Even though Bowery Presents’ Josh Moore says he lives in a tiny New York apartment, he admits he’s managed to squeeze in a lot of memorabilia from one particular artist.
“I do have a disturbing amount of Lionel Richie memorabilia,” Moore told Amplify. “I have everything: t-shirts, hats, vinyl all over my apartment, magnets all over my refrigerator, all kinds of stuff. Anything with Lionel Richie I seem to acquire.”
“I wish I had an explanation for it,” Moore said. “People buy me Lionel Richie stuff. I’m not going to lie, I buy myself Lionel Richie stuff.”
Moore said his love for Lionel began in high school when he was starting to get into music in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Beyond Lionel, Moore got really into Dave Matthews Band and other college rock performers coming to town.
“Around 16 or so I started going to shows at a venue in Richmond called The Flood Zone. You had to be 18 to get inside. I used a fake ID and would go as often as I could,” Moore said.
“I’d get there early and see all the opening bands and just go to as many random venues as I could, trade tapes, collect flyers, the whole thing,” he added.
During high school, Moore visited colleges, including the University of Georgia in Athens.
“I didn’t know anything about the University of Georgia or much about Athens other than a lot of bands I liked were from there,” Moore said. “I went down to visit and there were a bunch of clubs with bands I liked playing and I was like yeah this is this is where I need to live.”
Moore jump started his music career in the college town eager for music. Amplify caught up with the Lionel Richie loving Moore to learn about his career, being a partially independent promoter, and what Bowery Presents is up to now.
How did you get started in the music business?
It was my sophomore year in college at UGA. My cousin John Moore, who was one of the founding partners of Bowery Presents, was working at Mammoth Records. He was on my case to call his friends who had just moved down to Athens to open a small booking agency called Madison House. I was really shy at the time but he just stayed on my case and I eventually got up the nerve to call them. I went in and met Mike Luba and Nadia Prescher. I just sat there and hung out with them for a little bit, listened to some music, and I knew I wanted to be involved in what they were doing.
But Nadia called me and asked if I wanted to promote a show with one of their bands, Galactic. I said yes. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t have any money. I’ve never done anything like it in my life. I called the Georgia Theater up out of the blue and asked if I could rent it out and they said yes. I worked really hard to get everyone I knew and everyone that would listen to go to the show. Thankfully it sold out. I made a little bit of money, which probably felt like a lot of money at the time and I got the bug from there. I wanted to be promoting shows. I didn’t want to be at a booking agency.
Did you know bands, venues, anyone else in the business?
It was mostly bands I was passionate about. The first couple of shows were probably Madison House artists who knew me. Once people realized I knew what I was doing, different agents started calling and offering shows. It grew real fast from there. I was probably doing 20 shows a month by myself all over the southeast. It was everything from small clubs to big, nice theaters.
How did you end up at Bowery?
I did shows on my own for about seven years. My company was called Jomo Entertainment. Things were going really well. I was the king of Athens, but the girl I was dating at the time wanted to move to New York. I always hated New York. I had no interest in moving there but I figured if she was going, I would go and I could always come back. Someone put me in touch with Mark Shulman at AEG. He offered me a job to come up there and help him open the Nokia Theater. I was there for about two years and my cousin John Moore had started Bowery Presents, but he didn’t have anything for me at the time. Then he offered me the opportunity to book The Music Hall in Williamsburg which was a club they were opening in Brooklyn. So I left AEG to come to Bowery Presents.
Earlier this year, AEG purchased Bowery Presents. Were you concerned about still having a job once AEG stepped in?
No. I really liked working at AEG when I was there. I honestly didn’t want to leave. I was very loyal to John and I feel like I left AEG on good terms. When I heard the Bowery guys were talking to people about doing a deal, I really hoped it was AEG. I’m in the office with all the same people that I worked with before. It feels good.
As someone who has been an independent promoter and currently works for one of the giants in the industry, do you think it is easier or harder for independent promoters in 2017?
I think it is definitely more difficult to be an independent. I realized that once we were back at AEG. I see all the advantages of being a part of a big company. Just the amount of data we have access to is a huge advantage. When there’s multiple buyers, all excited about an artist and can go to an agent or manager and get behind it together, that’s of course stronger than just one buyer for one venue or one city. There’s a lot more muscle that gives the big company the advantage.
But there’s definitely still something to be said for being an independent. If you’re good at what you do and can carve out a niche or have a great venue, you can survive as an independent. The fact that you can do whatever you want, when you want to do it. That makes things a lot easier.
Bowery Presents opened Brooklyn Steel about a year ago. How is that venue doing?
