After reading James excellent guide to promoting one’s self as an independent in the music industry, I knew that interviewing James about his book and independent music promotions was a forgone conclusion for me.
So here it is, the interview in full enjoy:
I must say what a great read your band is a virus was for me, I got a lot out of it myself. A question that springs to my mind is, why you took it upon yourself to write, “Your Band Is A Virus” You seem to have covered everything in your book and given it all away.
Were you not in any way the slightest bit nervous that your book could impact on your core business independent music promotions and maybe lose business you otherwise may have gotten?
“Well, “Your Band Is A Virus” came from my direct experience of promoting independent music, and I wanted to share all the things that have worked for me over the years, as well as many new things that I’ve discovered over the past year of running my business. I wanted to fill a void and make the book as clear and conversational as possible, so there would be no way to misinterpret or get discouraged unnecessarily.
Also, I can only work with so many artists through my company, Independent Music Promotions, so offering something on the educational side was a must.
As far as the book negatively impacting Independent Music Promotions, no, I was not worried about that, because once you read the book, you still have to do the work. It takes hundreds of hours to build the groundwork of an effective PR company or music promotion framework, and I’ve done that with the company, so when an artist goes with us it’s a “just press go” scenario. The book is for artists who want to make a go of it themselves, but I don’t think those two will interfere with each other.
YouTube seems to be the first port of call for talented individuals and groups alike. I see new faces on YouTube everyday and receive emails here at Jabberdi asking me to view their videos. However, it’s very rare that any individuals or groups jump out and really grab my attention.
In your book you cover in great detail the favorable use of creating videos to gain interest in a band or solo artist. However, can you give some creative advice to those who just do not have the budget for video shoots and insist on doing their own home shoot videos.
I’m talking in respect of those who want the dream but seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot. In my mind first impressions count and viewing a disappointing music-video leave’s a big negative impact on those who could have been helpful in making the video go viral, can you give some advice on that?
“Putting an effective music video together can be tricky, but all it requires is some creative brainstorming. Often artists will have quite low budgets, and I usually suggest that they team up with either a student director or a local director, whether they find them through local classifieds or advertising, and often this will produce good results. Many small-time directors are looking for driven artists to work with because they know it will raise their profile, so it’s a win-win.
For this scenario, though, there should be some payment involved because you have to respect the director’s editing time/etc. You should never expect someone to help you for free.
However, many artists have extremely low budgets. While I’d say that if this is the case it’s best to save up a bit; sell some things, get a part-time job – do what you need to do to make your art a priority.
If this isn’t possible, you can still make a very effective video. Just don’t overshoot. One thing I’ve seen a lot of artists try to run with a concept that they simply don’t have the budget for. If you have a low budget, it’s usually best not to try to tell too many stories in your video or play too many roles, whether that means sets or costumes. One thing that bands forget is that often the best music videos are the lowest quality or the simplest.
A black and white video of a band in a room with a hanging light bulb in the middle could have a dark claustrophobic effect. Even a plain performance video that looks like it was shot with an office security camera could work well for the right type of band. Match your band’s personality.
If you overshoot, people can tell and it will look amateur. However, if you embrace your independence, there could be viral possibilities. Be what you are.
Great answer James I’m sure my readers will appreciate that advice. Just following on from the last question, I want to touch upon the standards of sound quality. If people are going down the DIY route and try to do everything themselves the sound quality must be good.
I have seen a few decent respectable home shoot videos uploaded. However, the quality of the sound accompanying the video is sometimes shocking. Backing music overpowering the vocals, street or household sounds not edited out, along with a lot of other sins left in there. It seems to me that most are relying on the microphone’ built in to their cam and are not using any type of editing software.
Can you give any advice on setting up a low-budget home type studio, Recommend a quality cam, microphone and the best of the lowest priced editing software?
“Well, while I couldn’t recommend specific equipment, there are plenty of options for independent artists, from Pro Tools and Logic to Reason, and I’ve found that you can create a quality recording with almost any entry level recording software.
What you’re describing as far as the sound quality is really laziness on the artist’s part. Not properly editing or mixing your work sends a message to the public that you don’t really care about it too much.
As an artist, you may have good reasons for not having extra funds, but the public just doesn’t care what those reasons may be. That’s the truth.
Even if you only release an EP instead of a full-length, you should make sure it’s properly mixed and mastered. If you’re not schooled in those areas, hire someone local to take the reigns.
That being said, many artists go too far and spend thousands upon thousands in the studio trying to sound as big as U2. Then they don’t spend any money on touring or promotion. It depends on the type of band you are.
If you sound like the Melvins or Fugazi, you should have a slightly dirtier sound production-wise. There’s nothing wrong with lo-fi as long as it’s good material. If you’re mainstream pop, you can’t take that approach.
The point is, as with making videos, you can be creative with your production and it doesn’t need to be world class. You can achieve very solid production with most software, and it shouldn’t cost you much provided you’re willing to learn.
