Triple Play Q&A: Why Your Band Is A Virus
antiMusic: What inspired you to write the book (and give away your secrets)?
James: Well, the main inspiration factor for me as a music lover has always been music with depth, whether that be Neil Young, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, or Radiohead. I've taken that motto into my company, Independent Music Promotions, but I can only taken on so many artists. Getting into the educational side and writing books was a must, because if the information is made available, then the serious artists can choose to work with it and generate results. Lending a helping hand, or even providing a few pointers, to an up-and-coming artist who means what they say is inspiring to me. The book is mainly aimed at the artists with real passion and creativity/drive, and not ones who are looking to be a cookie cutter group or perhaps mold themselves into a commercial machine (those who want to be the next Nickelback, for example).
Yes, I decided in the end to share almost everything, as the underlying goal of the book was to provide the most comprehensive music marketing guide available period. That meant "selling the farm", so to speak. It's not really risky to reveal the tactics and have the market saturated, because only a small percent of artists will be dedicating the necessary hours to make it happen.
antiMusic: What's the biggest misconception you think bands have about music promotion?
James: There are so many of them, and they pile up, creating a psychological and perceptual mess. That becomes the way the artist views the world.
Some of the biggest misconceptions, I'd say are:
a) The idea of a fair playing field and the value of "following the rules". Most artists look up lists of the top music blogs, submit their music, and imagine an assembly line of reviewers waiting to check out their music, but that's just not the case. Most won't even check the email. The Doors got their break by requesting their own music on Los Angeles radio. Most would frown upon a band doing that, but if you believe in your music, you absolutely cannot follow the rules all the time. CMJ have their own set of rules. Pitchfork have theirs. Every indie institution have their own rules, but if artists only follow the rules, they could find themselves in a permanent line-up. Artists need to take control and think like entrepreneurs.
b) What it takes. Most bands work for a year on a new record and then post their Bandcamp link on their Facebook page asking for sales. That's about as good as throwing your disc in the garbage, and it's a terrible way to send mixed messages to the public. Legendary producer Stuart Epps told me that it took a team of over 50 people working around the clock to help Elton John on his way to fame. That was a major eye-opener for me, and I realized the sheer blindness of many artists as far as what it takes to be recognized.
c) A lack of understanding of promotion. Many bands don't understand why they need to promote their album, or the value of marketing. Unfortunately, those who share this perspective are destined to be hobbyists masquerading as professional artists. Even brilliant people like Bill Hicks needed promotion for the public to be introduced to his work. Promotion is neutral. It's up to the due diligence of the artist and the promoter to make sure the content is meaningful and strong. No promotion means you stay on Facebook.
d) If you make good music, people will find you. I think this myth has been debunked many times. I could provide a list of absolutely stunning artists who went nowhere merely because they believed their album would attract the right people.
e) Talking highly of yourself does not look good. Don't compare yourself to Radiohead or Metallica in your bio, for example. Let outside publications do that for you and then quote them. It's ok for other's to talk about you.
antiMusic: Has the web helped or hurt bands in their promotion efforts?
James: The web has absolutely helped the bands who use it's tools intelligently. It's frustrated the artists who haven't. Part of promoting intelligently includes talking to people through email the same way you would talk to them in the outside world.
If the music press was limited only to the physical it would be quite limited. Now, for example, a band within the rock genre can run a Google search of, say, "Queens of the Stone Age" with their newest album title in quotes, and you'll find more quality rock sites than any music blog directory will ever show you. Bands who take the time to personalize their pitches and respect the time of the editor's and reviewers will generally get good results, provided the product is strong. Between the free music model, digital distribution, online music video promotion options, and the countless press possibilities, the web is a goldmine.