'Working at a remote company really levelled the playing field'

stacey bedford

Bandzoogle CEO Stacey Bedford had already perfected the art of running a business remotely when Zoom was still considered a sound effect for a passing car and not the household name for video meetings.

Since 2003, the Canadian tech company has been helping musicians grow their audiences and earn money from their music through its all-in-one website platform. 

You could say Bandzoogle is like The Beatles – ahead of its time. 

For starters, it moved away from the traditional workplace setting. Bedford still remembers the days when interview applicants couldn’t wrap their heads around the work-from-home concept.

“They were, like, ‘I can work from where I am comfortable, and you’re going to pay me every two weeks? Is this a real company?’” she said. “Bandzoogle sounds like it could be a circus, so convincing people that it was a legitimate business was pretty funny as we started to grow.”

Working remotely has not only been a good fit for the mother of three, it’s also removed the kind of barriers that a woman can face in the boardroom, she believes.

“There aren’t many women in tech companies, first of all, and there are even fewer women who lead tech companies,” says Bedford, 38, who distinguishes herself further by being one of the few, if not the only, CEO in Ottawa with purple hair.

“Working at a remote company really levelled the playing field because now the focus was on the work that I was producing and on my contributions, instead of how I look or how I sound in a meeting room,” she said.

Bandzoogle was founded in Montreal by Bedford’s brother-in-law, Chris Vinson, former bassist with alt-rock band Rubberman. He needed someone with Bedford’s skillset to handle customer service for his fledgling startup, which had about 6,000 members at the time. 

The new mom and licensed real estate agent agreed to take on the part-time job from her home in Ottawa, where she had settled after moving here to major in economics at Carleton University.

“I always had a love of music, and Bandzoogle felt like it was the beginning of something really exciting that would really help artists,” says Bedford, who grew up playing guitar and going to live concerts in her hometown of Montreal and, later, Ottawa.

 

As the company continued to grow, Bedford left the real estate industry to join Bandzoogle full time. “It also allowed me to be home with my kids while they were babies,” says Bedford. 

Her public servant husband, Dan Bedford, was able to take parental leave to help.

Vinson recognized that Bedford brought valuable leadership skills to the company that kept others motivated and increased productivity.

“When you're working at a small tech startup, you have a lot of opportunities to add value. I was the type of person who, if something needed to be done, I would just learn how to do it.”

By 2018, Vinson was ready to step back and officially hand over the reins to Bedford, who’d risen to the role of director of operations by that time. Vinson remains the majority owner while Bedford is a partner.

Today, Bandzoogle is a multimillion-dollar business with 30 employees. As of September 2021, more than 60,000 musicians have earned almost $82-million in commission-free sales of digital music, merchandise, livestream tickets, fan subscriptions, digital multimedia and tip donations through their websites powered by Bandzoogle.

“For me, it’s been magical,” says Bedford. “I have all this space to make any decision that I need to, and Chris has put full trust in me.”

She learned early on to delegate tasks, and not try to do everything herself. 

“It’s really important to trust the people that you hired to be experts at the things that you hired them for,” she said.

Bedford also believes that ego is the enemy of good leadership. 

“I think there’s something to be said for ‘soft skills’ and just reading the room and listening to people, especially when you’re trying to make decisions with a group,” she said.

Bedford speaks fondly of her team and of their ability “to do regular things well.” She’s reminded of the recently deceased Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones. 

“He was known for being basically a metronome,” she said. “Exceptional always stands out, but I don't think there is enough credit given to average tasks executed extraordinarily. 

“Like beehives, those workers are all just doing what they do impeccably well, together, to make something incredible together. I feel the same way about Bandzoogle.”

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT STACEY BEDFORD

  1. Bedford was named ​​an International Power Player by Billboard in 2021 and named to Billboard’s annual Digital Power Players in 2019.
  2. One of her goals as CEO is to have an equal number of women working at Bandzoogle. “We’re just about to hit a 50 per cent ratio.”
  3. She’s an avid reader, runner and urban beekeeper who keeps her hives on the property of Tomlinson Group of Companies’ headquarters in Barrhaven. She got their permission, of course.
  4. She has a soft spot for rock music from the 1970s but also loves newer local artists, such as Lynn Hansen and Twin Flames, who are Bandzoogle members.
  5. Family is very important to her. She has three sons: Miles, 12, Calvin, 10, and Perry, eight. “I'm really lucky to be able to have this career that I'm very proud of and still be a huge part of my kids’ lives.”