“Social Savvy” is the column where we interview creatives in our community to talk about the the impact and challenges of navigating through this crazy world of social media, as well as how social media has affected promoting their craft.”
by Allyson Bills
Phoenix’s James World recently went where no band has gone before: on the night of April 3rd, they used the Arizona’s tallest building (the Chase building) to project an image of a globe and a text that read “James World 5/26” in order to promote their upcoming album release show for Funny Dreams at Valley Bar. Their bold promotional tactic caught the eyes of the Downtown Phoenix Community as the band’s Instagram story was flooded with reposts of this image.
Originally going under the name James Band, James World is comprised of Michael Madrid (vocals/guitar), Nate Ray (drums), Harrison Ray (bass), Connor Sanchez (synthesizer/vocals), and Kalebh Ryals (guitar); the quintet formed in 2016 and released an EP that same year. Their ode to lo-fi 90s bands such as Pavement has made them a staple at house shows around Tempe and the Valley’s DIY venues, The Lunchbox and The Trunk Space. They also played KJZZ Phoenix’s Tiny Desert Concert in January of this year. However, due to being mistaken by a popular English band called James, and just wanting to do something different, they changed their band name to James World, and announced it via an Instagram video depicted as a news update.
I was curious about how James World continues to be innovative with their social media promotions so I met with Nate, Michael, and Connor on a Saturday afternoon at their practice space to get the scoop on why the name “James” will always be a part of their band; how they pulled off such a daring promotional stunt; and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously on social media.
Allyson: The burning question is why did you guys change your name from James Band to James World? How did affect your promoting on social media?
Nate: We’ve always hated James Band. We were never 100 percent on it, and we’ve always been trying to change it. We could never agree. Ever. We’ve had so many we tried out. We were so close so many times to changing it to so many dumb things.
Michael: We have been been just doing one thing for a long time when it comes to our name and how we’re approaching promotion and shows. As we’ve gotten closer to the record release, we started to think about it a little more seriously, and that it’s the last possible second to change the name. So, our thought was like, ‘Okay, well, James is too ingrained within us.’ Maybe instead of limiting our scope, we should open our scope up to the whole world…to be really high-minded, and in a sort of a jokey way, say that we’re a worldwide band. A part of our humor throughout this whole time has been inflating ourselves beyond what we actually are. We’ll always have “James” in the band.
Nate: I think the short thing is just we wanted people to take us a little more seriously now that they figured out what we’re doing. This is our first band for most of us, and we also were sick of all the confusion. There’s a James In Europe, there’s a million other James bands, but there’s no James World.
When you changed the band name, did you see improvements in your branding on social media?
Michael: Yes and I wouldn’t it say attributed entirely just to the name change, but it allowed us to do some fun stuff with promotion. We’ve been making the James Band Updates for awhile and have progressively making them wackier and more like high-budget, I guess. It gave us a chance to sort of create a fake-out moment like, ‘oh, there’s gonna be no more James Band updates.’ But really, there still is, it’s just announcing the name change in a silly way. We did get a ton of engagement on that [the James World video]. Since then, it’s been higher interaction with our stuff because that was sort of timed out in a way with our new campaign for the record.
Nate: It [the name change video] helped people pay attention to this very important piece of information. So now more people are watching our videos. It helped a lot, I will say.
Speaking of, you guys garnered attention for promoting your upcoming album release show on the tallest building in Arizona. What was that like? What kind of attention and engagement did you guys get as a result?
Nate: We won’t say how we did it. I have a list of poster ideas, and it was on there. It was the best possible realization of how it could turn out.
Michael: It came down to a last-minute, almost a day or the night before, ‘are we gonna do this? Can we do this?’ We’re just like, all right, we’re just gonna dive in there, just go for it because really, up until the very moment it happened, we didn’t think it was going to happen. It’s sort of along the lines of the whole James World thing, like a larger-than-life-type thing.
Nate: It’s like, ‘take us seriously now.’
Michael: It was up for an hour. Anyone in that kind of vicinity was there seeing it, and they were in awe of it. Then, after the fact, like I think being able to discuss it and [have] it as ammunition online has certainly come in handy. We’ve had a good boost of interest and kudos, which is cool. It’s really simple as we are really serious about this show, and it’s going to be unlike any of the other shows we’ve ever done. It’s going to be very big.
How have you used any experience promoting social media in any of your other bands with promoting in James World? Did you learn from your experiences?
Nate: I definitely learned about social media playing in pop band during high school. I learned a lot about social media marketing for bands from that band. I learned about how to do things and how not to do things. It helped a lot. When we all started James Band, we didn’t know what we are doing, and now we know what we are doing. We are ready to do the next step.
What mistakes have you made on social media, and what did you guys learn from them?
Nate: We didn’t utilize it this fully until now. We didn’t realize how easy it is to make videos and have fun.
