Today it's all about Bandzoogle! Built by musicians for musicians, Bandzoogle is an all-in-one platform that makes it easy to build a beautiful website and EPK for your music. Bandzoogle's team has worked remotely for over 18 years and artists have just surpassed $75 million in commission-free sales through merch, music, and ticketed events.
With Bandzoogle, your website works for you with hundreds of tools that will generate more revenue from your website than ever before.
- Why working remotely is the best way to run a business
- How to maintain company culture and foster a sense of togetherness in a remote work environment
- How not accepting venture capital has allowed Bandzoogle to not raise prices
- Stacey's growth at the company from Customer Support agent to CEO
- How to make your website the end of your marketing funnel
- How to drive live stream traffic to your website and monetize through tickets & tips
- How Printful takes the legwork out of providing merch to customers
- How to test out different merch offerings to fans without having to invest in inventory upfront with Printful
Recent Music Episodes:
Stacey Bedford: 00:29 This is Stacey Bedford and you're listening to Funktastic Chats.
Mike Zabrin: 00:36 It's with my great pleasure to chat with Bandzoogle CEO today, Stacey Bedford. Why should teams work remotely, and why do they say it's the best way to run a business? How do you maintain a company culture in a remote environment? And I also want to dive into their latest integration with Printful that allows you to print, merge on demand and not order merch in bulk. It also stops you from going to the post office in the middle of a pandemic. It's all coming up right here on Funktastic Chats. This podcast is about combining talent with business so that your industry has no choice, but to open its doors for you. You may remember at the beginning of January, we chatted with vice president, Dave Cool. We chatted about how members have collectively made over $5 million since the start of the pandemic through Bandzoogle's game-changing tools and features. It's a jam-packed episode about making money and monetizing your career as an artist. We're going to continue that conversation today with Bandzoogle's CEO, Stacey Bedford. Hey, Stacey. Welcome to the podcast.
Stacey Bedford: 01:38 Hi, Mike thanks for having me.
Mike Zabrin: 01:41 You've Been the CEO for two years, but you've been working with Bandzoogle since 2008. Is that right?
Stacey Bedford: 01:47 That's right. Actually I'm hitting my third year as CEO now.
Mike Zabrin: 01:51 Wow. What types of roles have you had over at Bandzoogle over the years?
Stacey Bedford: 01:56 I've had quite a few different titles at Bandzoogle. I would say that in a small startup, you really quickly learn how to do whatever needs to be done. So I've, like I said, I've had a few different titles, but I've done many things here. Yeah. When I started out at Bandzoogle, I was the only customer service rep here, and that was about 14 years ago. Back then we had support over email and live chat, and we only had about 4,000 customers, two developers on staff with me and Chris, our founder, within that first year, we had already grown about 50% and I needed to hire someone else to help part-time. I was around this time, I was about to welcome my first son into the world. And the early days of a startup with a lean team, you have an opportunity to learn a lot of different things.
Stacey Bedford: 02:42 I remember taking the Google ad-words online course and figuring out how to do keyword research and write ad word campaigns. And I remember writing blog posts and building out our first help section. As we continue to grow, all of this helped us figure out what roles were essential at Ben circle and who to hire first to take those tasks over. So from there very naturally, I became our customer support manager. We had a small communications team. We had our development team, we had our support team and a small business team. And around that time, Chris promoted me to director of operations to help implement some of the systems that were working really well for support across all of the teams. And Bandzoogle staff we don't have very much turnover. So even though we're growing steadily, this really gave me the opportunity to form really strong relationships with different team members across all of the teams. And a lot of trust was built in that time. So I spent a lot of time listening to people's pain points and figuring out creative solutions on how to improve everything from their workflows to their enjoyment at Bandzoogle. And about three years ago, I was promoted to CEO. It feels a little bit like the staff chose me. So it's a long answer, but I've done many things here,
Mike Zabrin: 04:03 Do you ever reflect back on the jobs that you had at Bandzoogle now being a CEO in order to help your team?
Stacey Bedford: 04:09 Yeah, I think back to it really fondly, like I have very happy memories of all of my experiences at Bandzoogle. And it's really nice to think about your work that way. Yeah, I think about it. And I think about all of those things that I learned from the different team members and how those can help me in more of a leadership role, an overarching leadership role.
