"The Good ones make it, the not so good ones fade away"
Suiciderock: Hitlantis, the new Fun and Visiual Way to Find Music. How did you get the idea for the whole thing?
Timo Poijärvi: It was three years ago when me and my friends got sick and tired of all that content services out there. No matter if it was MySpace, Youtube, whatever there is. They are all the same. You can immediately find the top 10, if you are lucky the top 40 artists there and than they have this advertisement banners. They provide too much stuff underneath the actual thing. That means you have a real problem if your product is not featured on the front page, and you don`t put any effort in spreading your link, it will never be found. It`s impossible to discover something new on those pages. We wanted to change that with Hitlantis. So we came up with this visual browsing thing.
Suiciderock: Hitlantis users can experience the huge variety of different artists and genres by clicking on different coulored and different sized circles. Could you explain that a little closer?
Timo Poijärvi: So, we have those bubbles or balls, whatever you want to call them. As you said, every band gets a own bubble. All the different bubbles are placed in one field. When you join Hitlantis as a band you always land in the outerskirts. The more popular you are, the more closer your band moves to the center of the site. You can imagine it as an active kind of action map. It displays what people do. The size of the bubble lets you know how well known the band is, how much content they put into it, how many fans they have, songs, even interviews if they are online.
Suiciderock: So the band which is register to Hitlantis can basically upload any information they want?
Timo Poijärvi: Correct, they can upload anything. They can upload as many songs as they wish for example. They can also upload interviews. It`s interesting as nobody has done that so far. They really should do that. At the moment we are working on the new band page. This new band page will be available in August and it will be a even bigger opportunity for the bands.
Suiciderock: You are the co-founder of the company. How exactly did the idea of getting a company like Hitlantis to life come up?
Timo Poijärvi: It was all born of content frustration back than. If I want to find something completely fresh and new today I don`t even have the chance to do so as there is so much other stuff before. You can easily find Britney Spears or whoever of those big artists on every front page of those content services but if you really want to discover something new, you can forget about it. I mean if you take real life. You would never go to some record store out there, open their letter box and start shouting inside, “Hey I want some fresh new music”, no you go into that store and you tell them what you are looking for and than you get served. That`s exactly what we do with Hitlantis. So if you click to Hitlantis.com cause you are searching for something fresh you go to the outer skirts on the site, decide the genre you want and there you go. It`s quite easy.
Suiciderock: How many genres does Hitlantis serve?
Timo Poijärvi: We started with the standard Itunes genres. It`s getting better and better and there are coming more and more all the time. The bands can also add their own sub genre if they like.
Suiciderock: How can a band register? What do they have to do to be found on Hitlantis?
Timo Poijärvi: They click on the page, register as a band than they appear on the map and get an own site within Hitlantis. They get a own link hitlantis.com/ and than the name of the band. Than they have their Hitlantis homepage and can upload stuff as much as they like. Than they have to invite all their friends to vote, cause it is a raise and a tough competition as well. Hitlantis is about two things, the one thing is the discovery thing we have been talking about but the other thing is that we want to motivate those bands by giving them the chance to win so called incentives. They can win awards, gigs. For example we had this big competition for the Ilosaarirock. Three bands could win a gig there. We also had this competition for the Bon Jovi gig. One of our bands got the chance to warm up with them. There is all kind of stuff we offer them. We have a collaboration with Universal Music. Their A&R department is checking out our bands every month, so you see, it is a big competition going on within Hitlantis.
Suiciderock: That means a totally unknown band could get a record contract out of registering there as well? Sounds quite promising…
Timo Poijärvi: Exactly. It is a big opportunity for the bands. They can get a written feedback out of it. If they would send some kind of demo tape to a record company out there, it might end up right in the trash as those companies are over floated with all different types of demos from so many bands. We are going to launch the same kind of thing also in the USA in collaboration with the A&R department of Def Jam and Island records. This will happen in August / September.
Suiciderock: Was it difficult to convince people about your vision of that new way to bring bands and listeners together?
Timo Poijärvi: It was, a little bit of course but we did our first test service where I registered some test bands but of course that was not good, we needed the real bands. So we had to think about how we could find them. We thought it was a good opportunity to offer them to play life somewhere. So the event, Night of the Arts was coming and we booked the Kaisaniemi Park here in Helsinki. We set up this huge Hitlantis stage. There was the idea that we could get 10 bands playing that day. So I sent two emails to band schools, at the end we got over 300 bands to Hitlantis who also wanted to perform that day. We just told them, join us and if your band is good enough you might win a gig.
Suiciderock: What kind of feedback do you get from “your” bands?
Timo Poijärvi: It`s very interesting. Many bands got back to me saying that we`ve joined last Friday just to try this out and now we where checking back only some days later and guess what happened, we moved, somebody out there did something for us. That`s an experience they won`t get from MySpace or whatever. If somebody listens to them or votes for them they can see it on the site. That’s a Wow effect for them.
Suiciderock: Bands can also pay a monthly subscription of 5€ which provides an online store to sell their tracks or 10€ which includes record company pitching and software features. How exactly does that work?
