Jim Chambers in his own words: An unfiltered interview from a former A&R Exec

Interview

Jim Chambers

Foreword from the Editor: Jim Chambers, former A&R executive and music school director/owner in Tampa, Florida, is relocating to Nashville to start a new career. The music school Jim Chambers Music Box (JCMB) has operated in the area for 10 years, educated a lot of students, and produced a lot of thriving area bands. You can see an interview Rock At Night did with him in 2018 HERE:  We have also covered numerous events at the music school

During his tenure, Chambers brought world-renowned bands like the Hives and the Struts to the school for private Q&A sessions with the students. We had the opportunity to attend these events, which were enriching to all that attended.

Rock At Night would like to present an unfiltered Q&A transcript that Chambers presented. Nothing has been changed–even the grammar and font. He gives a candid look at the music scene in Tampa Bay as well as advice for young bands starting out in the field.

Jim Chambers and the Hives

Jim Chambers and The Hives

The Q&A Interview

When did you open the box?

We opened officially in September 2012. 

Tell us aboutyour experience in the music industry.

Oh jeesh.  Well–my last job was director of global artist and repertoire (A&R) for Red Eye Distribution.  Prior to  that I was the GM of the record  label WARCON RECORDS–I did  a stint at VH-1 as director of consumer marketing–and many other gigs within the record label system. V.P. of Octone Records (Maroon 5), Director of Sales/Marketing (Hybrid/Sire Records).  I was lucky–once I realized there was a “business” within music–I dedicated ALL my efforts to work within this system. 

Jim Chambers

Who are some of the bands that you are personally connected with.

NY & Tampa?   Well.  There are many.  I LIKE to think I have a kinship with the bands I have worked with.  Maroon 5, Flyleaf, Guster, Bleed the Dream, My American Heart, Art Garfunkel, Care Bears on Fire, Flat Duo Jets, Dave Matthews, Fishbone, Usher, Outkast.   There were many.  In Tampa–well–I typically stay connected with the bands I manage.  But–there are many bands locally that have come thru THE BOX.  Sick Hot, Summer Hoop, Nightbreakers, have ALL come thru the BOX at some point. I still help manage Boycott, The Perps, Saturation, Breaking Curfew.   Locally–I love Wolf Face–Twisty Chris and the Puddin Packs, Sick Hot, Summer Hoop, Nightbreakers, Mak. I like aggressive crazy people music.

What was your main goal when opening the Box?

Well. I really wanted to provide THE COOLEST place ever for music lessons. I looked at least 6 schools in the area. I booked lessons at some. I thought–do the opposite  of this. I often referenced  the old commercial for the cereal HONEY COMBS.  “COME TO THE HONEYCOMB HIDEOUT.”  I wanted THE BOX  to be the COOL CLUB–for the young persons, artists, Musicians, –the kids that don’t ‘get’ sports. Additionally,  I wanted to make sure–that we have THE BEST instructors in Tampa. No small feat.  My instructors were charged with leadership, Fun, passion and FIRE.  They MUST connect with their music students. 

What made you sell the box?

If I am honest.  3 things.  1.  Can I do this for 10 more years?  No.  2.  My rent is going up 29% in the next 18 mos. 3.  The music business is flourishing again.  That is where my skill set shines.  I love Nashville. 

What will you be doing in Nashville?

Artist management.  But..I will expound.  For the first time–in what seems like forever–I can take a breath and look what is out there..Label work? Quarterbacking Records.  Hell. Playing drums!  I can hang with these champs. I hope to secure a “shingle” at mgt company.  Start getting back in the ooze. 

Tell us–in the last 10 years–what changes have you seen in the music scene here in Tampa Bay?

Oh. I might need a minute.  I don’t know that I have seen DRASTIC change if I’m honest. I will bounce around.  The clubs have SOMEWHAT stayed in place, Bands are developing.  GMF is established. The same amount of bands comprise the music scene–roughly 40.   The Tampa Touring route is still choked. No changes to our radio structure. I do like that there are more outlets covering local and regional music news like TBMN. 

JIm Chambers Music Box

What does the Tampa music scene do right?

Several things.  One–It CAN provide a living for any musician wanting to play cover music  by the sea.  The access to playing clubs is not MONUMENTAL. The  opportunity to play CROWBAR at some point in your music career is possible.  The hip hop community is VERY strong in TB.  Having Symphonic Dist here in TPA is a nice touch.  