Mike Zabrin: 04:28 I want to talk about working remotely. Forbes at the beginning of January, they come out with an article. They said by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. But I know Bandzoogle has always been remote. Why should teams work remotely? And why is it the best way to run a business?
Stacey Bedford: 04:47 With remote work It really comes down to the individuals at your company. I would say that time is your most precious resource and remote work gives you more of that. So if you're commuting even 30 minutes to work every day, which is a short commute, that's an hour more that you have to do whatever you want with every single day, whether that's prepping a better dinner, reading, practicing your guitar and meditating, helping family or whatever, like at the end of the week, that's five more hours per week for band practice. It adds up over time. And just that small thing, just time can drastically improve your quality of life. But I also think that it's more than that it's being where you're most comfortable. It's being able to control your environment to suit your personal needs, choosing when to be around other people. And it's the opportunity to have a better work-life balance. And I think that as an employer, as a business, it's lower overhead, it's more resources for other things. Bandzoogle has always been fully remote and we pay that savings forward with our annual retreats where staff and families are flown to Quebec for four days every year to get together in person. As an I hear like the biggest argument against it is that employers are worried about productivity. But I think if you're worried about productivity and trusting your staff without the physical presence, that's a whole other problem that you need to address.
Mike Zabrin: 06:11 I love that you guys are remote, but also I see pictures on the blog and stuff of you guys hanging out, and it feels like you guys are a family. It feels like I could totally picture you and Dave like having a beer together or something. I don't know. It just feels like you guys are just family And in a remote setting where employees collaborate via email all the time, instead of face-to-face sometimes business owners struggle with how to maintain a company culture in a remote environment. But it sounds like all these retreats that you guys do and just the way that you guys communicate with each other is really positive.
Stacey Bedford: 06:44 I, yeah, I love your questions because I think that there's not enough energy and time spent on the heart of a company and at the foundation of it, it's really facilitating an easy way and a relaxed way to communicate with each other, like a virtual office at Bandzoogle, we use Slack and we have channels set up for each team. And then off topic things like of course, jukebox, food, games. We use base camp to organize our workflow, but we also set up asynchronous things like clubs, challenges, and non-work-related inquiries that we want to invoke deeper conversation on. So it's just a, it's really important to step up your communication game. But I would also say that you can foster a sense of togetherness and deeper culture by doing things that are typical step challenges, sleep challenges, squat challenges. We do those at Bandzoogle from time to time, but we don't have to be fancy about it.
Stacey Bedford: 07:41 Like every holiday season, we have this virtual Christmas party and it's the funniest thing. Like everybody has everybody. We organize the secret Santa beforehand and you get an, you pull a name out of a hat. You don't have to participate, but everyone does. And you have to send your recipient a random gift and it has to be like under $20. So nothing fancy. And then we have this virtual Christmas party where we have to open it and guess who sent it. And it's just so much fun. I think the important thing is always making sure to have a good time together. A couple of months ago, I had everyone order an expense pizza and I set up a Minecraft server. These are things that I would want to do in my free time anyways.
Stacey Bedford: 08:26 So just think of that and bring that to work. And I also think that aside from all that, like the most important thing about building out your virtual or remote company culture, is realizing that your staff are human and they have lives outside of work and just doing what you can to encourage them to be happy and healthy in their personal lives. Like that might mean supporting your staff's kids with an education benefit during a pandemic. So they worry less when they're at work or sometimes that's realizing that performance issues are deeper and helping someone with something completely unrelated to work instead of reprimanding them in that situation, building out a culture of respect and treating people that you're interested in the long haul instead of just fixing short term issues. I think that goes a long way towards your company culture.
Mike Zabrin: 09:13 You actually wrote a really great blog post on Bandzoogle called tips for working on a remote team. And 6.4% of fortune 500 companies are led by women. And you also mentioned that a lot of your professional success is due to the fact that you are able to remove the physical presence out of the equation. What does it mean to you to be a female CEO of a tech company?
