continually evolving, and while there is always a lot of mire to sort through, there are always truly exciting and risk-taking people. It’s humans communicating, reaching out to other humans, and the powerful potential of this is limitless. It’s exciting on a spiritual level.
SBS: Over the years I’m sure you’ve made many memorable connections and have an extreme amount of tales to tell. You’ll have to forgive me…as I haven’t read Your Band Is A Virus as of yet…but looking at the book objectively…would you say the theories, problems and solutions presented by you based more from experience or personal-insight? A mix of both? What does the book cover subject-wise and how does your personal experience within the industry play a role in the information put forth?
James: It’s both experience and insight. Much of the book is about overcoming the negative or harmful illusions that keep musicians from advancing…this is the most critical thing someone can learn, I think. People who feel entitled or feel they’ll be found don’t succeed in business or life, so there’s a lot to cover in that regard.
The book goes deep into just about every aspect of presentation such as images, artwork, bio, news releases, as well as outreach; how to reach out to press properly, how to boost results by not relying on the front door, but by reaching out to individuals. Much of the book contains outgoing links to resources for promoting your music, and the reason for this is that I wanted it to be an action guide, something you could work on and actually advance yourself as you go along.
SBS: When it comes to the book…Your Band Is A Virus has been released once in its original-form, and then again as an expanded-edition if I’m not mistaken. If I can ask…what led to that decision and what was it you felt required further explanation, more details or more information? Was there something you felt you hadn’t said in the book’s original, shorter-version?
James: The original version was much shorter, and it was the ‘happy experiment’ I mentioned earlier. The 2nd version came two years into running I.M.P, and I had learned a lot of new information and marketing tactics. Also, I’d connected with other industry professionals who I felt could shed light on things I didn’t know much about, such as licensing and production. The expanded edition is double the length; the intention was to give away the farm, so to speak!
SBS: When…if ever…do you feel that it’s necessary, or perhaps worth it for a band to compromise something along the way in order to continue forward? Why would that be the case, or why not?
James: Well, that’s always a very personal decision. I think that licensing is becoming more of a necessity for artists who want to travel. As long as your heart and soul went into the song, I don’t think it can be tainted by being in a commercial (unless it’s an industry you disagree with). That being said, writing music specifically for commercial use, fame, etc, I don’t understand as much. You may as well go into real estate!
There are all kinds of things that could be labelled compromise and the artist has to make the call. Myself, I’m of the mind that the music itself is sacred and the work you do should be from a deep place, with no compromise whatsoever on the art. Once the art is done, there’s nothing wrong with seeking opportunities and placements for it.
SBS: A random one for you…again…as wide open as it gets… What keeps you awake at night James – and why?
James: My cat, haha. Seriously, though, I don’t tend to worry too much – I did that through my twenties and it doesn’t lead anywhere. At night I practice mindfulness and leave the thought stream behind. If I can’t sleep, I go exploring on Rdio for some inspiring new music. This is one of my favorite things to do actually.
SBS: I’m curious as to what success looks like for you personally James. Clearly you’ve already established a firm, supportive & growing-network…a community of sorts! You’ve written a book…you’ve helped lead bands to success and helped guide them in their careers…so I suppose the logical question for me to ask is what’s next? But I also want to know…if ultimately…there is some sort of vision, or end-goal in mind? Is being the CEO of Independent Music Promotions what you’d like to be doing with the rest of your entire life – or is there something you already see lies beyond what you’ll achieve through your ongoing success at IMP?
James: That’s a good question. I think I see success differently than many people. It’s important to act and do things, but ambition can be like a sickness as well. Success to me is a peaceful mind. I like a simple life, and I can be happy with a morning meditation, coffee with a close friend, playing music. I don’t demand much.
For I.M.P, I’d like to continue making the service/my results better and better as each year goes by. I like that we work with underground artists and I run it myself. I don’t have ambitions to open an office in Los Angeles or start a music festival or anything like that!
There’s a good chance I’ll write another book when I’ve done enough new research, but I’m not sure what the future holds. As long as I’m enjoying my coffee, and typing this interview, today is going quite well! That’s all I care about.
SBS: Of all things that you’ve experienced along this journey James…what is the toughest decision you feel you had to make along the way? Forks in the road can be extremely hard on a psyche over time…I’m not so convinced that stuff always heals as ‘they’ say it does! Is there anything in particular you wish you had gone after or done differently throughout the process of building IMP’s brand – or is the journey itself, its pitfalls & triumphs all part of it for you? Would you do ALL of this, all over again?
James: I’d do all of it over again. It’s easy to focus on things that went wrong or mistakes along the way, but that’s the only way you learn. I’ve tried different advertising methods and found some of them to be complete wastes, but now I know what works and what doesn’t. I can pass on my knowledge so others avoid the pitfalls.
SBS: Well brother-man…you know how this goes…we’re in promotions! So…umm…*cough*cough*AHEM…if we could get those websites from ya…you know…all that good info that can be found online for musicians, artists & bands from all over the globe to read-up on and potentially join the roster with IMP…that’d be awesome!
James: haha, indeed! All the information with us is public and can be found at http://www.independentmusicpromotions.com. I listen to everything that comes my way, so please feel free to get in touch!
SBS: The SBS ‘Open Floor’ my friend! I truly want to thank you again James – I really do appreciate what you do for music and the opportunities you’ve helped steer bands towards in search of their own success. You seem like you work…and work…and work and work and work tirelessly on behalf of your roster of bands, and in general, for the music-scene entirely – and I respect & dig that brother. As there is undoubtedly PAGES upon PAGES of Q&A we could have created for this…there is more than likely something you would have liked to have brought up, talked about or said during this interview that we didn’t bring up…so please take this opportunity here at the end to say anything else at all you’d like to.
James: Jeremy, this is without a doubt the most in-depth and effort-infused interview I’ve ever done, so thank you for that! Thanks for everything you do for musicians as well; it’s a boon to have honest and transparent voices out there. I’ll be keeping an eye on your work. Take care!
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