Jacob Moore is the founder of Pigeons and Planes, an online music publication that has set the foundation for new music discovery and music journalism in the last ten years. Upcoming is Pigeon and Planes most unique creative venture with a compilation album executive produced by legendary producer Mike Dean.
Aside from Pigeons and Planes, Jacob partnered with Alex Gardner to co-found No Matter Music, a music label focused on, 'putting the artist's vision first no matter what.' The label directly challenges standard procedures in the music industry and provides a unique batch of new visionary artists.
Our interview with Jacob is broken into three parts No Matter Music [Questions 1-3], Pigeons and Planes [4-6], & General Questions [7-9].
In your company's mission statement for No Matter Music, the phrase, 'putting the artist's vision first no matter what,' appears. Based on reading a lot of your company's posts/insights, to us it signifies the authentic, unfiltered nature of creation absent from industry pressures.
What does that mean to you?
A record label only exists because of the artists. From the beginning, Alex [Gardner, No Matter co-founder] and I talked about how decisions will be made at this label and the first thing we agreed on is when it comes to the music and the creative vision, the artist always has final say. We're here to help how we can. We can give feedback, offer ideas, help execute, and amplify. But at the end of the day, it's the artist's call on everything they're putting out into the world.
If we like an artist enough to want to work with them, we've got to trust that they have a vision worth sticking to. It doesn't always have to be crystal clear, but there has to be some kind of guiding light. That's what drives us, and I believe all great artists have it. No Matter isn't the kind of label that's going to find an artist and try to shape them into something they're not, or push them in directions that they don't want to go.
On a 2021 Instagram post on No.Matter.Music, your organization stated, 'With 60k+ songs being uploaded to DSP's every day, it's essential to be intentional as an independent label in 2021. Music as a life-enhancing experience, not fast food to be consumed and quickly forgotten.'
With social media stifling the attention spans of many, do you think there will be a role reversal towards more unorthodox/independent content?
I do. It might take a few years, but right now there's way too much short, easily digestible content. We're being bombarded with it, and a lot of people are craving more, so I think we'll start to see some alternatives pop up and succeed eventually. That short, immediate content will always have a place, but there needs to be more balance. So in the media world and the content creator world, I think we'll see some interesting new ideas and formats that work because they stand out.
There's a similar thing happening in music. A lot of music right now is being made as a reaction to how the media and content worlds are moving. TikTok hits and disposable chart-toppers are fine, but that's only sustainable if you can keep cranking them out. It's short-sighted, and I think more artists and labels should be aiming to lay the foundation for something that's longer lasting. We've already seen way too many artists go viral, get signed to a huge deal because of it, and then burn out in a year or less because they couldn't ever replicate that viral moment.
I don't think there's a perfect correlation between a fast rise and quick fall, but there's a reason why so many artists with long, interesting careers didn't have an easy come-up. Building at the ground level is an important step that you can't skip without sacrificing structural integrity.
How does No Matter Music disrupt the mainstream and challenge industry norms?
Right now, the norm is for labels to make decisions based on data. And they've all got access to more data than ever before, so it turns into a science. They look at the trajectory of streaming numbers and social media followings, and they avoid artist development. From a business perspective, I get it. Why put in the work and resources to build momentum from scratch when you can hop on a moving train?
I'm not even saying there's anything wrong with that approach, because a lot of labels are very good at "pouring gasoline on a fire" and taking something from 60 to 100. They know that's what they're good at, and they know it's way more effective than trying to start from 0 with every artist. But through the last decade plus with Pigeons & Planes, I've seen how that can go wrong for artists. I've seen artists with so much potential sign to a label deal and get no support when things slow down. I always wonder what would have happened to some of those artists if they worked with a team who really supported them in those difficult early stages.
Plus, if every label is looking at the same data and chasing the same artists with strong numbers because they're good at social media, we don't need to compete there. I think our advantage at No Matter is being able to identify great talent early and take some risks. We listen to so much music, we're always looking for new things, and I believe really strongly in our taste and our ability to help spread the word. I know we can find great artists even without the data, and I know we can help those artists build. So that's the goal.
It's a harder path, but it's way more rewarding and I think there need to be people and companies in the music industry who take risks and act based on what they believe and what they feel. If those kinds of companies don't exist, the music industry is going to just be a bunch of major labels chasing artists who are good at TikTok. Do you really believe all the best artists are naturals at social media marketing? I don't.
What was it like to bring Mike Dean to executive produce the See You Next Year Class of 2022 compilation album?
It's incredible. This is the first time Pigeons & Planes has released an official compilation album, so when we decided to do it we were really excited. We probably jumped the gun a little bit—we announced the project on Instagram before we even had any artists locked in. We just put up a post like, "Hey, we're making a Pigeons & Planes compilation album. It's called See You Next Year." I remember thinking, "Maybe we should hold off on announcing this and plan a little more." But it worked out, because Mike Dean commented on that post: "Need an executive producer?"