Stacey Bedford: 09:35 I think for me personally, I have three sons and a male partner and my partner shares like a really fair and uncommon 50% of the family role. So personally, I'm really happy to have put myself in a position to give this example in a very male masculine households, but I hope that they're going to move on to perpetuate as adults. And I'm sad that's not the norm, but I would say that that's something that I take with me every day. I don't think too much when I'm working about things like hyper-growth and expansion, but every day I look at, I look at a Workday or any, even just a situation or conversation is how I can be helpful and how can I serve? And the result of that, I can tell you is adding value to any given situation and the result of that is much growth for our company. So I think we all end up in the same place. We just have different approaches and maybe a feminine touch is not, maybe that could be more enjoyable in the workplace.
Mike Zabrin: 10:37 One thing that I find super inspiring is that Bandzoogle never accepted any kind of venture capital money. And I don't think Bandzoogle has raised their prices in like what over 15 years,
Stacey Bedford: 10:49 Not since I've been here and that's right.
Mike Zabrin: 10:51 Does not accepting venture capital money, have anything to do with how you're able to not raise the prices over the years for subscribers. Uh, actually I think the founder, Chris, he's your brother-in-law, isn't he?
Stacey Bedford: 11:02 Yeah, the founder Chris is my brother-in-law. And we share core values when it comes to accepting venture capital funding, like you said, Bandzoogle has never done it before. And we maintain that today. We get offers all the time, but I think it would really compromise the integrity of our culture in our company. It's the sole driving force in our development list is our members. So we have no board of directors to answer to this, not accepting VC funding. It's allowed us to build what we want without asking and not to focus on profits. Like you said, we've never raised our prices in 15 years. We've just added a lite plan in response to the last recession. And more than that, we don't have any red tape. So we're so agile, we're able to pivot on a dime. We're able to get things out quickly and we don't need to justify anything we do with dollar goals. I think moreover, our team is also, we have a really strong sense of doing something right for the artist community. And that's allowed us to retain some really talented staff who share common values. It's also really like fundamentally it's allowed us to maintain our commission-free sales tools. I don't think that any VC company would put up because our members have sold over $75 million in music, merchant services and, and Bandzoogle has never taken a cut of that. So I couldn't see that happening had we had some evil overlords to answer to
Mike Zabrin: 12:28 Fans are now realizing how important it is to support artists directly. And now companies like Bandcamp and others are waiving the revenue share some days, but Bandzoogle launched their first commission free MP3 download store in 2006. I love that you guys are so data-driven, by the way, there's just so much data. Do you think that the direct to fan sales plays a part in what keeps over 55,000 loyal Bandzoogle users a year after year compared to now how it took a pandemic for some of these companies to realize, Hey, this matters a little bit.
Stacey Bedford: 13:05 Yeah. And I think that change happens because artists have access to tools that they didn't have before. So this is a bit of a slippery question, but at Bandzoogle, I think that direct to fan tools are part of it. For sure. That's part of the value. And part of the reason why we have such a loyal following. Bandzoogle customers, we have customers who have been with us since 2003, and they're still Bandzoogle customers. But I think it's the fact that we're giving artists the ability to take, to make money off of their music without taking a piece of that pie. And it's something that you really don't see in the music industry. So I think fundamentally it's about how you treat your customers. And we managed to grow now almost 60,000 members, but like when you reach out to our team, you understand that you're talking to real people who understand what you need because they're in the same boat.
Stacey Bedford: 13:57 Like our team is all made up of artists and we really listened to our members. So over a year, our tool set and even just basic website, editing tools and options and designs evolve so much because we're a small team. We can adapt quickly to what artists need. And we're really just continuously building out these tools. So not just direct to fan tools, but everything that you might need and as artists, ourselves to succeed online and in our industry, that changes so fast. So when the pandemic hit, we were already in a really good position. We had a lot less catch up than other companies because that's just how we operate in general, putting our members front of mind.
Mike Zabrin: 14:36 I love the customer support team too, by the way, because as an artist, right, they had, at least for me as a musician, we live for acceptance as an artist and for our work. And when you're on a customer support chat, typically it's just, okay, great. You got that fixed. You need anything else. But like just having an another musician there waiting to help you and then what do you, when they help you and they write you back, wow, this looks really awesome just to get that validation. It means everything to me as a musician.
