Journalism Tips #29 – Why It’s Never A Good Idea to Forward Your Haulix Promos

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the latest edition of our long-running Journalism Tips series. We started this column as a way to help aspiring writers get their start in music, but over the couple months we have been evolving into a place writers come to have their questions about life in the business answered. This entry was created in regards to a question we found on a journalism forum earlier this week, and we think the solution could very well keep many young writers from inadvertently becoming the source of a future music leak.

This blog exists to promote the future of the music industry, and to do that we need input from people like you and your music-loving friends. If you have any questions about the content in this article, or if you have an artist you would like to see featured on this blog, please contact james@haulix.com. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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As we mentioned above, this specific column came to life after a forum post was brought to our attention earlier this week. The message read:

“Okay…. I just want to make sure I’m not making some rookie mistake. When I get haulix invites or private links, I forward it to my writer depending on their tastes, yeah? Obviously, you’re not supposed to share the invite, and my writers sign a disclaimer about not sharing music and if they do it’s on them, but surely they don’t mean "do not forward this to a writer?” I just ask because I got Finch’s album from razor and tie and she asked me to please not share it. I would never do that outside of sharing it with ONE writer that is writing the review.”

This is not an uncommon question, and to be honest we are kind of glad someone brought this post to our attention as it provides the perfect opportunity to address this concern on a large scale.

To put it the simplest terms possible: You should never share a Haulix promo. There is messaging included with every promo sent out that informs recipients their promos are not to be shared, but there are many who do not follow this request. By sharing Haulix promos you are not only breaking the trust of the label/publicist who sent you that material, but you are also putting yourself in a position to face severe legal repercussions should that material find its way onto the internet.

Most promos sent from Haulix are injected with numerous watermarks that not only identify the original recipient, but also the geo-locations of every person who accesses the respective promo. You should check each promo you receive to know whether or not that particular advance has a watermark. If you share your watermarked promo with someone, and that person later leaks the material online, our tools will point to you as the person responsible for the piracy. You may not have leaked the album yourself, but because the record was entrusted to you it is your responsibility to ensure it is not made available for public consumption. Should that occur, any legal action taken to recoup lost profits will be made against you and not the friend who you allowed to enjoy your advance.

To better explain what happens when an album leaks, we asked Rey Roldan of Another Reybee Production to share some of his experience with piracy:

“A blogger who is part of this site once sent a download of a band I was working with to two writers. One of his writers leaked the album (it was a very highly coveted advance). When we traced it back, we found his watermark. Label, management, band and I were thisclose to taking this a step further in the legal direction. While the writer was responsible for the leak, said "blogger” was ultimately responsible because he breached the contract (I often tick off the “watermark warning” with writers who I am unsure of, just as an extra warning). We got very close to making it legal but we opted to re-strategize and move forward. 

I know some editors pass round links designated for them and it sucks. I usually often tell editors that if they are assigning a writer, give me their email address so I can get them their own watermarked music. To be honest, do YOU trust your writers to NOT leak music? If they did leak it, do you want to be legally and professionally responsible for that because YOUR watermark is on that music? God forbid, you pass your streak or download to a writer who inadvertently leaks it, do you want to become that industry pariah?

The music industry is really pretty tiny… Make the wrong move and it can follow you… Be smart about this… Request a link for anyone who is reviewing it for you. Don’t take the fall for anyone because it can happen a LOT easier than you think.”

Some sites may believe an easy solution to this problem is to have one email dedicated to receiving promos that every contributor can access. This may work at first, but should any member of your staff leave the site it is of the utmost importance you change both your email password, as well as your 4-digit Haulix passcode. That way, if they have a promo link and/or access to a promo, they can’t get to ***all**** promos, because they won’t know the passcode.

Likewise, if you allow writers to reach out to publicists on their own and one of your writers decides to leave your site, make sure you inform all publicists the writer has left and is no longer a part of your writing team. If not, that person may continue to receive advances that are linked to your site. Should something happen to those files, it may come back to you.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and the reputation of your site is to first do a good job vetting your writing staff. Make sure you trust everyone you send releases to not only as writers, but as professionals in the industry. If you would not trust a writer to contact a label directly you might not want them handling advance releases.

Haulix has no say in what happens to individuals caught sharing watermarked materials. We are simply a middle man between journalists and labels. It’s up to our customers to handle the situation how they see fit. 

Additionally, you should ALWAYS request additional promos if someone other than you will be reviewing material you have been sent. It may seem like this complicates or otherwise draws out the assignment process, but publicists would rather know who is in possession of their music than have less work to do. For example, let’s say I send you, a blog owner, a copy of my client’s album for your site. You receive the promo, pass it off to a writers, and several days later send me a link to a review of my client’s album written by someone who is not you. Who is this third party? How did they get the watermarked music I sent you? Are they someone I can trust? I have a million questions about this anonymous person. In fact, I may not want to send you another advance if I think you’re going to pass it off to more people I do not know.

It’s easy to understand why forwarding promos seems like a quick solution to the issue of how to get advances from one person to another, but actually taking part in such efforts puts you, your reputation, the livelihood of your site, and possibly even the reputations of your contributors at risk. It takes less than a minute to request additional promos, and doing so keeps you out of trouble.

Don’t risk a leak just to save time. It’s just not worth it.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.