Bandzoogle’s roots go back 20 years, to when Chris Vinson created a website for his alt-rock band, Rubberman.
Vinson went on to found Bandzoogle in 2003, and the company has grown and changed enormously since then, with tens of thousands of artists around the world using the platform to create websites and much more besides.
This evolution continued recently with the addition of a Subscriptions strand that helps artists connect in an even more direct and consistent way with their fans.
In some senses, however, across those 20 years, very little has changed: Bandzoogle’s aim is still to empower musicians to use the internet to build an audience (and then communicate with that audience in the most effective way possible) whilst also helping them to make a living from their creativity.
Here, MBW talks to Bandzoogle CEO Stacey Bedford (pictured) about Bandzoogle’s over-arching ethos and its latest developments, including that all-important fan Subscriptions service…
for those that don’t know Bandzoogle, give us the top-down view of what the company does and how you work with artists?
Bandzoogle is the best online platform for musicians to build a professional website, and sell direct-to-fan for a flat monthly fee.
It includes a built-in commission free store to sell music, merch and tickets, sell subscriptions, crowdfunding tools, built-in mailing list, fan data, and integrations with social networks and music services, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Bandsintown and SoundCloud.
Our members can choose from a wide array of beautiful design themes or blank designs. They’re all completely responsive and customizable, and we have a ton of modern design options such as video headers, theme animations, and many feature layouts. Bandzoogle requires no knowledge of HTML or web design, and you can update your site on the road.
You’re a Bandzoogle veteran but relatively new in the post of CEO. With that in mind, what have been the biggest changes at the company during your time there – and what was on your agenda when you took over nearly a year ago?
Bandzoogle has legs; in October we’ll be celebrating our 16th birthday! We’ve always been a musician-specific website builder, but the last few years have seen a surge in big box, generic website builder competition. Competition is healthy, and it really made us take a hard look at our basic tool kit and focus on bringing our members cutting edge, flexible web design options.
So, in recent years, we’ve spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears bringing our fundamental site-building tools and design options ahead of the game. With that in place, in the last 12 months, and since [becoming] CEO, I’ve had the headspace and resources to focus all of our efforts on musician-specific tools.
“Competition is healthy, and it really made us take a hard look at our basic tool kit and focus on bringing our members cutting edge, flexible web design options.”
In the last six months alone our members have seen the fruit of our labours: a singles feature and preset page that allow you to promote and sell singles in a beautifully designed component that matches your website seamlessly; 100% commission-free crowdfunding; and the biggest release in our history, our new Subscriptions feature.
Along with that, our amazing design team continues to push out a slew of stunning design and layout options.
The most recent addition to an artist’s Bandzoogle tool box is that subscriptions service. can you explain what motivated you to explore that area?
As a team, our combined goal is to always be working on something that brings value to musicians. If we can help provide tools to make it easier for our members to sustain their own music business, we’re doing something right.
Like us, our members have different levels of customers that they can interact with in different ways. Subscriptions can be an essential part of a musician’s tool kit to offer products to their most dedicated followers.
Subscriptions was a huge undertaking and something we’ve had on the back burner for many years. Because we don’t like to do anything halfway, we’ve built the most powerful, flexible subscriptions platform available for musicians.
Can you explain how it works?
Fans pay a monthly fee in exchange for access to an artist’s [subscriber-only] content and special rewards or perks. This feature is fully integrated; you don’t need to set up a new profile or an external account.
Because Subscriptions works with our extensive built-in tools, you can offer any content you’d like, such as exclusive music, pre-orders, tickets, blogs, podcasts, videos, free content, photo galleries, merch, digital downloads, discounts, and more.
“Because subscriptions works with our extensive built-in tools, you can offer any content you’d like, such as exclusive music, pre-orders, tickets, blogs, podcasts, videos, free content, photo galleries, merch, digital downloads, discounts, and more.”
You can create single or multiple subscription tiers, and we’ll automatically generate a paywall page that is visible to all website visitors which describes each tier with the option to sign up or change tiers.
Subscriptions are integrated with our mailing list tools as well, so you have a way to contact individual tiers about updates or exclusive content.
How important is fan subscription revenue for artists?
It’s important for musicians to generate multiple income streams to support their career, and subscription revenue can be an integral part of that. It gives artists a way to create recurring revenue and build a more predictable monthly income.
It also allows artists to reward their superfans, and establish a direct and deeper engagement with their audience.
And Bandzoogle doesn’t take a commission for each subscription?
As with all of our direct-to-fan selling tools, subscriptions are 100% commission-free.
Whether you’re a music teacher selling monthly video lessons, or you have several membership tiers with a complex offering and a huge fan base, your cost to use our subscriptions feature stays fixed.
We actually don’t touch the artists’ money at all, it goes right from the fan into their Stripe account.
What would you recommend to artists and managers works for attracting and retaining subscriptions?
This model works really well for artists who are prolific content creators, and who will commit to creating content over the long term. It’s really ideal for musicians who love to engage their fans, music teachers and video creators.
The key is to offer a steady stream of exclusive content and rewards that will delight your biggest fans.
Does the artist decide on the pricing structure themselves? Do you have any advice in that area?
Yes, they have full control over the pricing, tiers, and content. In terms of advice for setting up subscription tiers, we’d recommend starting with 1-3 tiers, and once you get comfortable balancing your rewards while windowing content, expand to 3-5 tiers; anything else is likely going to be too much to manage.
“You want to make it accessible to all fans and make sure that you are bringing them value.”
For pricing, you want to start small at $1-$5 and increase from there.
It should be gradual with no large gaps (ie.: Tier 1 – $1, Tier 2 – $3, Tier 3 – $5). You want to make it accessible to all fans and make sure that you are bringing them value.
What sort of information with what sort of regularity do artists and managers get at the back end of this feature?
Besides the detailed fan data that is always available such as traffic, plays, sales, and mailing list, with Subscriptions we also provide detailed reporting on your subscribers, tiers and sales that you can view at any time.
Can you give us an update on the numbers of artists using Bandzoogle? how many do you hope/expect to incorporate subscriptions into their offering in the next six months or so?
Of course! In August we surpassed 38,000 active members, and we always have a few thousand trial users on any given day. We just launched Subscriptions officially this week, and I can already see many members generating income, which is so cool.
“Since we started tallying member in 2011, we’ve had over $36M in member sales, all 100% commission-free.”
Since we started tallying member sales in 2011, we’ve had over $36M in member sales, all 100% commission-free.
I hope to see that number skyrocket over the next year since members now have a new recurring income stream available to them.Music Business Worldwide