Jim's Big Ego
Gig Seeker Pro

Jim's Big Ego

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Boston band Jim's Big Ego is learning that it pays not to be stingy with its music"

By Joan Anderman, globe Staff | May 29, 2004

A funny thing happened when music fans began illegally sharing songs by the Boston band Jim's Big Ego on Napster several years ago. The band got bigger. So much bigger that when the record companies began cracking down on file sharing and Napster blocked JBE's music, frontman Jim Infantino wrote a letter to Napster asking them to make his songs available, copyright or no copyright.

"They had to remove all copyrighted material, and I understand that it was legal and right," says Infantino. "But it's not what we wanted."

What Infantino wanted was to share his music freely without sabotaging his career, a notion that major record companies would argue is untenable but that Infantino is discovering makes plenty of sense. In September he released "They're Everywhere," JBE's fourth full-length album, under a Creative Commons license -- a free, flexible copyright with the slogan "Some Rights Reserved."

Creative Commons, cofounded and run by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig, aims to find a balance between the extremes of strict regulation and unchecked exploitation. Creators can mix and match from a menu that helps express the terms under which they'd like to share their work. Infantino, for example, allows the public to copy, distribute, perform, and sample from his songs as long as it isn't for commercial purposes, the author is given credit, and any derivative works are distributed under an identical license.

So far so good. "They're Everywhere" has already dramatically outsold any of JBE's previous releases. The band performs at the Lizard Lounge on Thursday.

"I honestly don't know how much of that is due to the way we've licensed this, but allowing people to share our music certainly hasn't hurt our sales," says Infantino. "We're giving away the music and selling more CDs."

Lessig isn't surprised. "For talented, up-and-coming artists like Jim's Big Ego, the key to becoming successful is getting known and making your art available," he says. "Free downloading doesn't mean cannibalism. And the data doesn't support the argument that file sharing harms sales."

One track on the album, an effervescent pop tune called "Mix Tape," is something of a valentine to the idea of sharing music. "The song is about people finding music they might not have heard about through friends making compilations of songs that aren't on the radio," says Infantino. "That's how our music got out, except now mix tapes are this giant, amorphous thing. All you need is e-mail to grab it and share it."

In the spirit of community that inspired the song, Creative Commons is sponsoring a "Mix Tape" remix and video contest. Infantino has uploaded all of the original individual source tracks for the song -- available at creativecommons

.org or at bigego.com -- which anyone is free to download and use (with such programs as GarageBand, Pro Tools, or n-Track) to create his or her own remix or video. Entries can be posted at the Jim's Big Ego and Creative Commons sites until June 10, and winning selections will be posted on both home pages. "The idea is that the open sharing of ideas and creativity will only lead to a more creative society," says Jason Schneider, who manages Jim's Big Ego. "Lots of bands offer free downloads on websites. And Peter Gabriel did something like this, but you had to buy an embedded disc for $40. We've received an amazing response as a result of the whole remix thing from people saying they appreciate the philosophy and the opportunity to interact."

Among the fan versions of "Mix Tape" already submitted are a drum 'n' bass remix, a total deconstruction with hard breakbeats, and a minimalist, ska-flavored version. Early '80s techno was the guiding light for a submission identified as Test Mix 2. The Santa Monica remix is something along the lines of Brian Eno does the Talking Heads; the same musician also created an electronic funk vision.

And those, says Schneider, are among the more mainstream ideas. "People are sowing their creative seeds. Having sat with [coproducer] Ducky Carlisle during the original mix for Jim's album, I know that this is painstaking, and I'm amazed at how many people are wanting to get involved in this incredibly detailed process."

There will, no doubt, always be a slice of the population that simply takes what it can get for free. But people like Infantino are testing the waters of community-based art patronage, which is, he believes, the model for the future.

"I don't see how it can be stopped," says Infantino. "It doesn't require a record contract to write a song and publish it everywhere. We're there. And the responsibility for patronage has to come from everyone. When you as a band act in good faith, you invite your fans to act in good faith." - Boston Globe

"Live Show Review"

By Liz Carlisle

It would be difficult to find a better poster child for the principle of open forum than Jim Infantino. Strongly-held beliefs about free expression have marked this singer-songwriter's career since he burst onto the Boston scene in the early '90s. With Jim's Big Ego, the band he founded in 1995, Infantino paired these ideas with cutting-edge technology to reach out with his music ever further and catalyze a response.

Nowhere was his success more evident than at Club Passim last Thursday night, when JBE fans packed the premises to hear the band's take on the recent presidential election. The crowd clapped, sang, and gestured along, yelling requests from the floor and joining in with gusto on the interactive pieces.

Particularly popular was "napkin poetry," a band staple and perhaps the best showcase of the three members' varied talents. Toward the end of the night, Infantino asked the audience to jot down their thoughts and pass them up to the stage for a "one-time-only performance." After allotting his charges two songs during which to complete their masterpieces, Infantino picked up the wad of papers and kicked off a masterful spoken-word montage, highlighting the improvisational creativity, cohesion, and sophistication of the band.

During the nearly twenty-minute piece, drummer Dan Cantor explored a range of funk beats, utilizing the full drum kit and taking advantage of the additional sonic space vacated by Infantino's guitar. Upright bassist Jesse Flack showed off his melodic sensibilities and eclectic background, referencing the bass line from Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" as Infantino delivered the largely anti-Bush assemblage of material. Riffing and refraining, the bandleader made the slips of paper cohere, with Flack and Cantor joining in on impromptu harmonies, sound effects, and distorted, spoken vocals reminiscent of hip-hop.

