In this case, “new” is a bit of a misnomer - in truth, Stacey Bedford has been with us for over ten years (long-term members might even recognize her name from your support inquiries - Stacey was Bandzoogle’s first support tech!)
Earlier this year, she was promoted from Head of Operations to CEO. In this interview, we talk with Stacey about fifteen years of building beautiful websites for musicians, what’s made Bandzoogle so successful, and why our members are the best.
Where did you start out, and how did you first get involved with Bandzoogle?
I spent the bulk of my youth between fiddling with computers and hoovering live music. Right after university, I got my real estate license and started out managing a busy property management office. My brother-in-law, Bandzoogle’s founder Chris Vinson, reached out to ask if I’d be interested in a change of pace. At the time it was just him, and our first two developers Eli and Colin (who are still here!). Because I had a background in management, a wide range of tech knowledge, and a shared passion for music, this was a great fit.
For the first few years at Bandzoogle, I assembled and trained our support team from the ground up. Fifteen years ago remote work was a new frontier, so building a distributed team was pretty interesting. I had 3 kids somewhere during this time, too. As our team grew, we needed to abandon our organic methodology for something more structured. I was promoted to head of operations with a goal to implement some of the systems that worked so well for our amazing support team across the board.
Once our operations were streamlined, our team communication and the workflow improved, our output really started to take off. My promotion to CEO was not sudden at all, but a progression that came out of Chris’ trust to lead our really exceptional team as he stepped back into an advisory role.
How did your background in real estate help you transition into customer support?
There is a saying in real estate “buyers are liars.” This doesn’t refer to consumers being dishonest, but that as a realtor, you have to figure out what people need from what they are saying. It’s part detective work. This translates so well to technical support because what the user actually wants to accomplish isn’t what they are saying a lot of the time. With house purchases, or building a new home on the web, it’s not something most people have a ton of experience with or have to do all that often.
At Bandzoogle, our product is really our priority. We put most of our time and energy into R&D and support crew. The idea is to support a product that is so intuitive your customers are empowered to handle it on their own, but if they do have questions you are present and ready to help. Ultimately this the only part about real estate I enjoyed, and in my early days at Bandzoogle, working to advocate for our users was so cathartic for me.
What is the Bandzoogle elevator pitch?
Bandzoogle is the easiest all-in-one professional website platform for musicians and bands.
We tie in a huge education aspect by offering webinars, professional music centered support that is quick and professional, and of course a huge archive of 15 years of advice and information through our blog. You’ll often find Dave Cool or Allison at music events like ASCAP, SXSW, TAXI, AC3, and more, with a focus on providing knowledge.
What makes Bandzoogle stand out among other similar services?
Definitely the people. Our members will tell you that Bandzoogle support is second to none. Our technical support is fast, knowledgeable, and best of all, musicians. Because we have such low employee churn, our team has a really in-depth knowledge of our huge feature set, and has seen all of the multitude of ways you can use our tools to help achieve your music business goals.
That could be anything from getting a unique design to match your style, how to launch pre-orders, or using your report data to organize a tour. Our development team has an open line of communication with our support team and members, so there is no red tape. We have managed to grow, but keep a really personalized service.
How do you see Bandzoogle growing in the future and continuing to provide best in class service and websites for musicians?
We’ve always supported independent artists, and over the last decade our industry has undergone such a massive transformation. Staying on top of changes and not getting complacent is so important. I always think about web years like dog years: you need to multiply it by 7 to get the “real” age. Since Bandzoogle has a really long history, that means we have a great deal of metrics about what works and doesn’t work.
Because Bandzoogle has never taken VC funding, we’ve learned to do things really lean. This not only keeps our costs for members low, but it helped us learn to grow efficiently, and build tools that will help our members the most. Sometimes this means discounting flashy web trends. We’ll continue listening to our customers, staff, and stay on top all things music.
Within the team we have some really great, impromptu music discussions that lead to new ideas for helping our members. These are things that set us apart from the bigger generic website builders, and part of our incredible workplace culture. That is key to our growth.
What do you think the recipe for Bandzoogle’s success has been?
Bandzoogle’s story is a bit crazy because it was created 15 years ago by a bassist who needed it, and today we have 36,000 artists who still need that service. Chris built all of the tools he would have needed as an independent artist, in the early days of MySpace, and we’ve continued to put a heavy focus on developing tools artists today need.
It’s amazing because we’ve seen so many huge companies and alternatives come and go. Everyone here comes to work every day with an honest effort to take care of our members and create value. At the same time, we continue to make sure that our core website building tools provide the most current options, and that we churn out new designs every quarter based on current website design trends.
