Today we have the vice president of Bandzoogle, Dave Cool. Built by musicians for musicians, Bandzoogle is an all-in-one platform that makes it easy to build a beautiful website and EPK for your music. Bandzoogle members have earned $5 million since the start of the pandemic.
We talk about making money and monetizing your music career and live stream ideas without over-saturating your fan base. For instance, artists received two times the revenue compared to a ticket price, but offering a free show and using Bandzoogle's built in the tip jar feature. The average tip is actually $42. If you're using Patreon, you're going to rethink all of that because Bandzoogle includes commission-free ways to reward your fans. We're going to talk about Bandzoogle's growth to almost 55,000 members and so much more.
Welcome to the podcast and thank you for joining us. I'm your host, Mike Zabrin, and welcome to Funktastic Chats, where we help you become extraordinary in your small business, and we help you dominate the creative fields with originality and envision. Today, we have the vice president of Bandzoogle, Dave Cool, and he's coming right up. Bandzoogle members have earned $5 million since it started the pandemic. We talk about making money and monetizing your music career and livestream ideas without over-saturating your fan base. For instance, artists received a two times the revenue compared to a ticket price when offering a free show and using Bandzoogle's built in tip jar feature. The average tip is actually $42. If you're using Patreon, you're going to rethink all of that, because Bandzoogle includes commission-free ways to reward your fans. We're going to talk about Bandzoogle's growth to almost 40,000 members and so much more. So don't go anywhere. 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You could enter the promo code FUNKTASTIC to get 15% off the first year of any subscription. That's www.BandZoogle.com And the promo code is FUNKTASTIC. And today we're talking to the vice president of the company, Dave. Cool. Hey Dave, welcome to the podcast Thanks Mike. Appreciate being here. So not only are you the vice president of business development, you're in charge of all the artists and industry outreach, you manage relationships with industry partners, manage events, workshops, music, conferences. You've also written all of the Bandzoogle blog posts for what? Nine years, something like that. Right? I had been, yeah. So up until about two years ago, it was mostly my face up on the Bandzoogle blog. I was originally hired to be a part-time blogger a little over nine years ago and I ended up running the blog for them and with my new role, new ish role overseeing partnerships and events and all that fun stuff. I've let go of the blog and We have our communications manager, Melanie Keeley, who's taken over the blog and doing an amazing job with it, her and her team. So I am there to help and advise, but I'm no longer as involved as I was. It seems like you wear a lot of hats over at Bandzoogle. It seems like you do a lot of things. What's a day in the life of Dave Cool? That's funny. Nothing too exciting. I unlike my musician days, many years ago, I'm up at the crack of Dawn usually. I'm usually doing my most important work before the sun comes up. And that tends to be communications work, actually. So speaking of the blog and communications I'll review things and make sure all the important stuff is getting out on time. And then once I officially sign in it's a lot of meetings, a lot of emails. Internal meetings, but a lot of external meetings. So anyone that wants to work with Bandzoogle, whether they're a company, a podcast music association they all tend to talk to me. So I'm in meetings a lot of times throughout the weekdays. It's fun I get to meet a lot of people and keep in touch with a lot of people who I've known in the industry for many years. So to be honest, it sounds cheesy, but there's not a day that, that I don't wake up grateful to be doing what I'm doing. It's one of those things where you wake up and love what you do. It's a, it doesn't feel like a job, Bandzoogle has been totally remote since the beginning rght? As far as all the employees, I mean, it's totally remote across the world. Employees all over the world. Yeah, exactly. So I think, I believe there was an office for the first month or two, 17 years ago when Chris, the founder he was signed to a major label and when his band broke up they were like the big rock band in Montreal. I, when I was coming through the Montreal music scene they were like the big band and they were signed to a major label. When the band broke up, cause the singer went solo, which is something that tends to happen, the label wanted Chris to build all the webs cause he was a web designer and he built his band's website himself. And this is, 17, 18 years ago. And so he was hired by the label to build all the websites for all the bands on the label. Which was dozens and dozens of websites. And he quickly became overwhelmed with requests to add calendar dates or change the bio or add photos or whatever. And so we built this control panel with a login and said, here's, everyone's log in, do it yourself. I'm too busy. And Bandzoogle was born basically because it worked, everyone started updating their own websites and he thought it would be useful for other musicians. So he started the company out of the record label office initially, but when he had to hire his first developer , he couldn't find someone to code in the coding language in Montreal that he needed. So he hired someone I believe in Halifax. And because they weren't good coming to the office, he was like, well, why am I coming to the office? So he never looked back and then Bandzoogle has been remote now for 17 years. We're officially based in Ottawa where a CEO Stacy is. And it was based in Montreal for many years because Chris. It was based in Montreal, but he stepped away from day to day operations at the company. Stacey