Michael: I would say for me, I really disliked social media for a long time. I personally, as an individual, didn’t use it up until a year ago. I was always sort of worried that it was sort of a self-inflation thing. It felt so inhuman, and I was against it. And I think, what Nate said like having fun with it, I realized that it can be a medium for art. It can be like a CD or a music video. It’s another outlet for creating. I think we’ve had the most success when we were just having fun with it and using it as an artistic outlet. And to be silly, too. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously, which I think is a key thing, too. You can see that a mile away when it’s a band that is using the medium for… it feels like it’s coming from some other person or it seems way too self-serious, and ends up becoming less engaging because you’re not engaging with a human, you’re engaging with a business model.
Nate: If you are not having fun with it, then why are you doing it?
What’s your favorite social media platform to promote on and why?
Nate: Whatever’s the most popular and gets the most interaction.
Michael: I’ll say Instagram. Instagram, gets the most engagement consistently for us. Everyone’s on there. We do get some Twitter engagement. Rarely any Facebook engagement other than for events. I think Instagram is our favorite right now.
Nate: Yeah, it’s easy to be seen and we understand how it works.
Connor: Twitter is fun, everyone uses it, but I also feel like it’s harder to use as promotional tool just because stuff doesn’t get seen as often.
Michael: If you want to actually put money into promoting posts on Twitter, it’s pretty cost prohibitive and also [fields] a low yield.
Nate: You could put in three bucks [for Instagram promotion] and get a ton of stuff.
Michael: It’s good bang for your buck on Instagram.
What’s your least favorite social media platform to promote on and why? What do you think needs improvement?
Michael: Facebook. It’s such a weird double-edge sword because it’s the go-to for events, planning the events, details about the events, etc. I hate it because [our] events get lost in all the rest of the sauce on there. What Facebook should do is just create a separate app that’s just for events, and people could use that events app, and there could be link that people could follow that don’t even have Facebook and see that event page and be able to engage on some level. The problem is [the events page] is tied to Facebook. So we have a member of the band who doesn’t have a Facebook account, and if we send a link to an event, they can’t open it up.
Connor: You can’t do anything about it, but “like” the title of the event.
Nate: I know that’s them [Facebook] requiring you to use the platform. It’s not very inclusive.
What are your guys’ feelings about the algorithm? How do you guys overcome promoting with the algorithm?
Nate: Everyday, I have a crisis on Facebook. The other day, I posted a Rotting Yellow [Nate’s other band] thing, and it had a picture of us in it and it automatically tagged all of our personal accounts in the photo. I had already boosted it [the post] and I was so mad, it took a long time to fix, and I had to get everyone to go on their personal accounts to remove the tags. I have a computer degree, and with Facebook you need [a separate] degree to use [the platform].
Have you guys used any of the paid advertisements on Facebook? What are your experiences?
Nate: Yeah, it works. If you want people to see your stuff, you just have to. It sucks.
Michael: They do what they advertise. Any important announcements, we put money into it.
Do you guys have any funny social media troll stories?
Nate: We joke about how we have beef with bands all the time.
Michael: On Twitter, one time we said that we had Harrison sign one of our tapes with silver Sharpie as “Pro Teens.” The signature was just “Pro Teens.” We’re saying [on Twitter] that we will sell it for you for a high price.
Nate: I wrote that on there.
Michael: Someone bought it.
Nate: We were upset because we didn’t know who bought it.
Michael: We sold it like it was a regular tape, but it was an exclusive Pro Teens tape.
Conner: We have one guy who will comment on our posts every now and then. He just says stuff like, ‘I hope you break up.’
Nate: I think he’s joking.
Michael: Exactly. Yeah, he’s just on the line enough to where there’s a “trolley-sort-of-vibe” to it.
Conner: We have never actually interacted with him. He’s just always commenting on random shit.
What advice do you have for other bands on how to promote on social media?
Nate: I want to say that social media is so soul-sucking and terrible. Think about your content and make it better for everyone. Make it more fun. Stop posting boring stuff and ugly flyers. Enrich our lives, please. If I’m going to be scrolling either way, I’m addicted.
Michael: Instead of just posting flyers, post engaging content. For instance, if you’re making content for stories from posts (on Instagram), make sure that you’re not putting the same thing on both. That you are tailoring the content to each platform.
Nate: I’m so sick of all the same press photos posted on every account at the same time.
Connor: I think the biggest thing is if you can’t get to the top of someone’s feed, you need to be making something that people are actively sharing.
Nate: It goes with being in a band, if you are not having fun you are or doing something different, then what’s the point? As long as you are having fun, enjoy what you are doing.
Michael: Also, I think bands interacting with each other more on social media would make things more interesting.
Nate: Be friends, don’t be competitors. What’s the point in being mad if someone else gets a show? Create your own show, I don’t care. Stop taking it all so seriously.