Think of some of your heroes…who are they? For those who have ever had aspirations to achieve greatness, a common step at the forefront is identifying those who have excelled at the very thing that you want to accomplish. Regardless of how they got there, these are the people worth celebrating; Those who took chances, worked tirelessly and broke down barriers so the aspirations that we dream of can be realized.
From the moment I began working in music, I had the dream of starting something…You hear stories of people starting companies, platforms and global movements, but you never hear about the people who didn’t. Although I had no idea what it was that I was going to start, I knew that I had to just do it. As I began getting more into artists discovery, I realized that my passion to create a full scale blog that highlights up and coming talent would be the only way to true fulfillment. I thought to myself, “if there is a way to serve people and showcase great music, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Like I said before, in order to achieve greatness, you have to study those who have done it already. Someone who embodies that for me personally, is Founder & GM of Pigeons & Planes, Jacob Moore. For any music lover, P&P is legendary to say the least. From its inception, the global platform has helped unearth some of the most prominent artists and cultural moments to date; and behind all of it has been an amazing team led by an amazing leader. The impact of what started off as a simple blog has been and continues to be felt everywhere; Because of this, it was only right for me to sit down with Jacob and hear the story of P&P and how his passion for music gave birth to one of the most prominent publications in the music industry. It goes without saying that Jacob is a legend already and I’m so excited that he is the first subject to grace our brand new Early Talks Series! Continue reading down below to check out our conversation:
Sam: I would love to hear what your upbringing was like. How did you get into music? Was your family musical? Basically, tell us what young Jacob was up to back in the day!
Jacob: Yeah, I grew up in Connecticut but I lived all over the East Coast. I lived in Virginia and Florida too. Growing up, I was a pretty normal kid for the most part. I spent a lot of time outside. I played with fire a lot. I don’t know, I was just kind of a normal kid. I had a decent life but lived the boring suburban lifestyle. I was close enough to New York City though, so I was able to get a taste of what that life was like too.
Sam: What part of Virginia did you live in when you were based out there?
Jacob: I went to school in Harrisonburg, Virginia, so kind of out in the woods.
Sam: That’s JMU right?
Jacob: Yes, that’s actually where I went to college.
Sam: Wow, I had no idea. Virginia is my favorite place ever…So, as you were growing up, was music something that you were always interested in or was it something you got into later on in the High School/College days?
Jacob: It’s cliche, but I always loved music. Early on, I remember my mom and dad would play the Beatles and Bob Marley and I loved that kind of stuff. But I never thought about wanting to be an artist or working in the music industry. I was also into animals and my mom was a special-ed teacher, so I was always interested in that as far as working with kids with special needs. Music was always a part of it though. It was always there in the background and always a huge part of my life.
Sam: What were some hobbies that you were into growing up that weren’t music related?
Jacob: I wasn’t super into sports. I played sports but never seriously and I never really loved it. I was more into nature and being outside, playing in the woods and going fishing a lot.
Sam: Now, take me to the college years. What was college Jacob like?
Jacob: By that point, I was already obsessed with music and I knew that I wanted to work in music, but I had no idea how to do it. I ended up majoring in Finance even though I wasn’t interested in Finance at all. I was not good at it. I was not a good student, but I thought that’s how you make money, so I was like, “Oh, I can go work in the Finance department at a label.” I had no idea how it worked, so I regret that. I got a really late start. It was hard for me to get into the music industry, because I just really didn’t know how it worked. I was putting so much time into studying something that I didn’t care about and I wasn’t happy, so that led to some dark places. I got into a whole bunch of things and just wasn’t on the right track.
Sam: Got it man! When was that first moment when you knew you wanted to make music a career? Did you listen to an album? Was it a song or interview that you listened to?
Jacob: So, I was always into music but it was always stuff that my parents put me on to, or stuff that my sister put me on to. The first thing that I found that felt like my own thing was Nirvana. I got so deep into Nirvana and studying everything about Kurt Cobain and that’s how I found a lot of other music, but I think that was the first time where I had an interest that was deeper than “I like this music.” It was a connection on a much more personal level that made me get more obsessed.
Sam: That’s fire! So with that, let’s just keep going. I’d love to hear more about your beginnings in the music industry, because clearly you said that you didn’t know how to get into it; so was P&P your first step into the music industry or were there other things you did?
Jacob: No, that was the very first thing. After I graduated from college, I had a degree in Finance but wasn’t really doing well and I couldn’t get a job. I was living with my parents, taking a bunch of random jobs. I worked at a camp for kids with special needs and I worked at a government job, just taking phone calls in an office. I was just kind of stuck. And at that point, I was reading a lot of other blogs like Nah Right and 2DopeBoys, but I was also reading Pitchfork and Stereogum. So I was thinking that my way in was to just try and write for these places. I remember reaching out to Nah Right and talking to Eskay who ran the site and begging him to let me work for him and it didn’t work out, so I was like, how can I start a blog… And that’s the beginning of Pigeons & Planes. There was no real goal and I had no idea what I was doing, but it was easy enough to figure out at that point since there wasn’t much competition. It wasn’t that hard to make something that stood out.
