Interview: Matt Brown (Haulix)

Interview: Matt Brown (Haulix)

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In a time where the dreaded album leak continues to plague the music industry, Haulix is quickly becoming one of the most reliable services that is helping labels and preventing their releases from seeing the light of day earlier than planned.

Haulix is now used by a wide range of major and independent labels and continues to grow. The company was formed in 2009 out of Brown’s disbelief of labels’ heavy expenditure on promotional CD’s, and by using his Computer Science Degree and Music Journalism knowledge, Matt went about developing Haulix.

With emphasis on watermark technology, simplicity, and customer service, Matt and Haulix have a well-rounded product that serves its purpose greatly.

Already Heard recently spoke to Matt about Haulix, how it was formed, its advantages compared to other services, how they prevent album leaks, future plans and more.

Already Heard: Hi Matt. First of all can you explain your role for Haulix?
Matt: I am the Founder and CEO.

AH: For those who are unfamiliar with Haulix, can you tell us what its all about?
Matt: Haulix is a web-based system used for pushing watermarked music out to the press at the pre-release stage.

AH: I understand the catalyst for the service was that you grew tired making space for physical promos. What was the initial aim of Haulix?
Matt: Yes, my initial idea for Haulix came from being on the Journalist side of the coin rather than the Publicist side. I was running a music review-oriented website that had 20 writers and our post office box was overflowing every week with promotional CDs. I couldn’t believe these publicists were spending $2-$4 per package, not to mention all of the costs that came from manufacturing the actual discs. It got to the point where I had to hire someone to help input the discs that came in the mail into our websites database. The whole process seemed very inefficient and expensive to me.

AH: Since its launch, how has Haulix grown?
Matt: As a bootstrapped startup, things were very slow back in 2009 when we started. I was literally contacting labels one by one asking them to try the system out as we were continuing to build it. They would give us feedback and we would quickly make changes. Every year since then, we’ve experienced steady growth. From 2012 to 2013, we had a 75% increase in sales.

AH: Before forming the company, what was your experience within the industry?
Matt: I have a computer science degree and I run a music reviewing website that is 12 years old. I actually think its good that I didn’t come from a publicity background before starting Haulix. People in the music industry were set in their ways of doing things and it’s very hard to get people to change. I came into this seeing physical promotions as a flawed process that was screaming for some type of a software solution.

AH: Haulix is a service that continues to be taken on from labels and PR companies. What advantages does Haulix have compared to similar services?
Matt: Theres a couple of things.

One – Our watermarking technology. Our system automatically prepares uploaded tracks for the customer and automatically injects the watermarks when the media contact streams or downloads the album. Other services out there don’t offer watermarking at all, or if they do, they charge a fee per watermarked track – which I think is ridiculous. If a customer needs a track scanned, we take care of that as well. The strategy here, is to offer this backbone of anti-leaking security to the customer, all while making sure it stays out of their way and just works out of the box.

Two – Simplicity – Even for non-technical types people, our system is easy to use. I’ve watched hundreds of new customers register with the site and within 15 minutes they have their first promo uploaded and 500 contacts imported into their list. The average customer jumps in and gets to work right away. That simplicity extends over into our pricing as well. I personally dislike going to a website only to see they don’t post their prices and I have to talk to a sales person first. We keep pricing simple. No setup fees, no contracts, upgrade, downgrade, hibernate or cancel any time. You either like us and want to use us or you don’t.

Three – We know what its like to be a journalist. We listen to feedback from the press. We want to make the journalist experience as efficient as possible. We are the only service to compile all promos from all customers who send to the same email address and put them all on one screen. The journalist can hide a promo once they have written about it and the journalist doesn’t have to remember 10 different logins and passwords.

Lastly I know this sounds cliche, but our Customer Service. I’ve always admired how Tony Hsieh runs Zappos’ customer service. Bend over backwards for your customers – make sure all of their questions get answered and do it fast.

AH: From a personal perspective I like Haulix’s approach towards simplicity and design. How important is this in terms of Haulix’s ongoing growth?
Matt: It’s crucial. Adding features is obviously important, but a high number of features doesn’t dictate good software. Evolution of your service is all about refinement and trimming the fat off. We’re putting the finishing touches on our new public website and I’m literally going over every line of copy with a microscope. I’ll take a sentence and try to trim off words to make it clearer. I’ll come back the next day and re-visit that same sentence and try to refine it even more until I have the least amount of words to get the point across. We service people from all over the world who speak many different languages. Our application needs to be intuitive so that anyone can figure out how to use it with minimal effort.

