A Conversation with.. Bandzoogle CEO Stacey Bedford
I was an early subscriber to Bandzoogle. Like most musicians, I was looking for a platform to promote my own recordings. Initially, it was Myspace. I was rocking the Saturday Nite Fish Fry in 2004 and worked Myspace followers to 10,000 then one day it was whittled down to a photo of founder Tom and a stripper courtesy of a virus assault. I then get a note from another musician saying, “I’m not accepting your invitation if it’s only you and a stripper.” Damn funny – but then again, the times were a-changing. I discovered Bandzoogle and suddenly building a website got easier and manageable. It is with great interest and curiosity I arrive at this conversation with CEO Stacey Bedford – but first, About:
“From the beginning, we've had a simple goal: to empower musicians to build effective websites for their music.
It all started in 1999, with a single band website, built by Bandzoogle's founder Chris Vinson for his alt-rock band, Rubberman. Gras roots promotion, plus the online community that the website created helped the band get a record deal.
In between tours, Chris worked at the record label, building websites for multi-platinum selling artists. To save time, he built a "control panel" to let managers and artists make the changes themselves. Realizing this could also help independent bands and musicians build and update their own websites, Chris launched Bandzoogle in late 2003.
Now, more than a decade later, tens of thousands of artists around the world use Bandzoogle every day to build their website and promote their music online.”
Bill King: I was a Bandzoogle user early on. The company has been at it seventeen years. When I mentioned I was speaking with you with both my son (Jesse “Dubmatix” King) and my wife (Kris King Photo), both Bandzoogle users, each raved about the customer service. They say it is the best online service.
Stacey Bedford: That is such a nice thing for you to say and you’ve made my week. I don’t know if you know much about me but I started out in customer service at Bandzoogle. My first promotion was to grow the team and manage them and create a process for training them. Thank you, that’s a huge compliment!
Bill King: I work with a Montreal company CanamBooks for publishing my works. The service is amazing and quality of equal measure. Bandzoogle keeps evolving. What is the range of steps taken and options that have enhanced the Bandzoogle experience?
S.B: The origin of the story is that Bandzoogle was started by a bassist who worked at a label as a developer and he wanted to make it easier for bands to help him do his job. As websites back then became more important in 2003, the number of requests he was getting to update touring info, the photos, the blogs, adding merchandise, meant it was becoming unwieldy for a web developer to do all of this for all of the bands on the label. Bandzoogle was created out of the need to help those artists manage their web presence on their own.
Back then what was important to artists is different from what it is today. We didn’t have things like streaming. We had Myspace. Bandzoogle invests heavily in research and development. We always have our fingers on the pulse and are always looking at what is relevant today for artists and how we can help their challenges. It’s something we bring to every meeting. We have this weekly stand-up with our business team and ask has anything changed in the music business and how can we help that? We make it part of our process to always be looking at the music environment and how that is changing for artists.
Since 2003 we’ve added quite a few tools. We started with five simple tools and now we are at over one hundred. Some examples: a physical store where you can sell your merch and different physical offerings to be shipped. You can sell digital downloads like singles, full albums, videos, sheet music – those sorts of things. Recently, in response to the pandemic, we added a tip jar and donations feature. We also added, “live streaming” ticket sales. That was a component of our events feature. Before you could sell tickets on your website at Bandzoogle but as soon as the pandemic hit we realized artists aren’t doing that right now. We added the ability to give full refunds to your events and tours that had been already scheduled.
We also added a robust subscriptions feature in 2019 along with fan engagement tools: a mailing list, call to action on your pages, integrate your social media – YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook etc. We play really nicely with other music platforms. Besides all the music-specific tools we offer all of our website teams are fully responsive and adapt to different screen sizes – mobile, tablet really nicely. They are fully customizable and easy to use. You don’t need to know anything about coding or design to create a website or your advanced subscription site.
When Chris was originally creating Bandzoogle the tools needed to be easy enough for artists to handle on their own without a computer science degree and be able to do it from the road. Our original tagging was “so easy your drummer could do it.”