Sam: And what was the infrastructure like behind the daily operations? Was it just you/was there a team involved? Tell me about those first steps that you took to create it.
Jacob: Yeah, at first it was just me. I started on BlogSpot.com. It was basically just finding stuff on other blogs and writing about it. I think the one thing that made it different was the fact that every blog had their own little lane and there weren’t many places that were combining what was being covered on Pitchfork with what was being covered on 2DopeBoys. That’s where P&P came in. And it wasn’t about having any exclusive access or having the best writing. It was just unique curation; that’s what it was built on. We are going to pick the best from all genres and styles of music, and you can’t get all of this anywhere else.
Sam: How did the team come to be?
Jacob: So I did it by myself for a while. I’m so bad with time, but it must’ve been at least half a year or a year where it was just me. Twitter was getting popular and it started to become easier to connect with people, so I was running P&P and I would come across people who found the site and they’d be like, “Hey if you need help, let me know.” I started connecting with people that way. At the time, there was no money involved. I wasn’t making any money, so I was like sure, I have nothing to lose, let me bring on some new people to see who’s good and who works well with me and it started building that way and slowly but surely it formed into this whole family. Some of those early connections turned out being longtime P&P co-workers, like Alex Gardner who I still work with today.
Sam: Once the team was in place, when was the moment you realized that you may have had something special on your hands?
Jacob: Everything happened so slowly. I remember the first day looking at analytics and seeing that 100 people came to the site today, and I remember seeing 1,000 people came to the site. But I think the moment that made me realize it was when I found this other random blog that had a job listing for an unpaid internship. I applied to it, thinking, “these people seem legit, they’re running a real business”. I applied to it and I ended up talking to them. They called me and they were like, “Listen, if you want to do this, you can, but we looked at your blog and you’ve got more traffic than we do.” So that was the thing that made me realize if they’re running this like a business and they’re able to get interns, but I’m bringing in more traffic, I need to start thinking about it like that. So that was the turning point for me. Up until then, I was just trying to grow it, but I didn’t realize it could be a business until I saw other people treating it that way.
Sam: That’s awesome. You know I have to ask this one and I think other people will appreciate this as well. Tell me about the name Pigeons & Planes. I’d love to hear about the name and how you came up with it.
Jacob: I mean, I wish there was a deeper story to it, because I had no idea that this would ever be anything bigger than just a little hobby, I didn’t put that much thought into it. But the idea falls in line with what I said about combining things that were from one world with things from another world. I always liked Pigeons and I think it represented two different sides of the spectrum while having something in common. Pigeons & Planes are opposites in so many ways, but they both fly, so I thought of that as a way to represent that I was going to cover new artists and established artists, indie artists and major label artists, hip-hop and pop. Just a way to show a full spectrum. And Pigeons & Planes just sounded good. The name has taken on so much more meaning for me but at the time, coming up with the name was just a 15-minute thing.
Sam: I think when you start something, it’s just special. A lot of people apply to jobs and get hired, but when it comes to starting something, theres a different type of ownership that only you’ll understand; So as far as growing this over the years, what’s been a leadership lesson that you’ve learned throughout all of it?
Jacob: Let me think… a leadership lesson… There are a lot. With Pigeons & Planes, the people who I’ve worked with have been some of my best friends. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that to get other people to be passionate about something, you have to be passionate about it and you have to show that passion. You know, I’m not naturally a good sales person or a good talker. I keep to myself most of the time, but I have found that if you want people to care about something, you have to show them that you care.
Sometimes I would be quietly working and wondering why people don’t care about this thing more. Frustration would build up and eventually I’d get to this breaking point where I’d talk to someone on the P&P team and go on these long rants about P&P and how I want to do so much more and be so much better. I think those moments helped other people see the vision and feel like they were a part of something that mattered. Getting across that passion and showing people how much you care; that can help get them to care and to want to put in more effort. The work becomes exciting when everyone’s invested in that way.
Sam: What was it like beginning to receive acquisition offers? What was going on in your mind at that time? Were you expecting that and was it just surreal for you?
Jacob: Yeah, it definitely was. At that time, it wasn’t even about anything other than just knowing that I could make this a full-time job. Until then, I was always doing this as a side hustle and I was working other jobs and it was never a thought in my mind that it could be a full-time job, even after I started realizing how to make a little money off of it. I wasn’t at the point where I could imagine getting to do it for a living. It was surreal and I was just so happy knowing that I could put 100% of my energy into it.
Sam: That’s amazing. And as we shift gears, what’s been one of your greatest joys during your time running this?