AH: There is also emphasis on security, something which is a major issue within the music industry. Can you tell us how Haulix goes about securing promo releases and preventing them from getting into the wrong hands?
Matt: There’s no silver bullet security solution for everything. We take the layered approach, hitting security from multiple angles. Customers can set strict permissions on a per promo basis. That includes how many times a contact can stream and download the album, as well as the date the promo goes live and the date it expires. Haulix generates special links that go into the email invitations. The entire application’s web traffic is encrypted via https. Layered on top of all of that, is the watermarking security to deter leaking.

AH: Although services like Haulix are secure, the issue of albums “leaking” on to the internet continues to be an issue within the music industry. Are album leaks now expected?
Matt: Unfortunately, it’s expected that an album will leak after it’s released. We’re doing our best to deter leaking at the pre-release stage.

AH: How is Haulix improving to prevent leaks from happening?
Matt: Our customers send out millions of email invitations to the press each year. With one click, they can add a watermarking disclaimer to their invitations. I think people in the press expect some type of anti-leaking measures to be taken. We do everything we can to inform them that our tracks are watermarked. Four years ago, it was more about journalists turning their backs on digital promos – they wanted to get physicals only. Times are fortunately changing and digital promos are slowly becoming the norm and they expect watermarking to come with that.

We usually have at least two positive watermark scans for tracks that have been submitted to us each week. It’s then up to the customer to proceed with a slap on the wrist or full blown prosecution of the leaker. With more and more people in the press getting called out on leaking, word spreads around and people realize we take leaking seriously.

You’re always going to have people with malicious intent. But I think most journalists are happy being able to build a massive collection of digital albums while knowing they are not supposed to share them with anyone.

AH: I know your clientele consists of major and well-known Independent label but what can Haulix provide for smaller labels and unsigned bands, especially those who don’t have a big budget?
Matt: Step one if you are an unsigned band or small label, is to build a list of media contacts. That definitely doesn’t mean sending out a mass email blast to a bunch of websites. This is something that takes time and hard work. While competitors of ours supply their own watered down lists of people in the press, I believe the true bread and butter of a healthy promotion, is sending out promos to contacts you have a working relationship with – or at the least, someone you personally ask permission to add to your contact list. James on our team recently blogged about pitching people in the press – it’s a good read if anyone is interested in going deeper into this subject.

Once you have that list of contacts, even if it’s 50 to start out with, that’s great. Now you’re ready to use a system like Haulix to quickly push your music out to those people in your list. If you’re working on a tight budget, we offer a starter plan for $19 per month.

AH: Our site often receives promos in a variety of ways with services like Soundcloud, Dropbox and Bandcamp proving to be popular. What are your thoughts on these services? Is there anyway you would incorporate them into Haulix?
Matt: I think those services are all great at what they do. Pushing music out to the press isn’t their primary focus though, its kind of a secondary type thing with them. And the one key component that is missing, is watermarking security. At this point in time, I cannot see us integrating any of those services into what we do via their APIs. I don’t see any advantage.

AH: You’ve recently launched a blog which puts the focus on various issues and personalities within the music industry. What is the purpose of this?
Matt: Our primary way of getting new customers has always been by word of mouth and the nature of our business is to be very secure and private. (Most promos you have to be invited to view them, etc.) Our public presence has been minimal. I recently hired James (Shotwell) to manage our social media presence so that we can get our name out there and educate people in the industry at the same time.

AH: Going forward what does Haulix have planned in the coming months? Can we expect any changes to the service?
Matt: We’re putting the finishing touches on a new public website, once again going for an ultra clean and minimal look. One of our developers is about two weeks away from an overhaul to our email invitation system. Customers will get detailed feedback about their campaigns – like emails that were delivered, who opened them, bounces, etc. We’re also exploring the possibility of offering a service for watermarking streaming video.

There are lots of exciting things happening. It’s really hard to even keep up with the growing to do list.

AH: Do you have any final words to close this interview?
Matt: Thanks for the interview!

Haulix links: Official Website|Twitter|Facebook

View Haulix’s interview with Already Heard Founder & Senior Editor Sean Reid HERE.

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)