runs the company out of Ottawa officially, but we have a team really coast to coast from Nova Scotia through Demond Island and BC on the other, on the West coast down throughout the United States, South America, Europe. So not quite worldwide but getting there. There's a blog post that I read that talks about the start of Bandzoogle and it mentions that in the tech world, many companies start out with fireworks and fizzle out quickly. One of the main reasons for this is just money. Too much of it at the beginning and not enough to sustain for the long haul and that Chris had enough foresight to reject money from venture capital firms. And it kept... and he was able to keep it at a very low cost for members. And in fact, I don't even think Bandzoogle, has raised their prices in over 15 years, and from competing website platforms in my past, they raise their prices every year and it drives me crazy. How have you been able to keep Bandzoogle prices so low for members, but you keep adding game changing features year after year? That's a great question. And and it's not for every company either. Some startup ups totally get that they have to raise some capital to get going. Bandzoogle was fortunate in a few ways, but one of them is that websites and email have stayed relevant over the last 17 years, which is pretty remarkable. I mean, especially, when myspace came out, there was some fear that, that was it. Like people are just going to use MySpace for their online presence, but, social media comes and goes, and you don't really own that space on the internet. So having your own domain, your own website, your own email newsletter, all that stuff has remained relevant. So that's been, obviously a huge impact for BandZoogle's longevity, but in terms of raising capital, I mean, Chris, And Stacey's philosophy is very much, not wanting to answer to anyone, not wanting to answer to investors, not wanting to answer to a board of directors and Bandzoogle was fortunate to be essentially profitable from day one. And so just reinvesting the profits of the company, which whatever they were back into the platform and hiring more developers and investing more into the technology. Making sure that whatever we're doing is in the best interest of our members, the musicians, and it's a much different conversation than I think takes place at some startups in the music industry where the pressure from investors starts to get so great that you're, you start to make decisions that are for the bottom line of the company and not necessarily for the best interest of your members or the musician community. So we take pride in that. And we even though maybe we could be a much bigger company, if we took on millions of dollars of investment, but we wouldn't enjoy the independence and freedom that we do to make the decisions that we feel are best for our members and musicians as a whole. So it's a different approach to business, for sure. Like just being bootstrapped from day one and for 17 years, it's really more of a small, medium business rather than like traditional startup. Angel investors VC that whole side of things, which can be exciting and headline making. We've seen a lot of companies in this space come and go that were flashes in the pan that just raised so much money, got all the headlines. And then at the end of the day, their product just wasn't good enough. Wow. It's funny you bring up myspace because that's a throwback because there really was no, Facebook band pages. What were the needs for artists at the time for a website back in the day? What were those few features? I mean, I know one of them has gotta be photos, right? Everybody wanted their photos on their website. That was a big thing and maybe a clean website, SEO. What were some features, and then along with that too there wasn't really a need for many revenue streams for musicians as there are today? Is that correct? It's funny. It's a good question. So, and it's funny because some of those original kind of old school web features are coming back and I'll get to that in a second. But Chris, when he built, so the band he was in was called rubber man. And like I said, they were like a big rock band in Montreal and their website was the hub for their fans to communicate with each other and with the band through community forum. So like fan forums, which is such an old school there was one of the original features of Bandzoogle. And it's funny, it's still there and it's making a comeback because after we launched built in fan subscriptions last year, which is a model where a musician can charge a monthly fee to fans who subscribed to them to their online fan club, essentially to get exclusive content that could be early released music, could be unreleased music, could be access to your full catalog. It could be exclusive live streams every month, discounts on merch. There's all sorts of ways to reward fans for this revenue model. But, one of the features that's getting used a lot by musicians that are running fan descriptions is the community forum feature because fans want to communicate with each other. So it's funny that you ask that question because that was one of the reasons why besides being a great band and great live show and all that like rubber man back in the day, had this really active fan base on their community forums on their website. So that was like a big deal back then. And yeah, like you said, having photos eventually having music, I believe Bandzoogle launched their first MP3 download store in 2006. So Bandzoogle has been doing the direct defense sales thing for a long time. And it's funny, I just I went back and read that blog post recently from 2006, like a couple lines . Cause we were looking at obviously with a lot of musicians and people in the music industry and we look back at the revenues being made by Bandzoogle members since March and it's actually incredible and super inspiring and seeing the different revenue streams that you can generate just