Stacey Bedford: 15:07 Yeah. And they honestly care about helping you succeed with your website. And like we're a relatively small team who serves tens of thousands of artists, not including the people who are trying to, um, Bandzoogle for free for 30 days. So like it's really important that we run a tight ship and uh, and we try to get those artists to succeed online as quickly as possible. So that's everything from improving our ease of use and getting feedback from the support team about what the members are asking for, to just improving our communications and the help resources that we have. So our support team is constantly in training. Even the ones who have been with us for seven years.
Mike Zabrin: 15:46 I was just going to say your team, just being music, lovers and musicians, you guys just must find yourself just enjoying new music, just all the time from all these amazing artists that you work with.
Stacey Bedford: 15:58 Yes. All of the time, like I mentioned earlier that we use Slack for communications, but we have this channel that we call jukebox. And, um, so we are always sharing new music that we find in there as a team. It's like one of our more active channels. We also have a channel called nice sites where we show off what our members are doing internally. And every month I go through our customer surveys and traffic data. So I'm always finding new artists and it's so fun. And I find things like Aiden Gallagher from that Netflix show umbrella Academy, I didn't know he was a musician. So I came across him in our data and yeah, Beth from the walking dead, Emily, she's a Bandzoogle member too. So it's really cool to come across all of these things. We also love to hire our members. One of our customer service reps, Collin he's in a duo with his wife called flora. Kay. And I actually met them at one of their shows. I was wearing a Bandzoogle t-shirt and he ran over and hugged me. Yeah. I miss hugging people, but yeah, it's new music and share constantly
Mike Zabrin: 17:03 Hugging people that's solike 2019. Could you clear up a myth for us? That social media is not the same as having a website, especially with so many social media outlets out there today. Like clubhouse tik-tok Instagram. I was listening to a podcast with DaveCool. It was on the DIY CD Baby blog. And he said, social media is like leasing a space on the internet and Bandzoogle is you own this space. Talk a little bit about that difference between social media and the distractions versus having your own website.
Stacey Bedford: 17:42 Yeah. Like Bandzoogle. I would say Bandzoogle doesn't replace social media, it's still important. But it's, if you think about it in terms of like your band is your business and you really need to make sure that you're planning accordingly, you don't want to rely just on my social media following. They're not, it's not something that you don't own that list. You don't own the experience and you can't really depend on it in the longterm. So Bandzoogle doesn't replace social media. We're more of a, like we're at the end of your marketing funnel. So we're part of the online presence. That's integral for capturing things like your fancy email, monetizing the experience and really giving them a delightful experience, which you're just competing with noise on social media. Like for example, during the pandemic, if you're live streaming on Twitch, you can use social media or wherever your fans hang out regularly and drive that traffic to your website.
Stacey Bedford: 18:36 You can stream your Twitch live stream right on your website. And then you can throw up a tip jar so that fans can tip while they watch. And that's so much more professional than just like posting something on Facebook and asking them to send you an e-transfer for watching and like just scrolling past endlessly on Facebook or wherever you are. So when someone visits your website, it's intentional, when they submit their email to your list, that's consensual and now you own the data and you can do more with it. So I would say definitely use social media limit your time on there and run your music, run your band Like you're running a business and take it seriously.
Mike Zabrin: 19:15 Musicians have sold 26,000 tickets to live stream shows in 2020, and artists have collected over 8,400 tips from their website, visitors netting in $272,000 in commission-free revenue. I do see a lot of musicians live streaming, and I know you've got some very particular thoughts on musicians live streaming.
Stacey Bedford: 19:37 I do. And I would say live streaming is important right now because you want to give, you want to give your fan something special and you want them to be able to see you playing your music and give them that experience. And obviously it's not possible to do that in person safely right now. So I would say make sure that you're not like Bandzoogle. You have a finite repertoire. So make sure that you're not playing every week, the same set to the same audience, make sure to give your exchange with different bands, play to a different audience. Look at venues. They're also looking to try to monetize during these times. Just make sure that you're not exhausting your list because it's, it's depressing when you're trying to live stream to the same audience and you're just seeing diminishing audiences. So you want to make sure to keep up your motivation and just try things, uh, think outside of the box.
