Jacob Moore on the Longevity of Pigeons & Planes, SYNY, and Why Artist Development is More Important Now Than Ever Before
Jacob Moore on the Longevity of Pigeons & Planes, SYNY, and Why Artist Development is More Important Now Than Ever Before

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By Lisa Marie

April 8, 2024

Pigeons & Planes is one of the most reputable and storied music discovery platforms to make it out of the Blog Era. Founded in 2008 by Jacob Moore, P&P has lived through a multitude of music industry evolutions, and has somehow always found a way to remain at the forefront of culture and music. Despite his notoriety as the platform’s founder, P&P isn’t all that Jacob has been up to. When he isn’t busy documenting the latest in music and entertainment, Jacob is a dedicated label founder and a co-curator of P&P and Big.Ass.Kids’ compilation album – See You Next Year. No matter the arena, Jacob is lending his time, energy, and ear, to helping advance the music he loves in any way possible. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Jacob where we discussed the genesis of Pigeons & Planes, the importance of giving artists the space to grow, and why, now more than ever, there’s a need to nurture artist development. 


What inspired the name Pigeons & Planes? 

I always wish I had a better story for this. I thought of the name in about 15 minutes. I always liked pigeons and the idea of this wild animal that lives mostly in cities and worlds built for humans. At the time I was reading Hip-Hop blogs like Nah Right and 2DOPEBOYZ, but I was also reading Pitchfork and Stereogum, and I knew that I wanted to combine them – so think Indie-Rock and Hip-Hop, and brand new artists as well as bigger, established artists. Pigeons & Planes kind of came from two things that are in the same world. They both fly, but they represent opposites in a lot of other ways. So yeah, whether it’s talking about Indie music and Hip-Hop or rising stars and A-list stars, I think Pigeons & Planes kind of represents everything.


Pigeons & Planes has remained one of the top destinations for music discovery for the last decade. What would you say has been the key to success for P&P during this time? 

I think a huge part of it has been not being stuck in our ways. Every few years we've had to change, whether it be the type of music that we're covering or the way we're covering it. We started as just a really simple music blog that posted 20 times a day about songs that we liked, and it evolved into doing longer form editorial and then YouTube videos and then social media. Now it's vertical video. Our longevity comes from being open to whatever changes beyond our control and going with it instead of fighting it. I think we've seen a lot of other brands come and go because they did one thing and they wanted to keep doing that one thing versus being open to changing.


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What do you look for when recruiting new writers to contribute to the publication? 

I think the most important thing is just finding people who are passionate. I'm totally down to let someone write about something that I'm not personally moved by if I can tell they're really into it and passionate about it. Even if an album isn't my favorite – if I'm reading something and can tell the writer loves it, I want to know why and understand it. I think passion is the most important thing. I think I’ve always been really open to letting writers and contributors kind of do their own thing with P&P. I don’t want to control things too much because passion drives P&P. Sometimes contributors will even convince me to like something, and that’s the best case scenario.


How does it feel to promote artists on different sides of the industry? Both as media coverage and on the release side?

For me it's not all that different, but it's more exciting to actually work directly with artists and be a part of the creation and the release of music. When we're covering music on the media side, there are a lot of blind spots. With No Matter projects or See You Next Year, we get so many more of the behind-the-scenes details. We hear the demos, we see the creative process, we work directly with the artists and their teams. It gives us a lot more to work with, and just on a personal level I feel more attached to it.


What do you feel is missing in today’s music coverage, as the industry moves away from written reviews and into multimedia content?

What's missing is context and depth. When I was getting into music as a kid, I looked up to artists like Kurt Cobain and 2Pac. It started with the songs, but the reason I became so loyal to artists went way beyond that. I got to learn about what they stood for and where they were coming from, and that made the connection even deeper. It made my reaction to the music so much more powerful.

I think making those deeper connections with artists today is difficult. There is so much music and content being thrown into people's faces every day, but it's all very fleeting. You hear a song on a playlist or catch a snippet on social media, but there isn't always an opportunity to get into an artist's story unless that artist happens to be really good at social media. And being good at social media shouldn't be a requirement for all great or successful artists. 

That's where media has an opportunity to step in, tell some of those stories, give artists a platform and fans a chance to connect with artists in a meaningful way. It's not easy, because those deeper dives—especially with new or rising artists—aren't going to pay off as immediately as a viral 15-second video clip. But in the long run, it's a vital piece of documenting culture and it's a way to uplift the artists who we believe can make a lasting impact. 

With See You Next Year, we’ve made content about every artist on this project. It may not reach millions of people, but I really hope that a handful of fans found a new artist they like and then had a chance to learn more about the person behind the music. Even if it only happened with a small group of people, that can be a really powerful thing. 


What is your biggest piece of advice for artists out there who are looking to be recognized by major music publications such as Pigeons & Planes? 