through your own website. We were looking back at the numbers and seeing historically, and when did Bandzoogle really started doing direct to fan e-commerce and it was back in 2006. I love that you can go back and read blog posts that are, that, that are that old from 2006 and things you've written years ago, and you're actually a master writer. I know you that you know that, and I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but I mean, some posts that you write are very educational and some are more Bandzoogle feature driven. How is your writing style... we talked about the features, but let's talk about your writing style. How has your writing style and maybe the types of posts change as the industry changed? Well, first of all, thank you. I don't totally agree. I think I'm a decent writer. I think I'm a better editor to be honest and that's where I've transitioned to. The first thing that Bandzoogle hired me to do was to do some part-time blogging and I actually , when they offered me the job, I said, no. Cause I just I just left a job as a Booker at a couple of venues in Montreal and I was completely burned out and, running an indoor venue and an outdoor venue and booking bands, like after four years, I was just... I understood finally the other side of things. Cause when I was in a band, I'd get so frustrated that bookers at venues wouldn't get back to us or they were slow. Then I realized when you're in that position, you get like hundreds of emails a week and you can't possibly respond to anyone. Anyways, so I'd left that job after four years, I was just completely burned out. I focused on writing. I released a couple of free eBooks and was doing some regular blogging through my own website and the CEO of Bandzoogle at the time, heard about me through a mutual contact in the industry and he was in Montreal. So we met for coffee and hit it off and he was like, Hey, like, why don't you come, work part-time for Bandzoogle and do some blogging? I should mentioned I've been at the company for nine years, but I was a Bandzoogle user from year two on, because I knew the company. And I used them for my record label website. I did a documentary film years ago and I used Bandzoogle for the documentary film websites. So I was a huge fan. So I just told the CEO at the time that, Hey man, love the company. Love what you guys do been a fan for years. Everything I write, I'll just give it to you guys. It's fine. But I'm not looking for a job. Looking back on that I was like, wow, there's an idiot. Because Bandzoogle was remote, every year, the company pays for the staff and their families to travel to one location and hang out for a week because we don't get to see each other. So that year the meetup was in Montreal and the CEO is look, man, like I know you're not staff. I think I'd started contributing a blog posts here and there. He's like, why don't you come meet the team for one of the dinners and just, just come hang out. So I did, I went and had dinner and that was it. I went to him, went up to him right after dinner. I said, I'm in. I'm in this feels like family. Everyone's so nice. It's such a nice company culture. People have been there for years already and you could tell the vibe was very musician friendly. Most people were musicians or former musicians and it just felt like a little family. So I was like, I want in I'm in. I will change my my rejection to your offer and please accept it. I never used to write blog posts. And in fact, I would pay for a Google ads, which is funny, but I never wrote blog posts. And I assumed that blog posts were like food, like for food or for video games, because that's where I saw blogs being utilized as a kid and it wasn't until I learned about content writing and putting that content, not only on my website, but on places like Google my business, for example, that my website traffic grew tremendously. Can you talk about why it's so important for every band to write a blog post and to keep up with that? Yeah, it's a great question. So, Bandzoogle was a bit of a head of their time in really focusing on that content marketing. Cause now it's obviously, it's just, it's a normal part of business these days, 10 years ago, not so much. And it's just, for Bandzoogle, it's one, obviously we want musicians to discover Bandzoogle, but more than that, we want to help the musician community however we can. And part of that is, investing a lot of time into education. So webinars and workshops, and of course the blog and just putting out a lot of free content that helps musicians navigate this wacky industry we're all part of, and that hopefully, if they find something helpful and then when they do need a website, hopefully they think of the nice people over at Bandzoogle to build it. But it's very much a soft sell proposition and developing kind of a long-term relationship with the musician community. In terms of musicians themselves, blogging, it depends what you're doing. It's a great fan engagement tool, obviously for those deeper non social media type posts where you really want to dive into a subject. Maybe that's more personal or maybe about your band, but maybe about a different hobby that you have. It can be a great way to connect with connect with your fans on another level and on a deeper level. And the side benefit to that of course, is that Google loves fresh content. So your website, a lot of musicians create a website and they set it and forget it, which is not what websites should do. They need to be a living, breathing online resume for your career that is constantly updated. And, a blog is a great way to have fresh content show people that you're active show Google that you're active. Obviously if you're sprinkling it with keywords. If you're a wedding band in a, in Chicago, you could be blogging about different aspects of the industry and when someone does a Google search for, Wedding band Chicago or best wedding bands in Chicago. SEO is a whole other conversation and I'm not