Mike Zabrin: 20:30 I know the average tip is $42 on Bandzoogle. How are people linking their tip jar to these live streams
Stacey Bedford: 20:38 When the pandemic hit, we turned our roadmap on its head. And we said like, how can we help artists make more money this year? So of that was looking at our development list and saying, okay, so if you're live streaming, like what's the best experience for your fans. So we decided to integrate Twitch, Crowdcast, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, you could embed those live streams right in your website. And because you can do that at Bandzoogle. Now you can add our tip jar feature right next to it. So your fans are watching your live stream with like your custom message and the opportunity to tip you right while your show is happening, like a live tip jar, would happen. And we also opened up the opportunity for members to sell live streaming tickets from their website. So you can accept tips or you can sell tickets, or you could do both if you want. And we also, uh, we also added a pay what you want option. So there's lots of different things you can try if you're an artist to, to live stream from your website,
Mike Zabrin: 21:38 It sounds like all of those are great ways to not oversaturate your fan base. One of the latest integrations with Bandzoogle is Printful it sounds like you stopped a lot of musicians from going to the post office during a pandemic Stacey.
Stacey Bedford: 21:53 Yes. So Printful, it's been such a successful integration. I think since we launched it in January, I was looking at the numbers earlier and I think we've had over 1600 orders placed through Bandzoogle for Printful. And that's not individual items either when I scrolled through them, it was like two to four items in each order. So it's pretty cool to see such a successful integration through Bandzoogle for customer websites. It's really interesting because artists are always looking for different ways to monetize and Printful has been a great way for them to test out different offerings to their fans, without having to invest in all that stuff upfront. So you don't have to worry about purchasing a bunch of inventory or even figuring out like what sizes to buy for your fans. You'll never be stuck with a box full of extra small T-shirts taking space in your basement for the next five years. And like you said, it's also safer during a pandemic.
Mike Zabrin: 22:47 I love that. I feel like that's what stops a lot of musicians from ordering merch is just the fact that they have to buy it in bulk and it's a ton of money up front.
Stacey Bedford: 22:55 Yeah, exactly. And the other part is when you get back to it, you don't have to worry about, about order fulfillment when you're on tour. It just takes a lot of the leg work out of providing merch to your customers.
Mike Zabrin: 23:08 I use Bandzoogle for my podcast website. And in fact, I I've been using Bandzoogle since about 2010. I was 18 years old and I made my first musician website. And this was, this has gotta be before the visual editor features was like the drag and drop boxes on Bandzoogle's editor like old school Right? And there's a couple of features that I noticed that have always remained. One of them is the guest book feature and the forum feature I'm as surprised what a big comeback both of those tools have made with everything like Reddit. And I've a few upcoming interviews with podcasters that are on the top 5% of Apple podcasts. And every one of them has been like, dude, who made your website? I was like me. I just feel like the fan subscription feature collect the emails called the action, the blog and SEO, providing an RSS feed. These are things that every website platform for podcasters is trying to figure out. And then this is what I want to get your input on Stacey. You could potentially use that MP3 store feature and you've seen artists having almost like their own streaming platform on their website. Could this be done for podcasting?
Stacey Bedford: 24:20 A hundred percent actually we, Bandzoogle is made for musicians, but we have really strong niche followings. And one of them is podcasters. Podcasters love to use Bandzoogle. And we actually noticed that during the pandemic, a lot of bands and artists are branching out and they're trying to find different ways to engage with fans. And one of the big and successful ways they're doing that is through podcasts. Like everybody's at home bored right now. So coming up with content that people that will help entertain people, even if it's not like your core craft is a really smart thing to be doing right now. So those engagement tools that Bandzoogle has, like the podcast tool, mailing lists, like our social media integrations. These are all relevant for a lot of different businesses right now. So we do notice some interesting niches that are using right now.
Mike Zabrin: 25:12 I just got to ask you with all these tools coming out and every time I talk to you guys, the members are growing and growing. What does the typical day look like for Stacey Bedford?