For better or worse, artists have to think beyond the music – like how they present themselves and how that translates to social media or live events or whatever. There’s so much music, and it’s harder than ever for artists to stand out. I think storytelling is what I always come back to. As a writer, you want to find those interesting, compelling stories. Artists can tell stories through their cover art, Instagram captions, during live shows, or even in how they interact with fans. There are so many ways to tell stories, but you have to think about it and understand what story it is that you’re trying to tell. You have to think about what you want people to know about you and get that across. Getting big playlist looks or having a moment on social media might get you a lot of streams, but I don’t think it creates a real connection with fans. Stories are what will build a long-term audience.


Outside of your work with Pigeons & Planes, you are also a co-founder of No Matter – an independent record label. What sparked your desire to create your very own record label, and how does it feel to promote artists from both a music outlet and record label perspective? 

I think what sparked this desire was seeing, on the P&P side, the real lack of artist development and how many artists would sign record deals too early or be pressured to make hits and work with people they don’t relate to. I saw these things happen so many times, and I saw it go wrong so many times. I wanted to be able to work closely with artists and really hone in on that development process. I think it takes time and room to experiment. That’s what I like the most, even on the P&P side. My favorite part is finding an artist really early and helping throughout those beginning stages. It’s really exciting, and I wanted to be closer to that. That’s where the label idea came from. No Matter is still a very small operation, and we’re very selective about who we’re going to work with. 


What types of artists are you on the lookout for when it comes to searching for new talent at No Matter?

It has to be something different. There’s so much music out there that’s great, but sounds like something else that already exists. To me, the music has to stand out. I feel like I know it when I hear it or see it. It doesn’t need to be super experimental in the way it sounds, but I think there always has to be something that’s really unique or different.


No Matter isn’t the only avenue where you work directly with artists on new music. Both Pigeons & Planes and Big.Ass.Kids have partnered up for two years in a row for See You Next Year – a compilation album that unites some of the brightest talents in music. What is your favorite part about working with artists on the creation of music? 

That’s an interesting question. I mean, I try to stay out of that part of it. I always share my opinion and give feedback if the artist wants it, but I think my approach has always been to trust the artists that we’re picking, because we’re picking them for a reason. I don’t like to get involved with telling them what to do creatively, but I think giving them that freedom to create is really cool. This year at Shangri-La, we saw some of the artists try things that we would have never expected. I think this came from them being comfortable because there wasn’t pressure from us. It wasn’t like we told them what the album should sound like. It was more so just giving them the freedom to go to this incredible place, mess around, try new things, and work with people they wouldn’t normally work with. Out of that comes some of the coolest things that you could have never really planned for. 

My favorite part is setting the right tone and giving artists freedom. In so many other ways today, there’s a lot of pressure – whether it's pressure to make something that works on social media or pressure to make your label happy. It's rare for artists to have a situation where they don't feel that pressure.


SYNY2 was made last June at Rick Rubin’s famous Shangri-La studio, with artists like Kenny Mason, Paris Texas, Monte Booker, and more on-premises for a week of collaboration and creativity. What was the most memorable part of this experience in your opinion? 

The whole experience was incredible, but it has to be the night where we walked out into the living room at Shangri-La and AG Club was just freestyling over the piano. It was such a surreal moment. It was totally unplanned and unexpected. Dustin from Big.Ass.Kids was just playing piano, and then the AG Club guys just kind of circled around him and started freestyling a whole song, then ICECOLDBISHOP joined in. That song ended up being “How to Cry”, but it really started with two hours of them freestyling in the living room and eventually moving into the main room. That was one of the memories that I'll always take with me from Shangri-La and that See You Next Year camp. I think that, again, that moment comes from the freedom and spontaneous nature of that whole week.


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If you had the opportunity to create a song with any three artists dead or alive, which three artists would you choose?

I have to put Andre 3000 in there. I have to put Kurt Cobain in there. I’ll say Andre, Kurt, and Fiona Apple.


What do you hope to accomplish over the course of the next decade?

The biggest problem or thing that I want to try to help solve today is the lack of artist development. Music has been so important to me throughout my life, and when I look back, all of the artists who I loved are artists who I don’t think would survive today. They’re the artists who were disruptive and probably took longer to develop and try new things, and I don’t think there’s a lot of room today for artists today to have that kind of career.

Throughout the next decade, that’s the thing I want to focus on – creating spaces for artists to have room to develop, tell their stories, and create a connection with an audience beyond the pressure of just making social media content every day and looking at every song as something that has to go viral. To me, that is kind of ruining the music industry today, and I don’t want to see that happen. I think P&P is in a position to at least have a little bit of an impact on that.


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What is one album that you’d take with you wherever you go? 

I’ve got to go with ‘Madvillainy’. I feel like it’s one of those albums that’s been in constant rotation ever since I was young. Most albums I’ll listen to for a few years and then maybe won’t for a few years. They’ll come and go. ‘Madvillainy’ has been one that I always go back to in so many different eras of my life.


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What does the term “big ass kid” mean to you?

“Big ass kid” means holding on to that wild imagination that I think all kids have that you kind of lose throughout your career. It’s hard to keep. I think it means striving for those wild ideas without overthinking too much.


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