the the foremost expert on that topic, but the most important thing is that depending on what you're looking to accomplish with your website. You can make yourself a lot more find-able through blogging and keywords and making sure that whatever you're blogging about is relevant to what you're trying to accomplish through your site. If it's booking gigs, wedding gigs, private gigs , then it can be a lot more important to focus on that stuff. How often does Bandzoogle release new blog posts? Because I always struggle with how often to do it because in the wedding industry, you want to stay extremely relevant and extremely, ahead of Google. I mean, is there a certain formula you guys have for releasing new blog posts, as far as dates? It changes and we've experimented with different frequencies over the years. I would say these days, it's between two and four blog posts a week, not quite one a day, but at least a couple of new posts a week. And then of course, like we're doing new feature announcements. We're always releasing new features, different web design advice posts. And then we have advice for, not only the musical blog, it touches all aspects of the music industry, not just, web design or online presence. It's really how to navigate through the music industry, with everything from songwriting to licensing, to selling your music and monetizing, and booking gigs and things like that. So, two to four posts a week is where we're at right now. And like I said, our communications manager, Melanie Keeley who's been at the company for 10 years and is one of if you're going through the blog, Mike, you probably saw her face a bunch of times. She's one of the regular writers and she's now the main contributor who does like the big website guides and the big picture guides and blog posts for Bandzoogle that that I used to do. Now I'm there to help and support and she really put her stamp on the blog and 2020, and it was a challenging year for so many reasons. But In March , we plan out our blog content months in advance and all of a sudden a whole bunch of it wasn't relevant cause no one's booking gigs. No one was either thinking about anything else except for the pandemic. So, we had to make a huge pivot in March and develop all new content and what do musicians need? How can we be of help to musicians right now at a time when it's really stressful? So it was a challenging year, but really proud of her and then the whole communications team for what they did on the blog. I still consider it my baby in some ways cause I took care of it for almost 10 years, it's a great resource for musicians out there. Well, speaking of amazing women at Bandzoogle, the CEO is Stacey Bedford , an industry where 3% of CEOs are female in the tech industry. I was listening to an interview with her and she mentioned that there is just such an overwhelming amount of live streams on Facebook live and the same artists doing live streams multiple times a week and their engagement wasn't as strong compared to the beginning of the pandemic. I was just curious , what are your thoughts on Facebook live? Are we completely over-saturating ourselves to our fan bases as artists? I guess it depends on the fan base, but yes. I think there was probably a little bit of that going on, especially in the first few months of the pandemic. It seemed like I couldn't log into Facebook or Instagram without, three to five notifications all at the same time about different artists going live. We can't possibly watch them all, right? So, it became a bit overwhelming and I think as time goes on things have evened out a little bit, and I think artists are, from what I can tell, are maybe doing less live, but maybe doing like bigger shows, instead of it just being like going live every night. They'll go live once a month and maybe charge tickets or do something a little bit more produced. And I think that's probably the right approach and we'll see where things land. Hopefully when we can all get back to going to shows and booking shows and playing shows we'll see where live streaming fits into that. I think it has its role. I think a lot of artists realize that they have fans all around the world that they're not necessarily going to be able to reach touring and that they can monetize these live streams beyond The COVID pandemic. Since COVID started in March, Bandzoogle has helped Artists monetize their businesses by offering commission-free ticket links across all Bandzoogle plans and some artists would do free shows, but offer the tip jar feature. Artists received two times the revenue just asking for tips. The average tip is $42. What is the process to get fans engaged for let's say newer artists. Is it a free show in tips, charge, paid subscriptions? What advice do you have for some artists who are a little intimidated by what, which route to go Sure. Yeah. So I would say for artists just starting out who don't have a huge fan base, going live for free on social media is totally awesome. That's great, and having just something as simple as a tip jar. Obviously we encourage artists to put a link to their website and drive people to your home on the internet that you control, and they could sign up to your mailing list, they can shop for merch at the same time, leave a tip, leave a donation. I See a lot of artists put in their PayPal email or their Venmo, that's fine too. I mean, people that can contribute we'll contribute. At that point, you're just looking to engage with your current fans and maybe through those live streams, friends of your fans are also checking out the live stream and you're growing your fan base a little bit. And that's to me that's a great strategy. I'll give you an example of a band that's more established. That's Bandzoogle member called Enter the Haggis. And they've been around for a long time. And they, like many artists in bands , had a new album ready to release in March and they all live in different cities now and they were coming together to