The Right Tune: Marketing Startup Music Audience Exchange Raises $6M

Dallas—If you think about it, executing a successful marketing campaign is similar to a match-making exercise done well.

But to try to ensure that a mutually beneficial relationship is formed, entrepreneur Nathan Hanks has added some data analytics to the match-making mix with his music-focused startup.

“The brands we are working with are in need of storytelling; artists have content but don’t have what brands have: the ability to access marketing power and prowess; media companies—like across streaming and video, like Pandora and YouTube—that we work with need better content,” he says. “We bring the three of them together.”

Hanks is co-founder and CEO of Music Audience Exchange, a Dallas startup that he says can address each of those needs through its marketing software platform. MAX, as the startup is called, announced today that it has raised $6 million in funding to help, bringing its total investment so far to $9 million. The funding round was led by Math Venture Partners and KDWC Ventures, with participation from G-Bar Ventures and Gregg Latterman, founder and CEO of Aware Records.

The three-year-old company crunches data of around 2.4 million artists (from mainstream stars to lesser-known musicians) recording today across 765 genres. It correlates that information with more than 200 consumer attributes—such as psychographic indicators (like whether the person is introverted or unconventional), geographic location, and occupation and income—to suggest artists that might appeal to different types of consumers. MAX primarily gets consumer data from its website where fans of featured bands enter in music preferences and demographic information.

“An artist can go to our site and register, get a link that can be shared via e-mail or social [media] with their fans,” Hanks explains. “People take the survey. The band gets a detailed report on their audience and the types of brands that make sense for them and we get valuable data for brand-artist matching.”

MAX’s website offers a few sample combinations:

  • Gen X-ers, who drive foreign cars, go bowling, and drink fruit juice? They like New Wave with a hint of jazz.
  • Millennial, 2nd generation Hispanics, who like to hike? That’s salsa and reggaetón.

MAX’s clients include Twix, Dr Pepper, and Jack Daniel’s.

Hanks previously co-founded ReachLocal, a digital media marketing firm that grew to half a billion dollars in annual revenues, with 23 employees in 15 countries, he says. “The big lesson there when dealing with 25,000 small businesses in 15 countries is that you get really good at doing digital marketing at scale,” Hanks says.

He decided to take the lessons learned at that firm and figure out a way to bring music into the marketing mix. Hanks has family members who worked as musicians and in radio. MAX co-founder George Howard is the former president of indie label Rykodisc and teaches at Berklee College of Music and Brown University.

“There’s more music being made by more artists than ever before, but because of the massive consolidation in the industry, even with explosion of content, more and more of the money is going to fewer artists,” Hanks says. “So how do you get people to it? We live in push society. Somebody’s going to have to toe that content up in front of you.”

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