Stacey Bedford: 25:24 Well, I talk a lot about work life. That's really important to me. I wouldn't ask staff to do anything that I'm not expected to do myself. So I make sure that my day starts at seven and it ends at three. I will check my email and make sure if there's emergencies, I'm reachable, but really I will log into work. I'll scan my emails. I usually meet with my manager teams in the mornings, especially on Mondays and then do some product planning early for my lunch. I'll usually do some sort of physical activity, but I keep her go for a walk. These days, I'm a gym teacher because all of my kids are home while I'm working. Yeah. And then in the afternoons, are really just, it depends what time of the year it is. But I spent a lot of time reading through customer feedback and surveys. I spend a lot of time working out, looking through data and figuring out which data had, like where we have the opportunity to improve and what, what projects might be associated with improving that data. So my day is really heavy on communications in the morning. And then in the afternoons, it's all about creativity and exploration.
Mike Zabrin: 26:35 I like how you started out with set hours that you work. I think it's a really hard discipline for a lot of musicians and a lot of entrepreneurs to learn when to unplug.
Stacey Bedford: 26:49 Yeah I always say that if you don't, if you don't spend time like picking up other hobbies or learning other things, you're not going to have a wealth of like perspective and experiences to bring to your job. So investing in yourself is really only going to improve what you can bring to the table. So I, I say that even though it seems like I have just a regular short Workday, I, I say that it makes those hours that I'm present at work a lot more valuable
Mike Zabrin: 27:17 Before we goI just want to talk about the fan subscription features a little bit more because I know a lot of people use other sites like Patreon, but with the fan subscription feature, just like everything else, there's no commission from Bandzoogle's end, correct? Everything is commissioned free with all the different tiers that you can offer.
Stacey Bedford: 27:38 Yeah, that's right. So we are, everything is commissioned free at Bandzoogle. I think it was three, two or three years ago. We started providing fan subscriptions, but we had actually planned out this new feature like many years ago. And we felt that providing artists specific commission free more flexible subscription offering was very important. And our development list is really driven by our members. So we had this overwhelming request for recurring revenue options for artists and with Bandzoogle it's really go bigger go home.So our subscription offering is it's crazy. It's like you can offer different tiers. You can put any of our existing features and tools on those pages and gate them behind recurring payments. We even have pay what you can tiers. So if you're looking to build out a fan club or monetize like those super fans, it's a great, it's a great way to do that. We've seen some artists get really creative with their tiered offerings
Mike Zabrin: 28:36 And the way a lot of these other crowdfunding platforms make money is by taking a commission of what income you're taking in every month. And I did the math on a couple of different crowdfunding platforms. And if you have 10 fans on most of those crowdfunding platforms for the entire year, they're charging you in commission what Bandzoogle's entire year costs for their entire platform website. So I think it's definitely worth checking out and I love how Bandzoogle just grows with you as an artist. Maybe you're not ready for the fan subscription feature yep, but Bandzoogle has all the steps for you to get there and it grows with you in your career. Funktastic Chats listeners can go to www Bandzoogle.com and try Bandzoogle for free for 30 days and enter the promo code funktastic to get 15% off the first year of any subscription that's Bandzoogle.com Promo code funktastic. Stacey Bedford. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And I can't wait to keep up with everything that Bandzoogle is doing.
Stacey Bedford: 29:35 Thank you so much for having me.
Mike Zabrin: 29:37 And that was Stacey Bedford, the CEO of Bandzoogle. Hey, I am so excited for next week because we're going to be speaking to Michael Ray, who is a renowned international trumpet player and a seasoned jazz funk musician who has had stellar runs with Patti LaBelle, The Delfonics, The stylistics Kool and the Gang, and has been in Kool the Gang since 1979 and the Sun Ra Arkestra since 1978. Michael Ray has won four American music awards, five ampex golden reel awards, and a Grammy nomination. Michael Ray danced, sang, played trumpet, and was a member of the award-winning writing and production team that produced seven platinum and gold albums and seven top 10 hits for Kool the Gang. We're talking to him next week. So please hit the subscribe button. We've got a new Facebook page called Funktastic Chats community. You are extraordinary and we'll see you next week.