Cantor's distorted, often delayed harmonies, sung through a second microphone, were just the tip of the technological iceberg. Although Passim usually celebrates the perpetuation and dissemination of centuries-old, low-tech forms of music, the modern world was out in force on Thursday night. Flack's acoustic bass seemed a bow to the folk format, but Infantino's electric guitar and Cantor's drum set certainly raised the texture and volume of the performance above "folk" levels. The band also brought their own sound gear: three thin columns at the back of the stage (Bose cylindrical radiator loudspeakers) replaced the traditional cubic speakers and monitors. All three band members frequently used their microphones as instruments, rather than as mere amplifiers, creating effects that could not be replicated acoustically.

While contemporary musical technology has become a trademark of Jim's Big Ego, the band's use of contemporary means to disseminate their music is equally important to both their identity and their live show. Infantino designed the band's first website in 1995, long before a web presence was a music industry standard. He has since expanded the site several times, and it now functions as a virtual community and art medium in and of itself. Forums, downloads, and multimedia not only bring JBE to interested fans around the world, but encourage those listeners to write back and share their own views with both the band and each other. While forums and downloadable MP3s have become a relatively common feature of artist websites, few musicians have extended the interactive principle as far as Jim's Big Ego. Infantino recently posted source tracks of the song "Mix Tape" on the site and encouraged listeners to download them and create their own mixes using freeware.

This "remix contest" is only the most recent marketing innovation from a band that once asked Napster to put their music back onto its file-sharing site after JBE songs had been removed for copyright protection. The band has since created JBE Radio, a portion of the site that streams their entire discography, with an option to download on a pay-per-song basis. Additionally, the band's latest CD They're Everywhere was released with a Creative Commons license, which is more flexible than a traditional copyright. "Our license is share-alike/attribution/non-commercial," Infantino explained, both in our interview and at the show. "Share it, use it, credit us, and don't re-sell it."

What does all this music business techno-babble have to do with a good old live show? Plenty. Several audience members at Passim requested a new JBE song, "WTFMF/WTFAYT" (short for "What the *bleep*, Mother*bleep*er? What the *bleep* Are You Thinking?"). Written in response to the Republican National Convention and posted to the website just days ago (the acronym and an accompanying warning protect unsuspecting web surfers from profanity), the song has already been downloaded by several hundred people. The band has had little chance to perform it live and, of course, it's not on any of their CDs, but when they played "WTFMF/WTFAYT" Thursday night, fans were already singing along. Using the web in this way allowed Infantino to respond immediately to current events without waiting for a show or the long process of releasing a recording.

Similarly, "Asshole," track six on They're Everywhere, reached three-quarters of a million people in the last few weeks as the backing track to , a web-based "filmstrip" critical of President Bush. Clearly, most of Thursday's audience had been to the website: the lyrics themselves do not obviously reference the administration, but the crowd uniformly interpreted them as post-election venting.

While his recent internet fame has cast Infantino as the voice of Bush opposition, he hesitates to label himself a political songwriter or draw a sharp distinction between his early material and the more recent songs that make overtly partisan statements. "I am a staunch anti-fascist," Infantino said in a telephone interview. "What is a more livable society, freedom? What aspects of a fascist mindset are a part of everyday thinking - not giving a shit about anyone else but yourself and your group?" To Infantino, a song like 1993's "Stress" ("what I think I'd really love is to get out by myself

on a little tiny island in the middle of the ocean with just me and a book and a cellular phone and a personal computer in case something came up") is not too far removed from "WTFMF/WTFAYT" or "Asshole."

Open forum, however, merely guarantees opportunity. Competing in the marketplace of ideas requires ingenuity. As Infantino says of the current state of the music business, "the only thing that will limit you now is your creativity....The whole world is listening." Infantino and his bandmates clearly take their music seriously - JBE's use of profanity and provocative speech is no angry outburst. Both Infantino's lyrics and the band's performance are thoughtful and razor sharp, striking their targets directly and forcefully.

Easily lost in the discussion is the simple fact that these guys play great. While calling attention to the dramatic and expressive aspect of their performance, Jim's Big Ego quietly (well, not so quietly) makes very good music. All three band members are extremely accomplished on their instruments and their collective presentation evidences careful composition of the total sound. They do not have to bank on their politics or outrageousness for attention. This is why Infantino makes such a good First Amendment poster child: he not only exercises his right to free speech but does so with intelligence, responsibility, and a hell of a lot of talent. - Harvard Independent


Stay (2012)
free* (2008)
They're Everywhere! (2003)
noplace like nowhere (2000)
Don't Get Smart (1998)
More Songs About Me (1995)



Perform a Google search for "Greatest Band in the History of Recorded Music" and you will likely get only one result: Jim's Big Ego. Hailing from the small New England town of Boston, Massachusetts, Jim's Big Ego has carved a unique place in the music world by rocking harder, fresher, louder, sweeter, and better than everyone else. Based around singer, songwriter, and all around super-genius, Jim Infantino, Jim's Big Ego compares itself to such major players as The Great Wall of China, The Grand Canyon, Antarctica, and other things you can see from space. While the debate still rages over whether the band's formation was a matter of divine providence or historical inevitability, one fact remains clear: if the world ended today, Jim's Big Ego would die happy knowing that they were more talented than Oasis, more popular than Terence Trent D'Arby and richer than MC Hammer.