Techopia Live: How Bandzoogle kept the beat going for artists during the pandemic

After nearly two years without concerts or music festivals, venues are reopening and musicians and artists are finally beginning to perform live again. But Bandzoogle helped artists around the globe to maintain sales even during the pandemic. 

Bandzoogle allows artists to build their own personalized websites and generate income through technology such as virtual tip-jars, retail and ticket sales. It also provides a vehicle for fans to connect with performers on a monthly paid subscription basis. Members have access to Bandzoogle’s tech support team, available around the clock, and the seemingly endless technologies and toolkits available.

In a time when the music industry was slowed almost to a standstill, Bandzoogle pivoted to meet the changing needs of its artists and stay relevant. In an episode of the Ottawa Business Journal’s podcast Techtopia Live, Bandzoogle’s Ottawa-based CEO Stacey Bedford addressed the constantly evolving demands of the music industry and how Bandzoogle is meeting them.

This is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Could you explain Bandzoogle to people who may not be familiar with it?

Bandzoogle is the most effective platform for musicians to build their websites and manage their direct fan marketing and sales. It’s an all-in-one platform that offers musicians powerful design options, commission-free music and merch stores, mailing list management, detailed fan analytics, integrations with your social networks and more. 

If I’m a musician and I want to create a website, why not use something like Wix or Squarespace to create my website and something like Shopify to create my store? 

Bandzoogle actually predates all those services. We’re a very old company, we’re about 18 years old, and we were really built for musicians by musicians. So our toolset and our plans are really geared specifically for the artist community, and we’re more than just a storefront or just a website builder. We’re really an all-in-one product offering. So that includes things like a built-in store, the mailing list, your website and all those tools that you need to market your music business online. All of our features are built-in and supportive, and the pricing plans are all-inclusive so you don’t need to pay more for add-ons. Our support team is available 24/7 and they’re all artists also. 

How does Bandzoogle make money?

As CEO, a lot of my work goes into cost containment, and Bandzoogle is a company that is fully bootstrapped, so we’ve never taken any outside VC funding. We’re a bit of a rarity in the tech community so we’re not beholden to profit-driven decisions, we really get to make the best decisions for our member base while taking only what we need to run the company. So our monetization strategy is really just that monthly fee and we have three different plan offerings, so the lowest plan is our light plan at 10 dollars a month, and our most expensive plan is 20 dollars a month. We actually haven’t even raised pricing since I’ve been here for the last 15 years. 

You guys were founded in 2003. That’s 18 years this year, which is a long time. But that’s a huge period of change in the music industry. I can think back to CDs, I think those were still around in 2003, to Napster to iPods, and now everything is streaming, so how did Bandzoogle stay relevant through all of those changes in the industry? 

I really attribute the longevity of our success to just how we’ve been able to adapt to all the changes. The music industry, as you noted, is subject to so much change, and that’s not just about technology, it’s about the music space and what’s happening in the music industry. Because our team members are artists, we’ve been able to really keep our fingers on the pulse and understand what artists need today. The other side of that is that we’re a great tech team so we’ve been able to adapt our toolset to those changing needs over the years. When we started out 18 years ago, artists really just needed an online presence, a website builder, and that’s how we started, and then it’s really expanded since then.

Can you give me a specific example of a time where there was a big change and how you guys adapted? 

The pandemic was a huge blow to artists and venues and the world globally so in February before the pandemic hit, I had this whole road map planned out based on helping artists who are touring and recording. In March when the pandemic hit, we didn’t know how long this would last, but we knew that it would leave an imprint on the music industry. Artists would need to find new ways to make money and fans would need easy ways to keep tabs on their favourite artists. So we ended up right out of the box creating this guide for artists to survive during the pandemic that we made publicly available. 

Can you give me some numbers of where things are at in terms of how many artists you guys are at, how many countries you’re in? 

Bandzoogle has a presence in almost every country across the globe. We have almost 60,000 active paid users – we should hit that milestone over the next couple of months. Our members have sold over $84 million in commission-free sales since we started recording sales in 2010.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

I like to see them as opportunities, and that’s opportunities for our members. I think just the availability of the subscription-based model and technology for artists is really changing the music industry. What once required a full team, a record label, artists can now do on their own. So, adapting to those changes and just continuing to make tools that artists need today in the current climate and in the coming days to weather that storm, directly reach their fans, and earn the whole piece of the pie is going to be a very interesting opportunity for us. 

Do you think people will shift back to their pre-pandemic music habits?

I think everybody is really excited to get back to in-person and the one positive about this terrible time is that it’s really forced people to think outside of the box in terms of how to diversify their own music business, so I hope that our artists are continuing to leverage all of the tools that they have available and just not put all their eggs in one basket. So it’s the ability to monetize things that you wouldn’t have normally put in the effort for that is going to stick with them.