Word Count: 3603
Takes: 7 minutes and 25 seconds to read.
Perhaps quite a one of a type interview this time people. Today’s interview is with a USA Major who happens to be also the owner of a quite big developed music site. “Taz” aka real name: Johnathan M. Hurwitz, took some time in answering some of my questions. Taz is the owner and founder off: It’s All About Music (IAAM) – For Those Who Love Music
With 3500+ words this featured interview is also our biggest interview published thus far on IY. This is part 1 of the total 2 parts of this interview.
(1) Max Pen: So Johnathan to the people who are unknown to you who you are, can you give us a short bio of yourself and role in founding: It’s All About Music – For Those Who Love Music?
Johnathan: I am 43 years old, married to a super gal, Myleen and we have two wonderful boys. Each are big fans of music at the young age of nearly 1 for Elijah and 2 and a half for Samuel. I have a BS/BA in Finance and Economics from Creighton University (CU) and Graduate Degree (MA) in Economics from the University of Oklahoma (OU). I have been in the Military for nearly 16 years, traveled the world, seen some real good places and a few bad ones.
I have played guitar for nearly 25 years, played Drums for 2 years and I sing, yes I really can. Music is a big part of my life and I wanted to create a place that was organized, and have value to a member who seeks to share their favorite genre or learn about another. I started the site and I am pleased with how it has evolved.
(2) Max Pen: Your username is currently: “Taz” on this board, you have also gone by the username of Johnathan in the past and Tazmania I believe? Which other usernames have you used on forums in the past until now? Which one is the most used? Your most liked one? (Even if not most used.)
Johnathan: Some of those names were used on boards I do not own, so when Taz was taken I had to come up with something else. I use Johnathan when I moderated a very large drum forum. Tazmania I use on another forum because Taz was already taken, but being the boss of my own forum, I finally got Taz.
(3) Max Pen: About your portal-frontpage: frontpage look , Did you code everything on it yourself? Or did you do it yourself but got help by someone who is a expert in the field?
Johnathan: For the site portal, I did that myself but that was no easy project. I have asked others with more experience how things should be done but the actual development beyond the theme was my own. You start off with a template and build from there. I can’t take credit for the templates but the development and refinement of the end product I can. I have great admiration for the folks that create raw code and come up with fantastic styles/themes etc.
(4) Max Pen: (See the above picture.) How did you came up with the idea of showcasing banners of the site, each if you click on them going to a other part of the forum? Did you make all banners yourself or is it a collection of stuff the “IAAM” team made?
Johnathan: The Portal pics. Are album covers, the concept to click and be taken to a particular place on the site is somewhat embed in the Portal itself. The Portal theme is used by realtors and other such professional who want to showcase their goods and services. I played around with the theme and decided this is the one for IAAM. I found another that I may use, it’s a super template that is even smoother and has a few more features.
(5) Max Pen: You got a number “1204” on the frontpage, it changes sometimes to a other number. What is it for, isn’t it something on the page that has no real use? (To view what I mean, see the red circle in the picture, at the bottom.)
Johnathan: That is a counter, lets you know how many times someone has been there, though it’s misleading, Example: If you restore your site from a backup you lose hits so the counter falls back to the point of a restored backup. I may remove that code all together.
(6) Max Pen: Your music site has a featured group of the week, this time it’s: “Cheap Trick”. How do you or others select a group to be featured for a whole week? Have you noticed that on the frontpage there is a little bug: (bug pic) Do you or other members spot now and then a bug or 2 on this site? The most irritating and most funny bug you encountered? (For the last question, doesn’t have to be on IAAM.)
Johnathan: We rotate the featured artist each week, my team gives ideas on whom to feature. We want to feature a variety so potential members see we are not a one genre board. There is no bug, what may have occurred is a delay in the stream of the video, that can happen based on traffic, the server etc. Bugs are interesting, you do not want them but you learn so much from them. Irritation is just having them, especially when you think everything is finally smooth but the reality is, there is always a bug out there and that is what makes it funny, i.e. the expectation you won’t have them.
(7) Max Pen: It’s All About Music (IAAM) is the second version of your project. What happened with the first and original IAAM? Do you still remember the amount of members, topics, posts? How did your staff and members reacted on this lose, setback? Did you lose a large part of your member base or did most members re-join the board?
Johnathan: Backup, Backup, Backup of which I failed to do and I hit the wrong file and deleted my entire board. We had 200 members and about 2,000 posts… I was very fortunate to have my team, Rebel (Co-Founder) and Jack (Admin) who spent hours with me recreating the entire board from memory. We had about 50 members of the 200 come back. We were a fresh board and our reputation had not been established so those reaming 150 took their time elsewhere. A very unfortunate event. As detailed as I am, I should have known better, the failure to backup was costly.
(8) Max Pen: Do you think it’s the best thing that ever happened to you and the others, starting from scratch again? When you had to start over from the ground how did your staff take it? Did you take it hard or did you accept the situation and just went for it to build it up again?
Johnathan: I do think in this case it is the best error one could go through from a board owner’s perspective. The team was/is dedicated so rebuilding was not an issue. The key is to ensure early on you have a solid team, i.e. ones who will stick by you in the good and bad. Rebel and Jack are that way. Now our two new Global Moderators are super (ACDCLOVR and TheRiseoftheAnimal), they too are dedicated but they were not on the original team when I crashed the board. However, I ask them to do something or there is an issue with the site, they are on it. I am impressed with the desire they have to learn and excel, both GMs are about 15 years old. Whereas, the Admins are in there 20′, 30′, and 40’s. A good mix I think.
(9) Max Pen: What have you learned so far with managing the first and second (current) IAAM site? Any tips, key tools you recommend others to use ‘ASAP’when starting a board?
Johnathan: A good question. Set a staff criteria right away and stick to it. Our current policy is; you may not own or moderate on another board if you want to be on the IAAM team. I want/expect a dedicated team that is loyal to one board and only one board, that is IAAM. Being a member of another board is fine but once you start working on other boards, your focus starts to degrade. Be patient with your staff but let them know after all ideas are vetted the decision rests with the owner and in this case that is me.
95% of the time I implement what the team presents, the other 5% they have to trust me that I know what I am doing. We are one of the most organized music forums of our type. Our posting format is there for a reason, it allows for faster search, streamlined bot access and it simply is more professional than tossing a bunch of topics out there without direction. The team makes sure we keep it that way. Never hire anyone who asks to be a mod and they just joined your board. Want to be on my team, you have to post, bring in new members, be active and have been a member for at least 90 days. Some might say, I am being too strict, for me this works and my team gets rewarded i.e. gift cards, CDs etc. So the expectation is not unrealistic.
(10) Max Pen: Can you tell us what you did before on the internet of site projects before you started with this music site? Where you already involved being a active member on some forums?
Johnathan: I was a moderator for a very large, over 5,000 member site that had at least 25% active members at a given day of which is fantastic. Other than that, with my work I would be traveling so no other site projects. Some have approached me to help them code and develop their boards. I do assist when I can but if it’s a major project, then I ask for a little fee.
(11) Max Pen: Tell us your story of how you got into music and how much more you got into it along the way? You also play the guitar for like 20 years, can you show us a video or more of your best plays? Or just your favorite ones.
Johnathan: My Mom is very talented she can sing so I grew up with music in the house from a young age. I sang in choir, picked up the guitar at 12 or 13 years of age… Funny, my first guitar was a Sears Catalog Guitar and it was awesome. I have had 10 or so other guitars since then, Fender, PRS, Gibson, Epiphone, Takamine just to name a few. My drum kit is a Mapex Pro M Birch. I never played with a stage band, just friends getting together for a good time so I do not have any stage vids. I have a couple vids. on my site in the: Family and Friends Pic. and Vid. section.
(12) Max Pen: Your project from the start of the first version until right now. How old would IAAM be then? Do you think from this point it will only get better for this site? (In activity, quality, one of a type site, member base faster increasing etc …)
Johnathan: The current site will be one year old March 2011, if we had not started over we would be 18 months old and likely well over 300 members. We are about quality, I think too many site owners place an over amount of emphasis on quantity, i.e. members. We want Quality Members, active participants. All too often site owners rush for I’ll join yours if you join mine…. those type of relationships die off most of the time and you end up with dead accounts. I am not saying do not affiliate but be choosy in whom you do it with. My staff and I seek out new members and we are happy with our growth, We enjoy seeing new accounts that come back to visit. In fact, we tell our guests, not to join unless they plan to come back.
(13) Max Pen: How long did it take for you to make this site original, is it thanks to the communication of members, staff all alike: Creative ideas like: Battle of the Bands or Band of the week came to exist? Or did most of the features we can see right now came from behind the scenes?
Johnathan: I can’t say our site is original when it comes to what we share, it’s how we share it that is unique. Battle of the Bands, Featured Artist etc are done on other boards as well but we think we have a more dynamic approach. The Global Mods (GMs) and a couple of our V.I.P.s came up with the current Battle of the Bands structure and we have gotten more participation as a result.
(14) Max Pen: You currently got 5 branches-ranks. You used to have a forum moderator rank, why is it gone? Also how would you rate the dedication of your forum team towards this project? Do they really make their time count on the site?
Johnathan: I can tell you, that ACDC and Animal are the best GMs we have ever had. They are dedicated and they take pride in the board. We do not have Forum Mods right now because we do not want to over staff our board. The GMs currently do both functions. They get rewarded from time to time as well. We are a monetized board, meaning the ads you see pay us to be there. I use those funds to pay for the site, contests and the team.
(15) Max Pen: What do you think is the most important tool for your site success so far? Has the road to this point been hard to achieve?
Johnathan: Our contest are awesome, we were fortunate to have a record label out of Canada allow us to promote two bands; one from Canada called Massive Slavery a Metal band that just got a contract to do a Rock Band Game vid and Subhuman out of Italy also Metal. We gave away 20 CDs shipped them across the globe. The various contest we held were fun and members enjoyed them. The road has been fun, it has had its challenges but nothing to complain about.
(16) Max Pen: You are also as a member active on other music boards (HH,LS,etc…) Do you think by supporting there board. As in posting a lot there, being a active helpful member. They (the owner) will do the same in return on your board. Did you also managed to establish a quicker solid foundation, thanks to doing that?
Johnathan: Yes, recall I stated to choose your affiliate carefully. Head Banger’s Haven and Loucifer Speaks both Metal sites are super, and we see value in posting on each other’s board. We all love music so it’s neat to see what’s hot out there. No one site can have it all so teaming up cross fertilizes membership and it’s been a big hit for us.
(17)Max Pen: What’s the best way to promote a forum or website from your own personal experience? The way to promote that is a waste of time?
Johnathan: Tough nut to crack. I have seen a lot of post package things on free promo boards, but I am not sure I like that. The package team members once done, is not likely to remain on your site as a member thus a dead account and the posts are often crappy. I do use free promo services like topistes of which IAAM has its own and it’s populating, this gives site owners who are members of IAAM a reason to come back but we do not require they join to use the service. You can also monetize these systems and earn a little revenue. Free promo boards for the most part are the same, site owners advertising to site owners, you may get a member or two but stop and think about it, if you are a site owner are really going to join another board and be active on it?
Some will claim yes, well I have a real world job so I can’t be a member of 50 boards. This said, targeted affiliating with other site owners as we do is good, Focus on no more than five free promo boards; they are all the same and many have the same members/site owners promoting on them, have not seen one yet that stands out to get members who do not own a site. What these promo sites should do, id come up with a matched affiliate system where their staff link various sites up together i.e. offer a targeted affiliate service not just that simple affiliate with us trash…. The only way to real way to get people who do not own boards, is paid advertising of which we are thinking of doing with Facebook and Craigslist. Get your banner on any topsite system you can, those do not require you to go back and post anything you do have to use their script in some cases if you want your banner to compete for the top slot. Word of mouth, get out there and tell everyone about your site. As you earn money, get T-shits something we are looking into.
(18) Max Pen: Are there talented artists who haven’t yet been discovered by music companies but maybe could make it in the music world someday? Can you show us self made music videos posted by 1 or more of your members? (The best 3 by your own personal taste.)
Johnathan: On our site we have unsigned artists. There are thousands out there across the genre spectrum and in fact may be better than commercialized music. One of our members has a blog on our site and covers this in detail. Clatahwa is always good for a music rant that will educate the “adroit music fan”
(19) Max Pen: IAAM has a twitter page but it has no followers, your facebook, myspcae have some likes. Have you noticed the twitter isn’t working out? What has been the best social network for your site so far to use as promotion tool, update tool towards its fans, …?
Johnathan: Twitter is not working for us but it’s because I do not know a lot of people with twitter. My staff and members tweet topics of which that is good. Myspace we started a few months back and it is growing, this said, if you want a mail order bride or hooker you can get one on Myspace. The spam is horrible and if they do not fix it, we may drop them. However, Facebook we have 63 followers of 133 members so to me that is good.
Facebook has worked for us. I used Sodahead and we had 200 followers but it died off and I simply hated the ads. Our site in every post allows a member to share on their own social network and they do. If you type in Google, It’s All About Music we are on the first page spot 1-5. Type our URL and we are all over the place. We are getting back links each month and for SEO this is important. SEO is an interesting animal, we do not make it our focus, it’s part of our business model but member focus is our priority.
(20) Max Pen: What are the goals you have set to achieve and so far which goals have been completed for the project? Thanks to who is this project possible? (As in without them the site would be nowhere as high as its now.)
Johnathan: We seek active members who love music. Our goal is to make your experience at IAAM one that will keep you coming back whether that is everyday or a few times per month. Our content goal is fluid, we want more and so we let the content be member driven. The Rock or Country section may be the hot genre of the week and the next Faith, R&B… It’s All About Music seeks ideas, we are assessing if we should expand and offer a Musician’s Corner. More and more of our members play instruments and are sharing their skills on our site, so a section for them may be in the works.
If you are asking for a stats goal, I would like to see us gain another 100 to 150 members in 2011. I know some will say, that’s nothing, but I seek active members. A board with 2,000 members and only 20 are active is not something to brag about, but many are proud to have lots of members and fail to look at activity. We have members who visit and do not post. Is this bad, no. I tell my team do not complain, these are active members, they visit and often. Activity is not just in posting, it’s visits as well. I thank my team for all the hard work, they truly are the backbone of the site. Our members are what keeps us going, they are who we want to please and we appreciate them.
“Finally, I thank Interviewed You (IY) for this opportunity to ask about our site. IY is unique and I enjoy visiting the site, I was humbled when approached to give you this information.”
Johnathan a really great enjoyable detailed interview to read. Thank you for your time put into writing down the answers. I hope everyone has a good read. -Max Pen