It’s doing great. I think we’re way busier than everyone expected to be. Everyone’s been really happy with it. The artists love it. Fans seem to love it. It’s crazy. We’re eight holds deep in late 2018 already. It’s really busy.
What is it about Brooklyn Steel that has made it such a success?
We’ve opened a lot of venues so we knew what worked and what didn’t work. We were able to put that to use when designing Brooklyn Steel. Not to toot our own horn, but I feel like we got it right. It is a really good experience going to a show there.
You guys got to build the perfect venue from the ground up?
It was an old steel factory. The landlords from Music Hall of Williamsburg were the landlords for the steel factory. We gutted everything in the building and designed it to what we felt would be the perfect concert venue.
It’s going slow. It’s been a long, expensive process, but it is going to be amazing. Webster Hall is incredible and the bones of it are incredible. But everything was grandfathered in because it had been there for so long. It wasn’t the safest place to see a show and not the best experience for bands and fans. A lot of the money we are spending is bringing it up to code, putting in a freight elevator for load in because load in there was a really steep set of stairs. The dressing rooms were pretty terrible so we’re putting in new dressing rooms. The average person that comes to a show there might not notice a huge difference, but it’s going to be an expensive process to make it safe.
Will it still have the same vibe of the old venue?
Yeah. Absolutely. We booked that venue for a long time. We love it. It sounds great. It’s got a ton of history. It’s a great place to see a show. We just want to make it safe and bring it up to code and update things.
Are there any bands you’re really into right now?
I listen to a ton of music so it changes everyday. James Holden and the Animal Spirits I just heard and I loved it. I’ve also been listening to a lot of these young country guys like Tyler Childers and Colter Wall. We just did four nights at Brooklyn Steel with Nicholas Jaar which were amazing. My most listened to albums of the year have probably been Hiss Golden Messenger and Sampha and the Bon Iver album from last year.
Is there an artist you haven’t worked with that you would like to work with?
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of my favorites. But Neil Young is one that I’ve always wanted to work with and I haven’t had the chance. I was booking Music Hall of Williamsburg for 10 years and my dream was always to do a long run with Neil Young where he would do a different type of set each night.
If you could travel in time to see any performer at any time, who would it be?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the Grateful Dead in 1971. A show at any time in that era would be amazing. Also seeing the Rolling Stones during the “Exile on Main Street” era would be pretty amazing.
Have you had the chance to see anyone from the Dead or the Stones play?
I got to see the Grateful Dead a bunch of times. I’ve seen pretty much ever configuration of them since. I have a company that is not part of AEG called Cloud 9. We do events in exotic locations like Mexico and the Dominican Republic. We did an event with Further who are the remaining members of the Grateful Dead in Mexico. That was pretty special for me. A couple of years ago, Bowery Presents promoted a bunch of Rolling Stones show in New York and New Jersey. I got to be a part of that which was incredible.
Can you talk a little more about what Cloud 9 does?
My partner Mark Brown and I started the company about 16 years ago. He is based in Florida and saw all these cruise ships from his backyard and got the idea to do a festival on a cruise ship. Mark calls me up and pitches me on this idea which was completely silly at the time. I was young and dumb and I agreed to do it. It was a huge risk and we could have each lost a million dollars, but I was young and naive and figured what’s the worst that can happen.
We put on this event called Jam Cruise which had about 25 jam bands on a ship and it sold out right away. We’ve been doing it ever since. We do 10 to 12 events a year and those include Holy Ship which is a bunch a DJs and electronic music on a boat and the Zac Brown Band, Avett Brothers and My Morning Jacket in Mexico. When I went to Bowery they let me continue doing Cloud 9 and since then Bowery has become a partner on a few events.
How do you pair the events with the talent?
It’s tough. There are a lot of bands that can sell a lot of tickets in different markets across America or across the world but it takes the right type of artist to be able to carry an event like this. We look for bands that have a fanbase that we know are willing to travel and have the kind of money that can afford an event like this. We get pitched on a lot of ideas but most of them we don’t feel will make sense.
Since you still have Cloud 9, do you consider yourself partially independent?
Yeah. That company is definitely independent. I still risk my own money and it’s very small company. I guess I am on both sides.
As someone who is on both sides, do you see any challenges ahead for the music industry?
I feel like the live music industry is in a really healthy place right now. I might be biased because I am in a great market in New York, but things here feel healthy as ever.
If you weren’t working in music, is there something else you could see yourself doing?
Working in music is pretty much all I’m good at, but I’ve always wanted to own a hotel in Tulum, Mexico. I feel like I could open the kind of place that I would want to there. I like that you get to design and curate the entire experience for a guest. It has always been interesting to me.
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