Part of Jan 2012 by

BANDHAPPY Founder Matt Halpern Talks Techno

BANDHAPPY is the natural progression of everyday technologies, combined with a heaping wheelbarrow-full of paradigm shifts and ingenuity, designed for the music education world. It’s a one-stop online music instruction mall, where students can receive video chat and in-person lessons from the pro touring (and non-touring but still very awesome) musicians of their choice and basically on request (within reason). Founded and designed by Matt Halpern drummer for the successful and innovative metal band Periphery—but this is not just a metal thing that would be short-changing the scope of this endeavor—BANDHAPPY encompasses and embraces all styles and all instruments from accordions to zithers. The: “Why didn’t I think of that?” factor is pretty high on this new project that has just officially launched and might just change the way music is taught not just on the net, but in schools as well.

Where did the idea for BANDHAPPY first come from?

Matt Halpern: Musicians don’t make a lot of money, just being in a band, so I started teaching people who were fans of my band. I would just set-up next to our van with a throne and a pad, and teach them there (while on tour). When we got home from the tours, I would have all these students from all over the country and all over the world. I would teach others via Skype. After that, a lot of other musicians started coming to me and saying, “Hey, are you making money off this and can you help me?” So I started booking lessons for all of these musicians and it just became too much to handle.  I was having to verify Paypal payments for them, coordinate through email and Facebook, and do the lessons via Skype. It was just too disjointed and cumbersome. So I moved everything over and started to put it all in one place. Which is really what BANDHAPPY is: It’s a centralized location where musicians can come and schedule, communicate, pay and get paid, and have an online video chat lesson or an on tour in-person lesson as musicians travel.

What new technologies did you have to develop for the site?

Matt Halpern: We really put a lot of things together that were already out there. Video chat is something that is really popular right now. You see it on the iPhones and all computers come with webcams for that purpose. We just needed to find the right servers for it, and the right people. We spent a lot of time on the system to make a really reliable video chat server. We made it so that if there’s going to be lags or delays because of end user connection, there are things in place to warn [the user]. So there’s all kinds of stuff built into the system and it’s real custom. It has been a lot of trial and error, and it’s only going to get better.

Is there any part of the world where the video chat isn’t very reliable?

Matt Halpern: It’s all about the end user. If someone in Australia, one day, has a bad connection, [then] the next day it might be great—it depends on where they live and what kind of equipment they are running, and if the people in their neighborhood are jamming up their lines, then it’s going to be shitty. We have had lessons from Norway to Montreal, from Holland to Australia, and seriously from the ends of the world and it has been very reliable. Right now let’s take a look: We have Los Angeles going to Dallas, Colorado to France, and Holland to somewhere I’ve never heard of. It’s really making the world a lot smaller for musicians.

On the website now you can choose from a wide range of instruments so I’m assuming the vision is to eventually encompass every style and instrument within reason?

Matt Halpern: Right now I have everyone from bassoonists, to flute players, to music business people that are in the process for approval. We have a very, very stringent approval process for teachers. We very carefully go over their profiles. We read their information, watch their videos. Yeah, we have teachers right now that are about to be approved for a whole bunch of new instruments that we don’t even have listed on the site yet because these instructors are bringing them to the plate.

So if a teacher is qualified, they don’t have to be a rock star/touring musician do they?

Matt Halpern: We started with musicians in the network I am in because that’s where a lot of my friends are: Touring musicians that have been in this world for a long time. Those were the people who initially came to this thing and said, “Yeah, let’s do this” but it’s by no means limited to being in a band. We have music teachers that teach at Berkley College of Music. There’s this one dude, Scott Fernandez; he sent in videos with his application that just blew me away and I posted them on the BANDHAPPY Facebook and immediately had one-hundred-plus comments with people going “Holy shit! This guy is amazing.” So that’s what it’s about: Finding the right talent and people that can communicate to others what they are doing and teach that. It’s a great extra way to make some money. Moe Carlson, who is the drummer for Protest the Hero, was saying to me the other day, “If I could just teach three half hour lessons a week for the next four weeks I’ve paid my mortgage.” That’s it. It’s just that simple.

What about price range for the lessons?

Matt Halpern: Teachers can set their own rates; it’s completely up to them. Some guys were doing deals for the first week. Some guys were doing $15 to $20 half hour lessons; some were doing $30 to $40 half hour lessons, all the way up to $100 hour lessons. It just really depends on the instructor. To be a member of the site is free. To be a teacher you simply have to have your shit together, so to speak—so when you apply you have a good profile, you give good information, you provide enough details about yourself for us to say, “Okay, this person has enough of a professional manner to be involved with the site.”

Now can you search instructors out? Say, some dude wants to learn 80’s hair metal from the guitar player of Skid Row. Can you make that happen?

Matt Halpern: Yeah, absolutely. We have a vast network that can bring in anyone that we need. Having the right kind of secret weapons on the team, who really have the experience, know a lot of people in the industry on all levels. I have been touring professionally since I was 18 years old, and in that time I have always maintained the network. Everybody knows everybody and you always have to be professional. You have to be out for the good cause, because people can see through bullshit.

As a drummer do you ever wish you had more camera angles for the lessons?

Matt Halpern: Sure. Those are some of things that we are working on. In the near future there will be multi-camera angles and different inputs and outputs for different mics; there will be options for all that stuff. Right now it’s all about where you set the camera. If you set the camera where they can see you, your hands, and see the drum set working together it’s really not too much of an issue. It’s cool because it’s musicians who are teaching and they are very creative so they always find a way to make it work.

What’s the goal for 2012 and where do you see this in December?

Matt Halpern: We have a lot of great initiatives that we are going to be doing with non-profits, schools, and a lot of stuff with expanding the artist base. The goal for me is to improve the system and really beef it up and make it as cool as I envision it. Right now, this is version one. And, like the iPhone, when the first iPhone one came out, Steve Jobs and the rest of Apple headquarters were thinking about iPhone 10. That’s where I am with this. I see everything that it should be when I look at it, but I want the users to tell me what they want and in what order.

Do you think you will be working with schools on a large basis at some point?

Matt Halpern: Absolutely, we have a fairly big initiative that we are working on. Basically it will start in the Baltimore-area, where I am from, and we are going into the school systems and a lot of the different teachers will be broadcasting-in and using our platform to help enhance what is going on in the music classrooms all over the country. With the deficits they have in their budgets [for music classes] we can help make it a lot better without spending a lot more money, by putting the internet right into the classroom. That’s a big thing that we are spending a lot of time developing right now.

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