Joel T. Jordan has over 20 years of experience in the music industry, from running his own punk rock label as a teenager to founding Synchtank in 2007. We sat down with the Synchtank daddy to talk about why he started it, what the company has to offer for organisations big and small, and where things are headed.
Hi Joel, can you take us through what Synchtank does?
Synchtank is a simple but powerful cloud based program for organizing and managing music catalogues, plus their corresponding rights and metadata, making it interactive and accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Synchtank puts in one place a solution to address the many various tasks that any professional rights holder has to deal with on a daily basis. We have created an ever-growing and evolving set of tools that enables any size organization to easily market, pitch, distribute, sell and license directly to their own customers through a completely configurable interface that is their own brand and their own website. We sit in the background and add a technology overlay to ease processes and make professionals more efficient at their jobs. The program is delivered via a monthly hosted subscription based on the size of the hosted catalogue and do not participate in any sales or commissions.
What made you create Synchtank in the first place?
It was borne out of my frustration at not being able to access, manage, and showcase my music catalogue. For over 20 years my twin brother Jason and I had been quietly running our small vinyl and digital indie labels, through which we signed master and publishing rights to hundreds of great songs. So there was a pretty sizeable music collection, but I had no real picture of what it all looked like, let alone a way to really interact with it, promote it or even begin to monetize it.
After working for a little while on organising and promoting the works as best I could through existing methods, it didn’t take long to see the massive amount of time and effort it would take to keep this going day after day. The tasks were the same over and over outside of networking and getting connected – that’s the hardest part, but the other arduous bits were the tasks around the catalogue – searching, tagging it ad-hoc in iTunes, flipping through an endless spreadsheet for rights information, assembling playlists, zipping and uploading to a sharing site that had nothing to do with my brand, emailing back and forth with clients, and then keeping track of every step I had done in another spreadsheet so I could someday make sense of it all. It never changed, and most of the time I was so busy working on one project that I missed other opportunities. I figured if these are the steps, then there has to be a way to put them all together within a single environment.
This was the basic idea for an online portfolio that could give me a single location to organize my assets and data, help me tell my story to clients and potential customers more easily, and keep track of everything I and my clients were doing so I could make informed decisions in the future based on data not memory. This was Winter 2007 and I couldn’t find anything out there that did what I was imagining, so I drew it out on a piece of paper and called my friend Dave, who was the bassist in my punk band in college and with whom I had worked with a few years earlier at a well-known metal label. I was doing art direction and design and he was their web guy, but a real talent, not just some weirdo off the street. So I convinced him to help me ‘build a website’ (chuckles) from scratch, not with any existing content management system or framework whatsoever. As we kept adding on more and more functionality it was apparent there was something much more interesting here than my music collection only, and that’s the path I followed.
What challenges have you faced with a tech start-up?
My father always said I should’ve studied business at school. I was very busy chasing creative endeavours and making things happen but never really thinking about the basic rules of running or building a business. The exciting bit for me and the sole focus at the beginning was the creation of the product, not the ‘how do we turn this into a business?’ question that came about later. That was the biggest introduction to business for me, accepting what I didn’t know and sticking to what I did, and finding the other essential missing pieces to help me move this thing along. Then there’s the funding the actual creation, structure and growth plan of a business, plotting out the plan and sticking to it, and finding partners that are willing to take that journey with you, but that you can also see taking the journey with.
It would be similar to any business starting out, if you were making ice cream or mowing lawns, but navigating the music industry and tech and also straddling the middle bit where they meet is a lot to take on alone, especially when so much in both is constantly changing. So finding the right partners with the right mix of social and communication skills, business acumen and experience is essential. There has to be a balance, you can’t do everything yourself and expect to get anywhere. I have been incredibly lucky that one talented trustworthy person has led me to another and so on..
Can you tell us about some of Synchtank’s key clients?
Our key clients are both large and small and they influence different sectors of the business as they touch upon so many different facets of the industry. They range from larger multinational companies like Disney, Fox, The Orchard, Imagem, Red Bull Media House, Membran, Believe Digital, INgrooves, peermusic, and the like that have have larger catalogues, larger teams, multiple offices, multiple languages, and more complex requirements than a single-office indie publisher, with which the platform works just as elegantly.
Others include Sub Pop, Ghostly, Ultra, Big Machine, Primary Wave, Cooking Vinyl, Spirit, Alberts, Iceberg, Atlas, Bucks, Buddemusic, Reservoir, Small Town America, Zerokilled, Soundcheque, Silva Screen… No matter their size, they’re all brilliant and have very cool ideas that push us constantly to improve the platform. They’re all part of the conversation, which makes this job incredibly interesting as we get to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in the business that feel very strongly about the platform, as they’ve seen how it benefits their work. They can help guide as we aim to enhance it for the most logical and easiest use. We have been lucky to grow at the pace we have, so we’ve had time to interact with each client personally and learn more about their needs as rights holders so we can apply that immediately to the next conversation we’re having.
What’s been the highlight so far?
It was pretty great to be invited and brought to Iceland to speak at a conference last year about this thing created in my second bedroom. I thought that was pretty crazy. I love how an idea has been able to take me places and allowed me to participate in events when otherwise I would have been an audience member.
What was your favourite sync of 2014?
There are so many great ones. I like the Bacardi ‘Untamable’ campaign – the one featuring the Arctic Monkeys.
What’s to come for Synchtank in 2015?
We have a number of new products in the pipeline. The first being our new baby, Soundgizmo, which is a spin off of the Enterprise platform created for individuals like composers/producers, artists, and smaller shops. We’ve stripped away the Enterprise features and support larger companies require to get to the essence of what is really needed. Subscriptions for this platform are under $89/mo. to start, so we will be able to reach a wider range of users that we were previously unable to due to cost restraints. You can check out the platform at soundgizmo.com. Naturally we will keep progressing our Enterprise system and will be making a giant leap to version 3 this year, which will incorporate more functionality, deeper reporting, and a simplified, sleek design that will be more mobile-friendly.
We’ve also seen some amazing growth in our team over the last few years, from the operations and management side, to the developer, sales, and marketing side. We have a solid dedicated team and we hope this will continue to grow in the future. It’s all moving ahead, the software is evolving incredibly, and interesting things are happening around it. It’s been a bit of a exhilarating ride so far, but when I pause to think I know how much more there is to do, so in a way I feel like we’re just getting started..