We figured it was a joke, but within a week we're in a meeting with Mike Dean, and we realize he's serious. Even after he agreed to do it, we didn't know how invested he was going to be in this, but he was so great to work with. He invited each artist to his studio, did in-person sessions, added production to some of the songs, and mixed and mastered the entire project. He went above and beyond, and it's an honor to have someone at his level involved with a project like this that's so focused on emerging talent.
You state, "we want to properly introduce some of our favorite new artists, giving them space to share their music and also their stories. We want to bring context and world-building back to music discovery."
Can you preview to us how world-building is displayed on the new project?
We came up in the blog era, when people discovered music on websites. You'd listen to a new song from an artist you've never heard of, but you'd also get context. You could read articles about them, watch videos, and get a feel for who they are, what they stand for, why they're unique. I think that made the connection to the artists more powerful. I remember finding artists like Kendrick Lamar or Kid Cudi on blogs and following along with their story. It felt like you were a part of something, watching it play out and getting more attached as the story unfolds.
Today, I think most music discovery is much more passive. You hear a song on a playlist, or you come across a snippet on TikTok, and that's it. From there, either the artist blows up or they stop popping up on your timeline and you forget about them. And there's so much content every day, it's really hard to establish that deeper connection between new music and potential fans.
So with See You Next Year, we wanted to try to bring some of that back. We've got songs from some of our favorite rising artists, but we also brought them all together to shoot videos and do in-person interviews. And throughout the rollout we've been sharing content about these artists—who they are, where they come from, what makes them so interesting to us?
For the artists, this is an outlet for them to share more about themselves and their music. For fans, we hope it's a fun experience and a more engaging way to discover music. The goal is to make it more of a journey and less of a fleeting moment.
What artists are on your radar right now?
So many. There are always so many. Each month we publish a round-up of some of our favorite new artists on Pigeons & Planes, so most of my favorites are in there. But off the top, a few current favorites are EKKSTACY, Wallice, Jean Dawson, and Ben Reilly. And then on the No Matter side, I'm really inspired working with Brevin Kim, Jelani Aryeh, Santangelo, and Hamond. We're also about to sign a new artist who I'm so excited about. It's hard for me to keep it to myself, but right now that artist is finishing some demos and I can't wait to share the music.
Can you tell us about your Twitter handle @CONFUSIONisDEAD?
I wish there was a more interesting story behind it, but there isn't much to it. When I started Pigeons & Planes, bloggers all used pseudonyms. I published articles under the name Confusion—a nickname I got when I was younger because I used to tag that word on everything with markers. After years of writing under Confusion, I decided to start using my real name. It just got weird, and I think too much anonymity can be a bad thing. So I wanted to kill the name. At that point the @PigsAndPlans social handles all doubled as my personal accounts, so I wanted to set up new accounts to distinguish my own accounts from the brand's pages. Since I just stopped using the name Confusion, I decided to make the handle @CONFUSIONisDEAD. It marked the end of an era for me personally.
If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring musicians, what would it be?
Figure out what makes you different, and lean into that. It doesn't need to be something extreme, but to stand out today, there has to be something unique about you. You're better off running with those unique qualities than trying to please everyone, or trying to mimic something that's already being done. I still listen to submissions from artists every day and so many of them sound exactly like something else. I could listen and tell you who that artist is probably listening to, and it shouldn't be like that.
On the career side, my advice would be to build independently as long as you can before you commit to a long-term deal with a major label. I'm not against major labels at all—if you look at the artists who have a big impact culturally or commercially, most of them are backed by major labels. But if you're still finding your voice, figuring out who your audience is, and trying to build, you need room to experiment without all the pressure of dealing with a corporation whose main concern is revenue. Plus, the more you can do without a major label, the better position you'll be in to negotiate a good deal. Gain as much leverage as you can, and try to work with a small team that you trust before you let too many people into your circle.
What's next for Jacob Moore?
I've got so many ideas and so many plans, but what I've learned throughout my relatively short career so far is that you never know where you're going to be in five years. You never know what opportunities are going to come along, who you're going to meet, and how the world around you is going to change. So I'm always open to new things that aren't in the plan.
I was a late bloomer. Before I started Pigeons & Planes I didn't know anyone in the music industry or the media world. I was in my early twenties at an office job that I hated and working with kids who had special needs when I could. I thought one of those two things would end up being my career. I had no idea Pigeons & Planes would turn into a job, and when that happened, I had no idea that one day I'd be running my own record label. So who knows what's next.
But in the immediate future, we've got this Pigeons & Planes compilation album coming very soon, and we'll be announcing some concerts in the near future. And on the No Matter side, all of our artists are constantly creating but we've got new music from Brevin Kim, Santangelo, and Jelani Aryeh on the way. Plus this new artist, I wish I could share more on that but I really believe in this artist and we'll be releasing our first single with them within the next few months.