What has been the most exciting new release in Bandzoogle’s 15 year history?
I also really love our recent preset page options: now our members can add a really nice, out of the box EPK page and customize it as they like. These are great options if, for example, you’ve met an A&R rep on tour and realize that you need to hustle and add a page that contains press, hi-res photos, music samples and contact information quickly and easily. Now you can just add an EPK page from your phone and drop in existing content in minutes.
A lot of things have changed since your last blog interview. What’s your favorite Bandzoogle feature?
I really love our blank template options. This allows artists to get really creative without investing any time in coding. You can change templates in a click without rebuilding your entire site. Each design is responsive across any device - this means our members can rebrand their entire site with each new album launch in minutes. This saves so much time, and gives our members complete creative control without any headaches.
But since we don’t consider our design tools as really features, I’d say our sales tools. Musicians can do anything they dream up: sell any product or service, from audio files to video lessons, or merch, commission-free. Bandzoogle has never taken a cut of our member’s sales.
You can set pricing any way you like: free, pay what you want, or fixed price. You can choose from different processors to handle your sales. There are even pre-order and inventory options, and taxation or shipping calculators on check out. It’s always been really cool to provide artists with more ways to make money, while never increasing pricing ourselves. In fact, since I’ve been here we’ve only added a Lite plan, without increasing the cost of other plans.
You’ve been with Bandzoogle for a long time in a variety of roles, starting in 2008 - from support to operations to project management, and now as CEO! What changes have you seen over the years?
The biggest change has been how our team communicates. Tools for remote companies have changed so much over the last 15 years, and in the last 5 we have really managed to evolve our project flow, through a lot of trial and error, to something incredibly productive and scrappy.
Most BZers have a background in music in some form. What’s your background or connection to music?
I’ve been playing guitar forever, but I would really consider myself more music fan than artist. I spent every week from Thursday to Sunday at some sort of live music event for many years.
As a sidenote, every year the staff gets together for some karaoke. We have some incredibly talented staffers, from opera singers to R&B, and they’re patient enough to carry me through a few songs.
What has been most rewarding for you in your career here?
This was pretty recent. Since we work remotely, once a year our staff and families get together for an annual retreat. It’s a really nice way that Bandzoogle says thank you for your hard work, and get to know the important people in your life. I almost leave every annual meet up wishing we all worked in a physical office.
This year, during our team meeting, I looked around and noticed that while everyone was sharing great ideas and producing some really incredible work, a toddler strolled around with trucks while I bounced a newborn in my arms. I have never felt so proud to be part of an organization that considers family and work life balance so intrinsic to personal and professional success.
Here, family life is seen as a part of what you do, not a hindrance. Everyone works their hardest, everyone is respectful. From the top level down, we understand that producing your best work doesn’t mean sitting in an office for 8 hours and working overtime.
What’s your favorite part about working for Bandzoogle?
It’s really exciting to be part of a business that is always evolving. We are constantly pushing new features and planning into the future. Every week is different here. The best word to describe my work here would be dynamic.
Bandzoogle members tend to be loyal and enthusiastic. Why do you think that is?
We have a relatively small team for the number of member facing updates we release. The result has been an almost cult-like following from our members. We have a mutual appreciation for each other and that’s apparent from our online reviews and member referrals.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our biggest source of growth, which continues to be word of mouth. With all of the avenues of promotion available today versus 2003, that is pretty astounding.
Many Bandzoogle employees have been with the company for years and years. What do you think helps retain them and keeps them wanting to stick around?
I don’t think there has ever been a time in recent history that supporting art was more important. Everyone here is supporting a cause that they care about, they’re passionate about, where they have a say in the direction of our product. We provide training and educational bonuses and encourage staff to do what they’re best at.
Even though we’re not a huge team, we always make an effort to promote within. We acknowledge big and small wins. We make sure to treat everyone equally, and as best we can. When we take on a new staff member we understand we’re also bringing in a new family member, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.
When you’re not supporting the team and brainstorming ways to improve Bandzoogle for our members, how do you spend your time?
I have three incredibly busy kids under 10 and a really wonderful partner I’m lucky to call home. We spend a lot of our time outdoors, disconnected, building forts and stomping in puddles. (Sometimes the kids help too.) I read about 3 books a week and I love to sketch. Speed reading is one of the best skills I have ever learned. I run a lot with the sole purpose of listening to music uninterrupted. It’s cliche but you can’t take care of a company if you don’t take care of yourself.
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