Five Questions With… Bandzoogle CEO Stacey Bedford
The Ottawa native has played a key role in the impressive growth of the music website creator. Recently named CEO, she reflects on the company's artist-friendly mandate and its adaptation to the music industry’s ever-changing technological advancements.
By Jason Schneider
In 2007, Ottawa native Stacey Bedford began working as a support technician at Bandzoogle, the company created four years earlier by Montreal musician Chris Vinson as an outgrowth of his efforts to promote his band Rubberman. The concept was relatively simple: Provide musicians with the tools to market themselves online, and now, 15 years later, Bandzoogle powers over 36,000 websites for musicians who have sold more than $36 million in music and merch commission-free through the platform.
As she became more involved in the company, Bedford played key roles in leading the company’s growth. To mark its recent 15th anniversary, she was named Bandzoogle’s CEO, as Vinson shifted to the role of company Chairman and CTO. Bedford will lead a team of 25, who are mostly musicians themselves. All work remotely with no central office, a testament to her technological and organizational skills as well as her commitment to work-life balance.
A guitar player as well, Bedford believes that her team’s love of music and musicians is an essential part of Bandzoogle competitive advantage. She took some time to speak further about the company’s evolution and how it will continually adapt to the music industry’s ever-changing technological advancements.
Congrats on Bandzoogle’s 15th anniversary. You've been involved now for over 10 years. What's been the experience like of seeing it grow over that period?
The music industry, like the Internet, is a whole new world compared to 15 years ago. We’ve seen the birth of social media—MySpace started weeks after Bandzoogle—YouTube stars, accessible home recording tools, and the rise of big box generic website builders. Bandzoogle has evolved with the times as not only a valuable service to DIY musicians, but also as a frontrunner in a kinder, more effective workplace culture.
At inception, Bandzoogle’s toolset was basic but integral for bands. Every year since then, we’ve continued to adapt our platform to provide cutting-edge marketing, analytics, and website building tools that bands need for today.
Most importantly, we’ve managed to keep the same honest, positive relationship with our customers. At Bandzoogle, customer communication and support have always been paramount, and I’m glad that has never changed.
The challenge is always to stay innovative with what you can offer your users. How do you stay on top of those changes while sticking to your overall vision for the company?
Because most of us are musicians, we understand the changing needs of our member base. We have three opera singers on staff, a drummer, a producer, a few indie rockers, DJs, an R&B singer, even a didjeridoo player. We read and document every single email, social media post, and review that suggests someone is less than fulfilled and prioritize our projects accordingly. Since we have never accepted outside funding, we don’t have any pressure to make decisions based on anything but what we care about: adding value to the music community.
Bandzoogle and other similar companies have given artists more power in controlling their careers. Would you say that's your proudest achievement?
Absolutely! To be able to spend your workdays on making it easier for musicians to share their art globally is so fulfilling. We’re passionate about education and outreach; it’s not always easy for artists to figure out what they need to support their music business, or how to reach fans effectively. To be able to grow and thrive for 15 years in this space is validating. It’s also been an enormous source of pride to watch Bandzoogle grow into a successful business while proving that you can run a business effectively and still be kind to your staff.
Are there any particular artists who have unique relationships with Bandzoogle, or are there artists who inspire you?
Whenever I think about why Bandzoogle is important, the first thing that pops into my head is Nick Drake. Here is an artist, incredibly talented, who only reached a mass of adorers after his death. There was a time when there were no easy means to let your freak flag fly and put your heart on the line without a middleman, but that time has gone.
On the other hand, there are artists at Bandzoogle who found fame earlier in life and are still kicking and deserve an online presence, often out of a label contract that ran their business when technology wasn’t important. In those cases, making a platform that creates beautiful websites easily is so essential.
And then there’s the garage band, up and coming indie artist, music teacher, and all of the critical ways that music can manifest into a business. For example, [L.A. label] Sargent House has built out a beautiful record label site with Bandzoogle, including satellite sites for all of their artists.
We also host websites for legends like Larry Graham, The Tea Party, Jan Hammer, Mudhoney, and Money Mark. We also try to feature Bandzoogle artists in our YouTube videos and promotional content.
How do you see the company evolving in the near future?
We are a very different company than we were five years ago, and five years before that. We’ll maintain our core values, but how those are manifested could be something completely different than the tools we provide today. Building out a roadmap that is reflective of our member needs is key. Maintaining a company that is built to last means embracing change. Everyone at Bandzoogle finds that prospect exciting; we’re all in it together, with our members. The last 15 years have been a wild ride, and I can’t wait for the next 15!