do it. They had a whole tour booked spring, and summer tour book with festival dates, the whole thing. And it all, everything got canceled. And so, some bands in that place might just go well, okay, we'll wait and see when we can go back on tour, but , they've always been really clever and just really smart about direct of fan engagements and monetizing through their website. So what they did was they used the throwback Thursday concept and they started doing throwback Thursday live streams on Facebook and YouTube. Well, I think it was every two weeks they would pick an album. They were going through their entire discography, starting from their first album. And they would do a live stream of the album, listening to the songs with their fans, but also they produced segments where they were interviewing each other, talking about the song writing process, talking about any funny stories in the studio or on the road during that album promotion. And so every two weeks their fans would get this produced show ,basically that was a behind the scenes of each album. And so they did that every two weeks leading up to a listening party for their new album, which was supposed to come out in March and every live stream, they'd have a link to their Bandzoogle website, taking their fans to a page that had the tip jar donation button front and center, and of course the album available for sale that was being listened to that week. They generated over $15,000 from these live streams. And I mean, didn't quite make up for the revenue loss from a full tour and festival dates and the whole thing. But not, not too bad. And it just shows you do something creative, you do something fun, you do something unique and something that's also a value. They really produced these shows every two weeks with the prerecorded interviews and the behind the scenes stories. Every two weeks was a real event for their fan base. And again, just so smart across the screen, there would be, the link showing for their website. They'd posted, obviously in the the chat. And drive their fans through their website to leave a donation, buy the album, buy other merch while they're there and it was extremely successful. So that's an example of a band using the free format, but also being smart about monetizing it as well. Then you have established artists that are able to, like we had over, I believe 1400 virtual events listed through our calendar feature that had tickets sold for them. And over $200,000 worth of virtual ticket sales were sold during the pandemic. So, I mean, that's not nothing, fans are obviously right buying tickets to private live streams. So getting back to your original question. It depends on your fan base. I attended a couple of ticketed shows where they were 20 or 40 people, but they all paid 20 bucks and it was a very intimate concert live stream with the artist, and that was great. And so, you got to think about the finances, the economics, and what you want to do with it, but I think artists at almost every level can monetize these live streams in some way. But if you're just starting out, probably doing the free social media live streams with a link to a tip jar is probably your best bet to start. This just made me rethink my whole life this past year, because for instance, we did a live, we did a live stream on Monday and okay. So a month ago we did a live stream and I put a Venmo link, I put a cash app link, and then the next time around, we were like, okay, maybe we just need more links. Maybe we just need more links. So on Monday we had a live stream and I put the Venmo link, the cash app link, the Zelle link the PayPal link, and I really think that it's inconvenient for people. Compared to just leading them again to what you said , where they could just check out through your store feature by leaving a tip, and then also seeing all of this other amazing information about the band. Exactly. It sends your fans to a place where they're still immersed in you as the artists and your brand , like you said, finding out more about you. I should mention that, all the money raised through the tip jar and the store and the music feature at Bandzoogle, enter the haggis who raised over $15,000 from those live streams, it's all commission-free. Bandzoogle has never taken the cut of sales through the platform. We're very proud of that. We crossed 71 million total commission-free sales recently and like I mentioned earlier, Bandzoogle launched the first MP3 download store on the platform in 2006. So we're talking about $71 million over, 14 years. However , half of that $71 million is from the last two years alone. So we're seeing a huge surge in interest in direct to fans sale and fans supporting the bands directly. So it's really encouraging and it shows that, it's not all about streaming all the time. There are obviously fans out there who want to support their favorite artists directly . Whether it's buying merch or buying a signed CD, or even just downloading, hundreds of thousands of dollars of MP3 downloads were sold through Bandzoogle during the pandemic. So, I don't know if people are actually using those MP3s and loading them onto any kind of device, or if they're just looking to support the artists, but you won't know as an artist unless you give fans the option to support you in that way. Since the start of the pandemic alone, Bandzoogle members have earned over $5 million and here's something I thought was really interesting. Digital music is over $484,000, but merch is $3 million and this doesn't even count as merch being sold through subscriptions. I mean, how are people selling their merch through Bandzoogle? The store feature has been around for a long time and bands, it's a lot of the usual stuff like t-shirts and the CDs and vinyl, and mugs and hats and things like that. Bandzoogle doesn't take any kind of sales, but we also don't do any of the fulfillment. So for artists using Bandzoogle, it's you put up the merch when you sell it, you got