Exclusive Interview with Haulix’s Founder, Matt Brown, and Director of Customer Engagement, James Shotwell
If you work in the music industry, you are no doubt familiar with Haulix; if you’re just a music fan who frequents media outlets like this one, then Haulix has had an impact on you whether you realize it or not. In less than a decade, Haulix has become the platform of choice for scores of labels and publicists to distribute digital promos. We are not exaggerating when we say that MetalSucks receives at least ninety percent of all promos via Haulix. The service is as valuable as any other tool in common use throughout the industry.
So when offered the chance to discuss Haulix with both is founder, Matt Brown, and its Director of Customer Engagement, James Shotwell, we jumped at it! You can check out our entire chat below. A big part of Haulix’s job, obviously, is to ensure that promos don’t leak (and before you ask, no, we did not receive Converge’s Axe to Fall via Haulix), so we focused largely on that aspect of their service. But they have lots to offer beyond just combatting piracy! Read on to find out more…
For readers who don’t know, what, exactly, is Haulix?
We are a software company. We’re the middleman between publicists and people in the press.
Haulix is a web-based service used by music industry publicists to send stream and download invites out to magazines, blogs and radio stations. It’s usually done at the pre-release stage, and we use special technology that injects the listener’s finger prints (watermarks) into the music to deter early leaks.
Traditionally [before digital ruled the world], labels would mail out CDs and then hope for coverage and anticipate the album leaking early. With Haulix, they upload the album once and then send out email invites to people to stream or download the music. It’s a very controlled process, and when we prevent early leaks, albums usually have better opening sales.
What, in your opinion, makes Haulix superior to other, similar services?
There are a lot of competitors popping up every year, which is fine; it keeps the fire lit under our asses. We’ve got several years of traction built up and a positive following from people in the press who prefer receiving our promos. You can’t buy traction like that, it takes years of hard work and word of mouth to build it up.
Another edge we have is how we treat our customers. In this world with shitty customer support, we go above and beyond to take care of our customers and the people they send promos to. We know and address most clients by first name. We answer support tickets and watermark scan requests within minutes of receiving them.
Our system is intuitive and easy to use. Most new customers jump in and have their first promo created and sent out within 20-30 minutes — no user manual required.
One of the big concerns for a company such as Haulix, obviously, is combatting piracy. How does Haulix go about doing this?
We approach the fight against piracy first and foremost from a place of education. Everyone knows about music piracy, but very few know how it happens and what can be done to prevent it. Through our social media, blog, and live appearances, we aspire to educate people about the realities of piracy in the modern age. People seem to believe streaming solved our problems, but 2016 was the worst year for digital piracy on record, with more than double the amount pirated compared to piracy in 2008. That number is expected to double again by 2020 unless serious changes take place.
We offer watermarking to clients, which allows us to track leaks back to their source as long as that source is a Haulix user. Clients have strict control over the lifespan of a promo. They set the live and expiration dates as well as how many times each recipient can stream or download the music. Our links to promos are encrypted with a back-end login process and every user protects their promo repository screen with a passcode.
How has the fight against piracy changed over the past several years?
As music has become increasingly easy to access, it has also become increasingly easy to pirate. There are also industry trends that encourage piracy rather than work to prevent it. For example, streaming exclusives. If an album or song is exclusively available on a streaming platform other than the one a consumer already subscribes to, they are far more likely to access a pirated version of that material rather than sign up for the service just to hear a single release. Jay-Z’s 4:44, which was a Tidal exclusive earlier this month, was torrented over one-million times in the first twenty-four hours of release. That number does not include pirated copies gained through third party download services like dropbox, etc.
Thankfully, most of the industry seems to have found this to be true as well, which explains the lack of major exclusives in recent months.
Haulix is mostly concerned with preventing leaks before an album is out. Do you have anything to add about piracy that occurs once an album has been released?
Piracy in a post-release world is sadly, unavoidable at this point in time. As soon as everyone has access to the material, leaks are next to impossible to prevent. There are entire services dedicated to helping people rip and steal music from services like Spotify, YouTube and Pandora. Copyright owners can use DMCA services to issue takedown requests, but even that is an uphill battle and by the time the music is “out there,” the damage is done.
I’m 41 years old and maybe I’m just old school, but the fact that we have no problem buying a coffee for $6-$8 that takes two minutes to prepare, yet people won’t spend $10 for a digital album that took the artist 6-12 months to create, that will in turn give the listener a months of enjoyment… it just baffles me how spoiled the new generation has become.
Are there any other new features/improvements coming to Haulix that you can share with us at this time?
We just pushed out a new public website that is optimized for the mobile experience. We are now going through the application and re-building screens 1-3 at a time. Our first update will be the My Promos and Profile screens that press people interact with. Our current screens have been live for several years. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about what customers want, and web development technologies have progressed. We’re excited to push out new screens with a fresh coat of paint. Once that phase is complete, we’ll get back to adding new features.
We wanted to add that a new ‘MyPromos’ and ‘MyProfile’ screens will soon be live. We’ve also added a page to our site that highlights