Frisco startup MAX drives brand engagement through the power of music

This article was originally published on Crain’s Dallas here, and written by Nicholas Sakelaris.

Companies are desperate to reach young audiences in creative new ways as people ditch traditional radio and television for streaming services.

At the same time, local artists are looking for a break so they can get the exposure they need in an increasingly crowded music industry. Frisco startup Music Audience Exchange, or MAX, wants to be the matchmaker to bring those two together in a mutually beneficial relationship.

MAX recently leased a 10,000-square-foot space in the Hall Office Park in Frisco after raising $6 million in its second round of funding. The company got its start in Frisco and wanted to stay in the Plano and Frisco area.

“We feel like both of those communities are growing leaps and bounds and we certainly wanted to be a part of that,” said Steve Fullbright, COO of MAX. “That was a big driver for us."

The new space is much nicer, according to Fullbright.

“They have an appropriate stage. We often have artists come in and want to visit us and now they can show us what they do.”

MAX uses proprietary technology to catalog artists from 760 different genres of music, breaking the demographic down by age, location and race. Then, if a brand wants to reach a certain demographic in a certain city, they plug that into the software and find 10 or so artists that fit that profile.

“We’ll work with the brand and narrow it down to the top bands and engage with them,” Fullbright said. “In many cases, those bands are less known. It’s not the Taylor Swifts of the world.”

Artists they’ve worked with include Aaron Watson, Marc Broussard, Sarah Dunn, NEEDTOBREATHE and The Swon Brothers.

MAX creates, captures and distributes audio, video, social and live music experiences to fans across a multitude of channels. Included within the music is the brand, a sort of subtle product placement that doesn’t feel like a forced advertisement.

There are so many distribution channels available these days from YouTube and Pandora to iHeart Radio and Spotify.

“We’re pretty agnostic. We work with a number of of publishers in the process,” Fullbright said. 

Dana Wright, managing director of MATH Venture Partners in Chicago, led both rounds of funding because they believe in what the company is doing.

“Our whole thesis in terms of our investment is looking at companies with an unfair advantage in acquiring customers,” Wright said. “They were actively building relationships with customers. We see everything they’re doing, delivering results, generating leads and increasing sales lists.”

What MAX is doing could disrupt the music industry by helping artists launch singles, getting their songs added to playlists and changing the way artists are promoted while building content along the way for brands.

“We couldn’t be [happier] with the team, what they’re doing and how they’re actually delivering results,” Wright said.

The company has about 40 employees working in Frisco, New York City and Culver City outside Los Angeles.

While Southern California has always been a music hotspot, MAX likes having its roots in North Texas. And their success is helping to put the region’s startup community on the map for investors and venture capital firms.

“I believe the Dallas market has a lot of opportunity in it,” Wright said. “I was able to spend some time with other investors in Dallas and other startups that are there and it’s an untapped opportunity that just needs more capital to mature and grow.”