DC SETLIST recently spoke with Jem Bahaijoub, owner of imaginePR. Jem spoke to us about her years in the music business in europe, her impressions of the DC music scene, The Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit, the DC Music Fest happening next May and more; check it all out here...
Q: You moved to DC 3 years ago from London after 10 years there in the music business. Where exactly did you learn the ropes? Tell us about your history as a woman in the music biz in London.
A: I started off working for Universal Music Group in their international promotions department, co-ordinating international promo tours and marketing activities for major artists and bands. I worked with artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Donny Osmond, and Sting. I was there for 7 years and had an amazing time learning about the industry from the perspective of a major label. I left just before major labels started to take a hit from the digital download market. I went on to become Director of a smaller boutique PR and marketing company in London, working with independent artists and labels, music festival and digital startup companies. For example, I worked on the inaugural lunch of the Hop Farm Festival with Neil Young, Primal Scream and Supergrass. It was the first festival of its kind with no branding or sponsorship.
I definitely preferred this type of company set-up - small, dynamic, grassroots. There was no bureaucracy, it was highly creative and I was able to work with artists just as the whole DIY digital movement started to build momentum. Both experiences were invaluable. I got insights into both sides of the industry. Fortunately being a woman was never an issue. It was all about persistence, enthusiasm and hard-work.
Q: So now that you've been here in DC a while, tell us your impressions of the DC Music scene. In your view, how does it compare with other U.S. cities such as Austin, New York & Nashville (all killer towns for music).
A: Well as a outsider moving to the city, I had preconceived ideas that DC was all about politics and nothing else. This is the major misconception most people outside of DC have. I was really pleasantly surprised to discover that DC has a very rich musical heritage and a very vibrant contemporary music scene. There is certainly no shortage of talent here. The major difference between DC and other US cities like New York is there is no music industry structure, so although there is lots of talent the mechanisms to support it aren’t in place. Also the city is very transient which makes it difficult to build a cohesive cultural identity. Both factors leads to low creative retention. Nevertheless, we still have plenty of artists flying the flag for the city - Thievery Corporation, Wale, Wayna etc... The city also has a very positive entrepreneurial energy which I absolutely love.
Q: What was your inspiration to start your company imaginePR? What would you say is imaginePR's strength?
A: My company imaginePR came about very organically. When I first moved to DC I immediately started to research the city to find out what it had to offer in terms of music marketing and PR for artists and arts organizations. I discovered there was a huge gap in the market, and saw this as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage. I started off doing some freelance work in the area to test the waters. I received an overwhelmingly positive response and it’s just taken off from there. Since then I’ve worked with some amazing musicians and music organizations and I’m having so much fun.
I think one of the strengths of my company is that it’s very personality led - I offer a very personalized, bespoke service, I only work with people I believe in, and my clients know that when they hire imaginePR they are hiring me. They are not getting handed over to a team of juniors. I’m also a big believer in listening to your clients individual needs - what works for one musician doesn’t necessarily work for another. Everything has to be personalized and targeted.
Q: We first met you at the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit at Georgetown University in October. What a great 3 day music industry event. For those who aren't familiar please tell us what it is and why you think it's important.
A: The Future of Music Coalition is a National non-profit organization based in DC which focuses on research and advocacy for musicians. It’s an invaluable organization as it fights for musicians rights across all areas of the music industry - from a legislative level all the way down to grassroots digital marketing activities. It’s a fantastic resource of information for musicians and has been instrumental in the development of the net neutrality debate and also recently the victory of low power FM radio.
Q: One of your latest imaginePR clients is the DC Music Fest! Finally, a DC music festival! First the details: when is it & where will it be held?
A: Yes the DC Music Fest is going to be great! It’s taking place on May 7th at the Yards Park in South East DC. It’s a one day, open-air festival which will be showcasing 12 bands, 3 singer-songwriters and a DJ across multiple genres. It’s $25 for the day and tickets are on sale through the DC Music Fest website - www.dcmusicfest.com
Q: We understand that you are encouraging local bands to make submissions to appear at the festival. How should they do so?
A: The festival is being curated in a number of ways. Firstly, DC area musicians are encouraged to submit for performance consideration via the DC music fest website. Secondly we are partnering with a number of local music blogs and websites such as The Couch Sessions and the Vinyl District who will be selecting a “recommended” band or artist to perform at the festival. Finally, we have talent bookers scouting for established and new talent in the area.
Q: Will you be tweeting information about the DC Music Fest? What's your Twitter handle?
A: I definitely will be! You can follow my tweets at @jembahaijoub or “like” me on Facebook at imaginePR
Q: Finally, what are the 5 songs (and artists) that have been looping on your iPod this week?
A: Artists I’m listening to on my iPod at the moment are:
1. Marina and the Diamonds
2. Natasha Atlas
3. Lykke Li
4. Amanda Blank
5. The Dreamscapes Project
6. Tricky’s new album, Mixed Race.