Timo Poijärvi: Basically our service from Hitlantis is all free. It`s free to join, so everybody can join Hitlantis by registering and than he or she can upload whatever comes to their mind without limitation. The bands are in the competition anyway but there are some extra “Premium Competitions” and that costs this 5 € monthly subscription which is not much. I mean think about it what are those 5 € a month if you are really talented and you`ll get your music to Universal Music or whatever? We will have that bigger premium page later on and that will cost 10 € than. But this is still to come. It will contain record company pitching and special gigs also a little more features and functions within the own band page.
Suiciderock: Isn`t that difficult, what if you have a band that is “not so talented” but they decide to pay this 5 € a month for the premium page. Do you still have to kind of offer them to the record companies?
Timo Poijärvi: Interesting question. I would say, Hitlantis is a democracy system. All the power is to the people. If the people like the band and they vote for them, something will happen to those bands in the future. On the other hand, if they don`t like you, it will just fade away. It`s like in real life, the good ones make it, the not so good ones fade away… Anyway it`s all up to themselves. As a band who has a profile on Hitlantis.com you have to be active, ask everybody to join, to vote for you. That´s how it goes and how you get further. That`s what the record company wants to see, they want to see that you have fans behind your back, that there are people who like you, who are with you. Let`s say if you are completely alone and you have three fans nobody is interested in you.
Suiciderock: You said that the company was found three years ago. But how long did it take to develop the actual idea to Hitlantis as people know it nowadays?
Timo Poijärvi: It happend quite fast. Everything that I have done in the past 15 years comes together within Hitlantis.
Suiciderock: Yeah, you have a big history behind in the music business…
Timo Poijärvi: I spent almost the entire 90`s working for Sony Music, Finland and the UK. I have been working there for a long time. I even had my own little label. I`ve released about 20 albums here in Finland and some in Japan as well. Music and gadgets have always been one special interest for me. I just live and breath everything that has to do with those things. I remember when I was working with Sony Music in London back in 96 / 97 and this internet thing was coming, everybody was confused and the big bosses in their corner rooms where totally scared of what this new thing might bring.
Suiciderock: So you have always been in a positive mood when it comes to the internet combined with the music industry?
Timo Poijärvi: Yeah, I remember that one meeting were I used to say that if the kid really takes the trouble to go and puts some effort in finding a song or a band through the internet it`s worth it because you must know back than the internet wasn`t that easy as it is nowadays. I was told that nobody is ever going to pay for digital music. It took only a couple of month until they launched Itunes and millions of people started to pay for music. That was my victory.
Suiciderock: Music and Technology belongs together as a must so to say?
Timo Poijärvi: Definitely. I would say that 80 % will happen through the technology aspect. Ok, you could do it without using the Technology: My cousin does that acoustic thing for example and they don`t really need all that big Technology stuff.
Suiciderock: Besides you there are still two other people who had the great idea for a content network like that…
Timo Poijärvi: Yeah we are three founders, Petri Kotro, Marcus Tilgmann and me. It is a lot about knowing the right people. We didn`t know each other but we had this mutual friend who said that we really should meet up and talk about our ideas. When we got together it was amazing cause it turned out that we all think about the same thing. We had the same vision. A week later we went to a summer cottage…
Suiciderock: Aha, you choose the Finnish way to make that decisions…
Timo Poijärvi: Haha, kind of yes. It took us only a three hours session, we drew only three big pictures with our vision. We just needed the energy of each other to let that ideas explode.
Suiciderock: What about the name? It is something completely different than any other music related site?
Timo Poijärvi: That`s something cool, actually Ville Valo from HIM came up with the name. The working title for the whole project was “Bandhatten”, like Manhatten. We all liked it but than Ville who was part of the creative team at this time came back from the US and said that, “Boys, Bandhatten sounds like Manhatten after the Holocaust.” So we thought, ok that doesn`t sound so good. Than he just said why don`t you just name it “Hitlantis”. So there we had our name.
Suiciderock: What kind of feedback have you got since Hitlantis got online so far?
Timo Poijärvi: A lot of good feedback has reached me. I have even been interviewed by the Billboard. If you google Hitlantis you will find many many pages. If you consider that Hitlantis kind of went online last September this is amazing. Cause it is such a new thing.
Suiciderock: What is your opinion about the music scene at the moment?
Timo Poijärvi: It is very interesting. Music will never get tired, people will always listen to it. Well, less people are paying for it that`s a matter of fact. Two years ago I was preaching that the big record companies will die but they didn`t, they were shrinking instead. But the whole thing will change a lot. I was in the US lately and I got told that the record companies are looking for this new unsigned bands at the moment. So also they got the idea that people want something new and fresh. It`s all over the place, you just need to open your eyes and ears to find it.
Suiciderock: You believe a lot in those young bands than?
Timo Poijärvi: Yes we do. People don`t want that stuff they hear everyday on the radio anymore. They know it already, they need something fresh to blow their ears. Maybe we are the Robin Hoods of the music scene. *smiles* We really want to help them. I used to play in several bands when I was a kid and it is so great. I played once in the famous Tavastia here in Helsinki and I still remember how great that felt.
Suiciderock: What`s next in the success story of Hitlantis?
Timo Poijärvi: A lot more international stuff. Just in the beginning of last June we launched Hitlantis in South Korea. It was really funny to see all the translations for the South Korean market. We are also planning to go to China, that will happen maybe early next year but now USA is next. I keep on running there all the time. Good things are happening.