Jacob: One of the coolest things for me was when we started doing live shows. There were always moments where we would get noticed by an artist or we would hear a story about an artist getting signed because Pigeons & Planes covered them and that’s cool, but when we started doing concerts, it was the first time I felt the energy in a room. It’s so different than getting page views or going viral on the internet. It was just that different thing where you could stand there and look around the room and hear the music on stage and feel it in real life. Those are the moments that made me appreciate what we’re doing the most and it’s something that I can’t wait to do more of because it was becoming a big part of P&P.
Sam: When you look at the way you run the company, did you come up with any core values that you created and stuck to?
Jacob: Yeah, we’ve always tried to hold onto integrity, and a big part of that is not letting people pay money for posts. It was always about covering the things that we like and believe in. There was always pay-for-play in the music industry—whether it was radio or blogs or these new Instagram pages—but I saw how it chips away at your credibility. I knew that we were missing out on opportunities by not taking money from major labels to cover their artists or whatever it is, but I knew that over time, that would be the thing that made P&P stand out and made it credible. I still think that is one of the reasons why we’re here today.
Sam: I feel like I’m getting mad emotional right now, but when it’s all said and done, what’s the lasting impression you want to leave when you hang it all up?
Jacob: I think that’s on other people to decide. I just hope we open the door for some great artists and for some fans to find new things. It sounds like a small thing, but I know from personal experience, those are the kinds of things that can leave a lifelong impression. I hope that by doing things the right way and covering interesting music and holding on to integrity, it just keeps the cycle going. I mean, I love what you’re doing and seeing people like you come up. I don’t know, I just hope that energy that P&P brought to the table carries on in that kind of way.
Sam: Man, I appreciate that and I tell the team all the time that you all are an amazing inspiration. You have truly paved the way for blogs like us to have a voice, so it’s cool even getting to talk to you. It’s an honor. With that though, what’s next for P&P? I know you alluded to live shows, but what are you looking forward to?
Jacob: I can’t wait to do concerts again. We had so much planned for 2020 and everything’s obviously still up in the air, but I can’t wait to do the events again. Beyond that, I’m just excited to keep trying new things. We’re getting into some merch collaborations with artists now and plotting on new forms of content. The goal has always been to evolve from a blog into a music brand. I mean, we’re not doing this because we like making blog posts and social content; it’s because we love the music. So the goal is to always figure out new ways to grow P&P beyond the internet, and I think we have the foundation now, so there’s so much more potential for the brand.
Sam: Okay I have two more questions for you then I’ll stop rambling. You’ve obviously been in this music industry for a minute, so what’s something you hope to see take place in music that either happened before or has yet to happen yet? What is up next?
Jacob: From a media perspective, I’d like to see context come back. I think we’re kinda in this era now with playlists and TikTok, you’re given these quick little moments of music, but you don’t know the stories and you can’t connect with it on a deeper level. It’s all just really quick and very digestible and I’m not mad at that, but I think there’s room for more. Everything comes in waves and in the next few years, people will start to miss out on that and realize that all of those artists that blew up on TikTok two years ago are gone. Sustainability takes time and energy. So that’s something I hope changes on the media side—just more storytelling and context and deeper content around the music.
And on the artist side, I mean it’s kind of the same thing. I just hope artists realize that the ones that last aren’t the ones that try to blow up overnight and get some lucky internet moment. I think there are a lot of artists right now who are setting themselves up to have long careers and those aren’t the artists that people are jealous of. Everyone is jealous of the kid who went viral overnight on TikTok and got a 6 million dollar deal. But in the long run, I think the artist who set everything up and started building a world around the music is the one who wins. I hope people realize that and the labels realize that and I hope everyone stops chasing this crazy immediate success.
Sam: I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said and I too hope the energy of the industry shifts back to the storytelling method where we get to truly see artists develop in real time without it feeling manufactured. I have conversations about this all of the time and I’m sure we’ll dive into this more, but for my final question, I have to ask: If you could give a younger you some advice, someone who wants to be the next Jacob Moore…what would you tell them?
Jacob: I would just tell them to do as much as they can on their own. It’s a vague answer, but so much of how a lot of people make it in the industry is just knowing the right person and you can’t control that. I didn’t have that, I didn’t have any connection into the industry and the only reason I got into it is because I did as much as I could myself. So when I finally got the chance to talk to other people in the industry or try to get a job, I could show them my work and my perspective. It didn’t cost anything. I set up a free blog and started writing. That writing was my resume. If you don’t have the experience or the connections, you need to be able to go in and show people something. Even if it’s an Instagram account, I think that’s really valuable and it’s easier than ever. You don’t need to know anyone, you can just show your knowledge or your writing skills or your taste—whatever it is that sets you apart—and that’s going to be valuable to some people.
This conversation with Jacob completely blessed my afternoon and I pray that it does the same for anyone who gives it a read. For those who would like to create an impact in any field, these wise words from him can apply. If you haven’t already become a super fan of Pigeons & Planes, make sure you tap in with everything that they’re doing!