What are three areas in the music scene that need improvement?

1:  City: 

City of Tpa-Make city parks FREE and less of a hassle to play music. Provide 

more FREE shows at Curtis HIxon.  Rock the Park is super.  More headlining FREE shows–

community minded.  Neil Sedaka Live at THE CURT.  I’m in. 

2: Radio: 

I think WMNF is a  HUGE disservice to Tampa Bay.  As they have recently tried 

to reconnect with locals–and to be applauded for that Ken Apperson–they still fall completely flat in my opinion. Block programming is self indulgent, serves the few, and segregates a listener audience to NO ONE. OF COURSE–we all love our community radio station.  But..WHAT COMMUNITY?  Serve THE COMMUNITY–NOT YOUR COMMUNITY.   Where were they during Covid?  Like I  saw that KEXP raised THOUSANDS for all the out of work local musicians.I applied to be the GM position there.  No return.  

3:  The Music Community: This will ruffle feathers.  But I will say it.  The music community in TB doesn’t  support each other’s shows enough.  Full stop.  I am always bummed that a show

is not slammed. Or a local hero show is ill attended.  I know rooms are having attendance

issues across the board.  But–go see your friends bands and pay $12. 

The Struts-Q&A Session at Jim Chambers Music Box, Tampa

 

Sage Advice from Jim Chambers, Former A&R Executive and Music School Director

 

Jim Chambers

What is the best advice you can give to a band starting out?

Practice.  Practice some more?  Get real feedback about your music.  Don’t ask your Grandma’s Girlfriend—-ask someone you trust that will shoot you straight. Is your music appealing?  Would someone pay to see YOU play it?  Gigging will help determine if you have the right elements to draw a crowd and get LIVE feedback. If  YES is the answer to both.  Get your socials in order. Book a show. Go nuts. 

Why do bands break up?

Well.  SIGNED bands historically break up over money disputes.  The principal songwriters make all the dough (royalties). Another short answer  typically is  personnel personality  clash.  Music/art/vision/direction–are four areas for ANY artist/musician to easily  disagree upon.   So–it’s a VERY fragile place.  I view bands like–fragile layers of a freshly baked croissant. Flakey/Beautiful/Delicious/Steaming/Fragile. 

What are the three biggest mistakes a band can make starting out?

For God’s sake.  Deliver the show WELL.  Don’t come out halfcocked. 100% performance EVERY NIGHT. Full stop.  Perform the material well. I would ask for a FLAWLESS performance. 

I think an easily correctable mistake — DON’T dress like your audience.  I take performance seriously.  If you are in Flip Flops and shorts–well–bleh.  BE THE PERFORMER.  Presume you are NOT Jimmy Margaritaville. 

Make sure people come to your shows.  BEG THEM.  Send a car for them.  There HAS to be heads in the room.  GET THEM THERE.  I have personally sent 25 UBER PICKUPS for people to come to shows 

Honorable Mentions:  Gratuitous profanity is sorta’ lame in small clubs.  Drunk performance is a bummer for everyone.  Work on not having awkward lulls in the set list material.

Jim Chambers

Why should somebody come to you for artist management?

The music is in my blood–and the music business is in my head.  I have been actively working in the music business for 25+ years. Climbed the grammy mtn–3 times.  I have managed dozens of bands on EVERY level. I just know how to do this….and..that’s pretty much it. 

If a band is on a limited budget, where should they put their money?

Initially–you will need a photo/and some sort of logo/image to work with.  That would be THE FIRST THING. If the act is performing original material–and $500 is a monetary sum they can obtain–they should record.  It costs next to nothing to have your material on ALL streaming platforms.  1 song.  Maybe two.  Get the material out there.  With regard to socials–spend on Youtube.  

Less than $100?  Find an artist that can make you an image or photo. 

Can a band really make it doing the DIY approach?

THEY SURE CAN!  There are so many artists that do.  There has NEVER

been a time in the history of music–where ANY artist can put out a song so simply.  With many of the same options or marketing channels as one prefers.  That is AWESOME.  Downside?  Well…everyone and their dog releases records–hard to get arrested/noticed with the barrage of media coming at us each and every day. 

 

Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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