B.K: The perfect compliment to Bandzoogle from my perspective is Bandcamp. I say that knowing Bandcamp like Bandzoogle is artist-friendly.
S.B: We are friends and have a great integration with them where you can add all your Bandcamp music right onto the page and it fits with any design template you are using. It is seamless and doesn’t look like you are using an external widget.
B.K: I mention Bandcamp because it is not a big corporate invention. Stepping back fifteen to twenty years ago it was the pitch for millions upon millions for start-ups. What I appreciate with both is you don’t wait three to six weeks for approval. You upload and roll.
S.B: Bandzoogle is in a unique position. We are fully bootstrapped which means we have never received external funding and not beholden to shareholders or focused on generating profit. Because of this, we’ve been able to maintain our commission-free sales stance. It doesn’t matter what you sell on your website we don’t take a cut. We generate revenue from monthly subscriptions. It goes from $10 a month to $20 depending on what tools you are using. Whether you are a garage band the seldom sells anything or a professional recording artist we do not take more income from you. We basically take what we need to run the company. The impact of that on our whole team is incredible. We have the flexibility and all our products are driven by our customers. What we anticipate as artists in this climate we can help them at this. Our member suggestions are really what drives us as a team thanks to the fact we don’t have external funding.
B.K: The subscription pricing is in U.S. funds?
S.B: When we started out the best place, we could purchase a server was in the U.S. A lot of our expenses were in U.S. dollars. We had a large following in Canada when we started but that spread like wildfire. Our biggest way of getting customers is still through word of mouth. We have a small marketing budget compared to a lot of other generic website builders – Google Ads and all of that. With word of mouth, we have spread globally. Bandzoogle now has customers in almost every country on the planet. We have always been a remote team. We have staff in New Zealand, America, Italy, England – we are kind of all over the place. That is also why we can provide support on a 24/7 schedule.
B.K: How many subscribers?
S.B: Just under 54,000 customers – active members. We have a few thousand trail users in any given month.
More from Bandzoogle:
As musicians look for ways to engage their fans and earn a living beyond the traditional touring model, musician web services provider Bandzoogle continues to expand their direct-to-fan offerings accordingly. The platform’s most recent development sees an important update to their popular fan subscriptions feature as the company implements a pay-what-you-want option alongside standard pricing tiers.
In addition to offering set premiums per month, artists can offer specific rewards to listeners who make recurring payments at a price they choose, opening up support options to an even broader base.
Since its 2019 launch, the fan subscription feature has been one of Bandzoogle’s most popular commission-free offerings. Some artists have cited it as their main reason for joining the platform. “It’s recurring income for the musician and new, fresh content for superfans,” explains Communications Manager Melanie Kealey. And, as in-person performances remain largely impossible, it has become even more crucial for artists to find creative ways to maintain connections with the audiences who keep them afloat. “Since the pandemic started, a lot of musicians are at home,” Kealey continues. “They’re able to create more content, hosting Q&A sessions or virtual concerts at home.” Many artists also offer merch or special access to their recording catalogues as part of their subscription tiers.
This pay-what-you-want subscription feature is the latest in Bandzoogle’s long history of flexible payment options. “We added pay-what-you-want music sales in 2007, so that’s been a part of our e-commerce platform for a long time,” says CEO Stacey Bedford. More recently, Bandzoogle has rolled out a Tip Jar feature that allows fans to donate directly on Bandzoogle artist websites, an initiative that has been wildly successful and netted over $200,000 for artists across the platform. An average tip of over $42 shows that, given the option to set their own price, fans are often willing to pay more than what artists charge. “The problem with earning viable revenue is not the value to the fans,” Bedford continues. “This model is about allowing your community to support you as an artist directly.”
For Bandzoogle, those direct connections between fans and artists are at the foundation of every move they make. Their constantly-evolving, commission-free toolkit for musicians is one based on the immediate needs of their clients looking to cultivate an ongoing online presence. With the help of Bandzoogle, artists can diversify revenue streams while democratizing fan support options no matter the circumstances.