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Interview: Haulix founder Matt Brown on recovery, new updates, future plans

When it comes to music, the primary focus of conversation may center on the adulation of certain artists, genre preferences, and the like. But in truth, it is the services distributing the music that are of equal importance to the artists who help create it.

Haulix is one of particularly upstanding quality. Since its formation in 2009, the service has become a pivotal expeditor for promotional media in an era where digitality reigns dominant. Album pre-releases, press kits and promo photos are all accessible with just a few clicks.

Matt Brown, Haulix’s founder, took some time out of his schedule to discuss recent happenings within the service. Among them are a reassessment of its impact on clientele, several key updates, and enduring assets which allow the service to contend in today’s music industry. The road to recognizing these changes proved a hard lesson learned. Nonetheless, Brown and his team would ultimately pull through.

ME: Last year, as I understand, you’d experienced a devastating outcome when attempting to launch a wholly revamped Haulix.

Matt: Yeah, we definitely bit off more than we could chew with that launch. We built a new site, added performance enhancements to the back end and we even updated the hosting to use different server topologies. Haulix has a lot of moving parts and every little thing you change can introduce new issues. We spent a very large amount of money on this project and at the end, we were over-budget and still uncovering small issues. Not to mention, many customers had a hard time adjusting to the look and feel of the new user interface, even though it seemed better.

ME: What was it that initially inspired you to make such a change?

Matt: We just wanted to go that extra mile and blow people away with this massive new site, and it turned out that building everything new, no matter how shiny and expensive, wasn’t necessarily the right solution.

In the end, we made the difficult decision to roll back to the previous version of our site. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through! We care so much about our customers; it hurt to put them through that downtime. I chalk it up to a very expensive learning experience. We will never perform a launch like that ever again.

ME: I gather you were repairing a hefty financial, not to mention emotional strain. When all was resolved, how did you work to gather your thoughts after experiencing that low point?

Matt: When you are the owner, no matter what happens good or bad, it falls onto your shoulders. Employees and customers punch out at the end of the day, but the CEO’s responsibilities are a cloud that follows you around and even hovers while you sleep.

After the storm cleared, I went through some therapy sessions (laughs)! I was told my feelings were a result of PTSD. We put the past behind us and pressed forward. In the end, we continued doing what we have always done, and that’s take care of our customers. Period.

ME: Upon realizing your focus wasn’t creating a whole new version, but tweaking what you currently had, what were the most important things you’d learned based on the feedback of your clientele?

Matt: We recognized that the previous system we had in place was great and people loved it. Our new strategy is to perform software updates in small increments. We are still working on a new look and feel with the latest and greatest technologies under the hood, but we are going to do it in a way so that current customers will see the new coat of paint but still notice everything is in the same places. We are going through each screen and updating the user interface, making sure they are mobile friendly too.

ME: While these changes were being made, how did you make sure that you and your team were consistently on the same page with one another?

Matt: We work remotely, and so there is heavy use of Google Hangouts for video meetings. All developers check code in and out of a central source control system. Projects are also managed in a shared environment.

ME: As far as recent updates to the system, some notable tweaks include faster load times, new guides/walkthroughs, and perhaps the most notable, a complete overhauling of the site. Could you go into a bit about the specifics of each process?

Matt: Our first project was a new public facing website that has a tour of our services, pricing and a registration form. The look is similar to that of the site we used in the failed launch. It’s built from the ground up with new technologies that make it all responsive for viewing in mobile and desktop devices. The code base is leaner resulting in better performance.

We also beefed up our online support with a set of new getting started guides. Most new customers hit the ground running and create and send out a promo within 15-20 minutes. The guides are there to give an overall introduction to the mostly used parts of the application.

ME: You’d also began focusing your attention on the My Promos and Profile pages. What can you tell me about how these updates are coming along?

Matt: We’re really excited about these screens. It’s the interface used by press people, bloggers, magazines and radio station people. We are about halfway done. They will have a fresh new look and even though we have a mobile experience right now, the new screens will work better and faster in said devices. Right now, We’re concentrating on the My Promos screen and really understanding how press people use the screen and its performance. We want to offer more filters and sorting so that new promos show up top. We are going to list all promo senders in one column. Click a sender and it will load their promos in another column. Promo recipients will continue to have a great screen that showcases all promos sent to them from all Haulix customers.

ME: In what ways would those updates help improve user accessibility?

Matt: Every screen gets extensive testing to make sure it looks and works nicely in phones, tablets and desktops. There’s new technology we use that makes the screens responsive based on the client’s environment.

ME: What kind of role does Haulix play in an ever-present streaming music climate?

Matt: We are that middleman who is behind the scenes in the pre-release stage. Clients use us to distribute music out to the global tastemakers before it’s officially released to the large streaming services. Our watermarks (finger printing) technology protects from early leaks which results in bigger opening sales.

ME: Amidst the changes the way music is being presented, one issue that still remains rampant is piracy. Especially nowadays, how might Haulix help to curb that issue?

Matt: Haulix offers a very controlled environment for managing and distributing pre-release music. Preventing music from leaking before release is important for obvious reasons. If we can help increase opening week sales, I feel like we did our job. It makes me happy to see Haulix promoted albums breaking their chart placement records!

ME: Lastly, do you have any info as to when these new updates will go live?

Matt: We are going to continue doing incremental changes at a steady consistent pace. The My Promos and Profile screens should be ready within the next two weeks. From there we are going to overhaul the actual Promo screens. After that, we will start going through all of the other application screens. And finally, once the current screens are updated, we will start adding new features. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon!

For more info, visit www.haulix.com

About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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