Getting your name out there in the music business was tough before the internet came along. Things got way more complicated with emerging media, so old business models have been trying to hang in there ever since. Frisco-based Music Audience Exchange, known as MAX, is taking a modern approach to helping artists navigate their way to a wider audience.
MAX started a few years ago, and its mission statement is, “We get music fans.” Rosemary Waldrip, vice president of marketing, sees MAX’s approach as the flipping of an old script. It combines branding, researching, marketing, analytics and distribution.
“Instead of a musician making an ad for a brand, it’s the brand that’s making a promotional piece for the artist,” Waldrip says. “It’s all about their songs, their stories, their fans. Whatever it is the artist is promoting.”
Working with companies such as Ford, McDonald’s, Dr Pepper and Jack Daniel’s, the artist gets to be seen and heard. It’s more than licensing a song for an advertisement. The aim is to promote the artist through radio ads and TV commercials, as well as placement on streaming services and YouTube videos.
The company works with all kinds of artists, from Flyleaf to Marc Broussard to Bri Bagwell. Six of its clients were nominated for Grammy Awards this year. Because of the partnerships they made, the musicians were heard by a broader audiences. It helps that people who have loved music all their lives founded and run MAX.
Company founder Nathan Hanks' mother and uncle were touring musicians. He saw firsthand the difficulty in establishing credibility. He wanted to start a digital marketing company that got around the major-label stranglehold on the music industry. The goal was to create a meritocracy, allowing more artists greater access.
“We’re really focused on the fact that there’s a massive group of artists that have passionate fan bases they’ve built on their own because there wasn’t access to promotions,” Waldrip says. “They’re busting their asses to build this career, yet all of the dollars continue to flow upwards to the upper echelon.”
Building a mutually beneficial relationship between an artist and a brand is a lucrative way to advertise and market. “The results for both sides are incredible,” Waldrip says.
MAX's new monthly event series, “On the Record,” has artists talk about their experiences with the company and play some songs in the company's home office.
“We wanted to find a way to bring that more to the forefront of our culture as a company,” Waldrip says. Dallas-based Northern National was the January guest. The next event is Feb. 22 with La Reunion Nortena.
“We’re looking to make this part of our business,” Waldrip says.
With a data office in Culver City, California; a presence in Chicago, New York and Atlanta; and remote employees in El Paso and Houston, the company doubled its full-time staff in 2017.
“It’s an exciting time,” Waldrip says. “We’re looking to shake things up in music.”