Monday, June 9, 2014

Industry Interview: Matt Brown of Haulix

>> Back in 2008, I started this site to help give hard working musicians the exposure they deserve. As the years passed and I met more people with similar goals, I realized that there are dedicated individuals on every side of the industry worth highlighting.  I interviewed Matt Brown a while back about his work with Haulix -- a web-based platform for promoting music.  Haulix offers a way for labels and publicists to send music out for review without having to worry about leaks, plus a way to track important stats about who's listening to what and how often.  Read on to learn more about how Matt Brown got his start, and how Haulix is benefitting the industry from virtually every angle.

Tell us about yourself and why you love what you do.
My name is Matt Brown and I'm the Founder and CEO of Haulix. It really is a great feeling to offer a service that touches so many people in the music industry. Making money is a good thing, but actually helping others is priceless and I really appreciate my job.

How did you first get involved in the music biz?
I've played drums most of my life; grade school all the way through high school. In my late twenties I was in a cover band too. I got hooked to computers in the late nineties and ended up going to school for computer science. Around that same time I worked as a web developer at a call center here in MN and I made a couple friends who were into metal. We used to jam in their basement and the metal music obsession was getting addicting, not to mention I wanted a computer science project to work on, so we decided to start **Note: was renamed to a year ago**.
Web development in general is one of the only art forms I can think of that mixes strict programming on the back end with artistic design on the front end. I enjoy both equally. Ironically, that website was the focal point in quite a few interviews where I got the job. Rather than giving a shit if I had some degree pinned to my wall, I had a living breathing website out there that showcased my skills.

What were some of the best and worst experiences with
In the beginning, my friends and I were totally amazed when we would go to our mailbox and see that shiny new album sitting in there. We got a copy before it was released to the public! It made us feel so relevant. In those days, it was fun to see what goodies came in the mail. As time went on and a decade later, the overflowing mailbox became more of a hindrance and turned out to be the catalyst for starting Haulix. And with all of the good that we experienced over the years, I guess one bad thing was all of the copycat websites coming out. Anyone with half a brain can start a Tumblr or WordPress site. And so all of a sudden we were seeing and other similar sites. We even had people stealing our reviews and saying they were the author. If I knew then what I know now, I would of invested money in trademarking the name.

Surely you must have received tons of music to write about for the site. How did the way you received that music change over the years?
That's the thing..... the way music was sent to us didn't change over the first 7-8 years of running the website. Some labels were going as far as having voice-over interruptions in each track every few minutes. The voice-overs made for such a poor listening experience, most writers couldn't stomach listening to the album and in turn they wouldn't take the time to write about it either.

When did you get the feeling that you wanted something different?
It was a ton of work getting the music from the mailbox into our system so that our writers could listen and write their reviews. I would spend an entire day entering discs into our system. After a couple years of doing that, I hired someone to do it. I had to mail the packages to him and he would put a ton of work in -- there was no getting around it. About 5-6 years ago, high-speed internet was common and I wanted to come up with a better and more efficient way to get music out to the press that was powered by a web application.

What drove you to take that idea and make it a reality?
Back in 2007 I purchased the name and I wanted to start my idea of using a web application for promotions versus mailing out physical packages. I had a full time consulting job at the time and didn't have the energy to put into the new site. Then when the economy tanked about a year later, I was let-go from my job. I thought there would be no better time to dive head-first into a business than then. That's what I did.

Tell us about the main features of Haulix. How can artists benefit from using those features?
Within our system, you upload your promos, you manage your contact lists and you send out custom email invitations. Customers have fine grained control over a promo. They can set it to be streaming only or downloading only or both. They can even control how many times each contact can stream or download a track. The security and watermarking is all handled automatically behind the scenes. It's not uncommon for a new customer to import their contact list, upload an album and send out 1,500 email invitations in a matter of 20 minutes. From there, we track everything and the promo runs on auto-pilot. The benefits of promoting this way are that you can greatly decrease the chances of leaking while having global reach with people in the press. We've had many albums break their first week chart rankings partly because the album didn't leak and the promotional distribution was far reaching and efficient.

What have been some of the biggest challenges with Haulix in terms of growth?
Ironically, the moving parts of our software that handle music and watermarking were some of the easiest things to implement. By far the biggest challenge has been with outgoing email. Our customers send out over one million email invitations each month and those emails all have custom content, images, unsubscribe links and custom promo links that we generate. It's a massive undertaking to process all of those emails. We have a high-powered server that is dedicated to processing incoming email events so that we can track email deliveries, opens and bounces. It's a huge challenge to help our customers keep their contact lists "clean" while still staying out of their way. There's a sensitivity to spam now-a-days and so it's our responsibility to make sure our customers are sending invitations to people who want to receive them.

Haulix has a blog aspect hosted through Tumblr. What does having the tumblr bring to the table?
Our business is a very private and behind the scenes type of operation and we're happy to have it that way. Publicists in general are hard working people behind the scenes who make sure their artists get put into the spotlight. We desperately needed a strong public social presence. We added James S. to our staff about a year ago and he's done a phenomenal job managing our blog and overall marketing strategy. Our blog's main objective is to shine light on people who work in the music industry. They usually have an interesting story to tell which others around the world can learn from. We've recently expanded the blog to include a music industry job board. So many job websites are full of crap. We want to offer a place with good quality jobs that can take advantage of our audience -- which is made up of people who want to break into the industry or those who already work in the industry, and so the job board just makes sense bringing those people together.

Do you have any big plans for the platform? What advancements do you hope to make with Haulix next?
Yes, we have big plans. We are partnering up with a company called ToppleTrack and in the next couple of weeks or so, we will be offering automatic illegal link and file takedowns via the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Not only will we be protecting music as it goes out the door with our watermarks, we will now have aggressive processes crawling the internet looking for illegal links and issuing takedown requests. The combination of the two technologies will be extremely powerful in battling leaking and we are very excited about it!

Is there anything else you want people to know about Haulix?
We've had so many great customers share their stories on how Haulix has been a game changer for them and made their work/life easier. We truly believe the proof is in actually trying it out and experiencing what we can do for you yourself. All plans start with a 30 day trial. We invite anyone who is going to promote an artist or album to come try us out. Our first customers that joined us over 5 years ago are still with us today and we're very proud of that.

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