Interview: Jude FolkmanPosted 02/18/2010 06:36AM by aaron as Interview
Where did the concept for The Independent Music Awards come from?
Music Resource Group launched The Independent Music Awards in 2000 as a natural extension of the support we provide independent artists and releases via our contact database, The Musician’s Atlas. At the time, independent music was primarily defined as Garage Rock or DIY bands, or a pit stop on the way to the majors. And the award shows, contests, and Battle of the Bands that support indie talent, are generally genre or region specific, or geared towards baby bands. This of course left a lot of incredible talent out of the spotlight. So we built The IMAs to create new audiences and revenue opportunities for this diverse pool of accomplished independent artists.
How did you come to put your idea in motion and make it work?
MRG is a resourceful, self-funded outfit that until recently operated from the 3rd floor of our home so the obvious route was to utilize the excellent contacts we network with on a daily basis qualifying The Musician’s Atlas. We knew that independent artists need marketing and access to gatekeepers more than gear or cash prizes, so we aggressively promoted winners and nominees to the thousands of labels, managers, talent buyers, press, music supervisors, etc. in the Atlas database.
Talk a little bit about the awards, who chooses the nominees and how are the winners picked?
We’re looking for artists who follow their own muse and broaden the definition of “marketable”. The program receives thousands of submissions from around the globe from both self-released and indie label talent. Every submission is reviewed - usually by more than 1 listener, and the highest ranked move through several rounds of preliminary judging. This process takes months. Finally after several passionate group reviews, the nominees are selected and then sent on to the final judging panelists.
Who usually makes up the judging panel and what do they look for when picking winners?
Over the past 10 years, we’ve been fortunate to have the support from panelists who are equally dedicated to supporting incredible independent talent. A short-list of past and current IMA judges includes: Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan, Suzanne Vega, Snoop Dogg, Peter Gabriel, Norah Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Lou Reed, Wynonna, Les Claypool, Bettye LaVette, Ray Davies, M. Ward, Pete Wentz, Chris Thile, David Garrett, Warp Tour Founder Kevin Lyman, Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Anthony DeCurtis, and many more. Judges are instructed to rank the work solely on its artistic merit, quality of recording and that indescribable ‘wow’ factor.
How are the artists presented for judging? I'm sure they all don't get together in a room, do they work together when picking winners or do they all choose out of their own respective genres?
Since our judges are usually on tour or in the studio we try to make the process as easy as possible. They can either log in online to their IMA account to review the materials or request hard copies be sent to them. They’re assigned categories based on their areas of expertise and personal requests.
How many different genres and awards are given out?
In the 10th program currently accepting submissions there are more than 50 Song, Album, Design and Music Video categories. And some specialty categories include Sing Out For Social Action, Love Song, Cover Song, Concept Album and Long Form music video.
You have just announced the 2009 award winners; have you already begun preparing for 2010? How can you completely prepare when most the albums coming out this year haven't even been recorded yet?
Submissions must be associated with Albums, Songs or Videos released between June 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010. Anything that is released after this year’s deadline is eligible for the next year program. It’s similar to how the Grammy’s, Oscars, Independent Spirit Awards, operate.
How well are the awards received around the music industry?
The IMAs are regarded as a reliable filter for discovering and vetting indie talent. That’s why IMA partners like eMusic have successfully promoted The IMA “Now Hear This” CD compilation for the past 5 years. And this year, iTunes® created a store specifically to spotlight the CDs of the 2009 Album Winners. Many winners and nominees report that their IMA honors help them book more high profile gigs and festival slots, get more attention from media, programmers, etc. And we receive many submissions from top independent labels and former major label talent.
The IMA's are now entering their 10th year, what has changed the most with the awards since you launched this idea in 2000?
In 2006 we added the online Vox Pop ‘people’s voice’ vote to help all nominees reach new fan bases. Vox Pop voting begins when the nominees are announced and is open until June. The results are announced at the end of June and these winners receive additional marketing support. To date more than 150,000 fans have registered to vote. Very often the results of the vox pop poll differs from the judge-selected winners. To help nominees maximize their honors, this year we’ve created a customizable music discovery and voting widget artists can use to galvanize their fan bases. And we’ll be announcing more fan-focused program activities in the months ahead.
I noticed you give out awards for music videos, what sort of criteria do your judges look for when trying to pick the best music video?
Same criteria that every music fan uses – how good is the song, how well does the video support the song, what is unique and interesting about the video.
Is The IMAs a full time job? Do your workers have other jobs aside from doing The Independent Music Awards?
The Independent Music Awards has become a full-time endeavor with several of our staff now devoting a majority of their time managing various aspects of the program.
Your awards reach beyond just the United States, how many different countries are involved or considered when it comes to the nominees?
The 9th annual IMAs received submissions from more than 74 countries on 6 continents – and our first from Greenland! While we do love to showcase the diversity of independent music, decisions are based entirely on artistic merit, not country of origin.
How do you determine what falls into the category of independent music or record labels? You also feature self-released music, isn't it fairly hard to pick among all the bands that do not have a label?
The IMAs is all about the democracy of creativity and the meritocracy of talent. One of the things that make the program so exciting is that winners and nominees are a mix of self-released and label talent.All submissions are judged on their artistry and you would be surprised at how many self-released artists moved ahead of better known label acts.
Is there anything else you'd like to let our readers know about submissions, voting, and the awards themselves?
If you’re a music fan run now to the Vox Pop jukebox at www.IndependentMusicAwards.com/voxpop to discover and champion some incredible independent talent. And if you’re an independent musician, independent label, music videographer or designer, submit now to The 10th IMAs at www.TheIndependentMusicAwards.com