You talk about sharing new material a lot in your book. I can see the benefits of giving away individual tracks or even complete albums and allowing them to go viral to create momentum, interest and gain a solid fan base. After all the goal is to get noticed and have your band or self go viral.
However, from the point of view of the artist, song writer I can see why they would hesitate about allowing this to happen. Many would be horrified to think about losing control of their copy-rights to such material, or that others may produce covers of their songs without giving credit and release them back out there.
So in that respect, if anyone wanted to create a memorable first impression on Youtube or any other music outlet and use their own original songs with a good video shoot and sound quality.
Can you give some advice on the minimum they need to do to protect their works if other artists or bands try to earn money from their songs?
“I think this is a fear that rarely comes to fruition. Most artists dream of getting to the success level where someone would consider covering one of their songs. For someone to cover you, you typically need to be pretty far in the industry and reaching a lot of people.
Once you write and record a song, copyright is automatic. However, you can take it further and register with the appropriate countries copyright office, making it easier should you have to take someone to court.
When I suggest giving away free music, I’m in no way suggesting giving away copyrights. I’m suggesting doing what the Weekend did; releasing free music within a short period of time and building buzz.
Too many bands hoard their material. Also, too many bands charge $9.99 for their albums and sell 20 copies, when they should, in my eyes, just forego the $200 from their parents and their friends and aggressively promote a free release, get it in the hands of thousands of people, and properly introduce their band to the world. First notoriety, then money.
Putting aside outside influences and any DIY promotion stuff yet to be done; I’m talking figuratively of first time talented people who are thinking of, but not yet taken the plunge into their musical career.
In your opinion would it be fair to say that a full promotion plan of what’s going to happen in the next six months should be undertaken before unleashing themselves on the general public and is it also fair to say that your book can help them to formulate a good solid plan of action to follow?
“Not necessarily. While it’s important not to post any of your material online until you have very high-quality work/image, and you should be sure that you’re doing music for the right reasons before promoting, it’s not necessary to think only in terms of a wider action plan.
It’s better to have one than not, and writing down your goals makes them more easily visualized and reached.
However, I’d advocate simply acting. Many artists look at every potential and opportunity in terms of what it’s going to get them, but you really don’t know what’s going to happen from the starting line.
Often, these artists remain calcified and in place, whereas the artists who do something every day and take chances… they create the movement for themselves. The plan may unfold along the way. Just don’t let yourself freeze up and go by too rigid of a pattern.
That being said, if you’re serious and you know generally that you want to move forward with music, you should have a general framework of what you want to achieve within 6 and 12 months, and “Your Band Is A Virus” can definitely help with ideas for that.
This next question is a little of the topic, However, can you tell me and my readers a little about Independent Music Promotions I know its part of your core business and a lot of what’s in your band is a virus is written from your own experience in promoting individual solo artists and bands. I also know you don’t take on just any old solo artists or bands that come along and ask for your services.
It would be interesting to know for my readers, what are the minimum requirements a band or solo artist needs to achieve to convince you they are ready to be rolled out to the world?
“Well, I decided to run Independent Music Promotions on the basis of “music with depth”. It’s a niche, and I realize it’s a somewhat subjective one. However, one thing I noticed was that many PR companies tend to take on any artist who have the funds; one day it will be a radio rock group, the next day an Idol pop songstress, then some coffee shop acoustic artist.
It struck me as ineffective, and also, I just don’t want to make that kind of contribution to the world. I understand that a lot of bands think the Nickelback sound will earn them money, and other solo artists want to follow in Katy Perry’s footsteps. That’s all fine and good, but I don’t want any part of it. I want music with soul, and that can be from any genre.
That being said, an artist doesn’t have to be established for me to take them on. They just have to have good work and mean what they say. Innovation and creativity are key. As long as I feel it’s good art, I’ll certainly consider working with it.
This niche approach has earned us respect from the contacts and publications that we supply, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about our approach being refreshing. Sure, if I’m honest, it can be tough to turn away business sometimes but I sleep better for it.
And finally, James, to end the interview I want to ask you one last question about your book. “Your Band Is A Virus” covers every topic imaginable when it comes to promoting one’s own self or band. However, what can someone with no self-promotional expertise whatsoever except in terms of positive impact results six months down the road if they follow your prescription outlined in your book word-for-word?
“If their music is great and they don’t merely follow the words but treat the book as a dynamic conversation, a meaningful brainstorm, and they’re ready to work hard for their success, I’m confident they will do very well and generate critical acclaim for their music.
Thanks so much for having me on Jabberdi.com!
Thank you, James, it was a pleasure having you.
Maybe you want to now check out our Review of Your Band Is A Virus
To your success,
Steve, aka Musicman!
I would encourage you to visit and read up on the many bands and solo artists James has helped to gain high-quality press and recognition for their contribution to the music world.
More reading on how to? that may interest you: