A Conversation with… Cliff Hunt
Cliff Hunt is the co-founder and Vice Chairman of publicly traded Yangaroo, a Canadian digital content distribution platform that embeds security features in all the files that it distributes to global media for its clients. The company has gone through a lot of twists and turns, but now employs 40 people and is a growing concern. Cliff discusses the growth of Yangaroo — but his longstanding history in the music biz affords him both perspective and a wealth of great stories. He shares both with us in this informative, sometimes humorous story about tech, the biz and acts that have won him over or left him shaking his head or waving his fists.
Bill King: Let’s start off with a bit of background to your company and what it does…
Cliff Hunt: My company is called Yangaroo. We launched in 2003 delivering audio tracks for record companies. We had two initial development partners and one was EMI and Deane Cameron and the other, Gary Slaight at Standard – when he used to own Standard Broadcasting. They worked with us – Gary gave us a couple stations to play with and Deane gave us some tracks and we developed this service to digitally transfer music from the record companies to the radio stations. By 2005 the entire Canadian music industry had moved to the digital world. We were the first entire industry to make that move.
One thing led to another and we moved into music videos delivered over the Internet – high definition music videos and we partnered with MTV in New York and Viacom and they helped launch that service for us in the U.S. We now deliver over 90% of all music videos in America. We sort of morphed by accident into the awards show business. The Junos came to us about six years ago and asked if there was any way they could digitize what they were doing. They were sending out literally thousands of CDs to all their judges for review – so many submissions are coming in and they are getting hundreds of pounds of wasted discs from submissions in the various categories.
We put effort and time into that and built a digital platform we launched with the Junos and within a year they found their revenue had increased by thirty-per cent because it was all digital and they were getting more submissions and they charge for those. It was a much more efficient process that eliminated ballot stuffing and all of that kind of stuff that used to go on. It worked.
A friend of mine in Los Angles suggested I meet Neil Portnow who is the head of the Grammys and a good friend of his. I flew down with my Chief Technology Officer, Richard Klosa, and met with Neil Portnow and his team and they were looking for a new solution and the next thing you know, the Grammys embraced it. We are now going into our sixth year with the Grammys and that led to the BET Awards, the MTV VMAs, the Academy of Country Music Awards, Dick Clark Productions, – we do the Emmys and this year we just signed the Golden Globes. We have four of the biggest award shows in the world right now.