an email notification for what sold and where to ship it to the fan and like you've mentioned just under $4 million of Merch sold since March alone. And so it's by far the biggest category for our members in terms of sales . As the day that we're speaking and doing this interview ,we launched an integration with Printful, which is a print on demand Service. Now Bandzoogle members can connect that directly in their store, alongside their music and other merch if they want, and so it's a very risk-free way to sell merch because you're not paying for any of it unless it sells. So you create the merch, add your logo to different or designed to different merchant items, have them in your store and your website and when you do sell an item, Printful manufactures the merch, fulfills it, ships it for you. So we're really excited about it because it adds another option for Bandzoogle members to sell directly to their fans commission-free, and also lowers the risk because you don't have to buy 50 t-shirts or whatever and keep inventory on hand, And the fulfillment's taken care of for you, which is great. Other than t-shirts and vinyl, I know those are two big merchant categories that artists will release. What are some other creative kinds of merch you've seen artists use? I'm always looking for something creative. I was just wondering. The most creative thing I've ever seen by far and look, it wouldn't fit every band's brand, but there's this metal act out of Toronto, I believe called the Primitive Evolution and for the longest time they were selling voodoo dolls as swag. They had their logo on it Like when we saw, they were like, this is great. Customized voodoo dolls for their fans that came with a little USB stick on the arm, have their music. What's the band called Primitive Evolution. I'm not sure if there's still still around and still have that merch, but yeah, that was definitely by far the most unique thing, but, guitar picks and anything branded. We've seen any handmade items are obviously very unique. But one thing that a lot of bands should keep in mind is if your fans are interested, especially with doing print-on-demand, you can really test things out to see what your fans want to buy. It could be like phone cases or shot glasses or flasks or whatever. But one thing that we encourage artists to do is to customize the items. Look, again, I don't even own a device that can play a CD anymore, and I still buy CDs from artists when they're personalized, because I like having that physical memorabilia that's been customized and, CDs. Like vinyls, obviously great, but vinyl is such a big investment and it's expensive, but CDs are so cheap to produce. And we had an artist ... they're a big YouTube star. So, Again it's an example of an established artist. However, they put their newest CD on presale through Bandzoogle, and they signed 10,000 copies of the CD and it's sold out in less than 24 hours. We could not believe it. And so then they put up 5,000 units of a CD that wasn't signed, and I think there's probably still some available, like their fans wanted that personalized signed CD and they have a young fan base. Like there, I don't think there's any way that their fans are playing the CDs on any kind of device, but they wanted that signed version as a collector's item and CDs cost, like what a buck or two to produce, maybe. So. It's one of those things, that's obviously on a large scale, but even for a smaller act, getting a hundred CDs made is pretty cheap and if you can charge more for the customized autographed version and it makes your fan happy because they feel they have something unique. You can limit the quantity. So that's something that you can do with more kind of regular merch items to make them a little bit more special and unique for fans. When we released our album, we had the artists who made the foo fighters records, make the album artwork for our CD. It was a great investment because even before we put out the record, we literally just put out the album artwork and because his network we sold a lot of copies just by having that artwork out there. Like you said, it's just memorabilia, and even as far as the streaming platform itself , Bandzoogle's streaming platform artists Can't monetize through the music player, but some artists have found ways through the subscription feature. Is that accurate? Yes. So one of the requests we were getting was artists want to create their own kind of streaming platform through their website, where they could charge a monthly subscription. So our music players are not monetized for the streams. You can, the downloads are, and you can offer the downloads for free for an email address or make it pay what you want, which is a really interesting revenue model, because again, you'd be surprised how generous some fans can be. I've paid, 20 bucks for a single track because the artists let me choose and I love the song and so I gave him 20 bucks for it instead of the typical $1. But anyways, the streams themselves are not monetized. So using the fan subscription model, that online fan club model, you can have this gated area on your website that's not accessible to the general public. That's just for your subscribers, and you can have your full discography there to stream and download if you want. And so that's one of the more common uses that we're seeing for the subscriptions feature, where artists are charging their fans five bucks a month. They've got access to their full discography to stream or download, and then they get access to some, maybe some merch discounts, or maybe an exclusive live stream every once in a while, and of course any new music gets added there as well. So yeah, they're making their own private streaming platforms through their websites, which is awesome. But You can't mention hiring the foo fighters designer without us talking about the foo fighters for a minute. Because right behind me, we're not on video, but right behind me is a giant poster of their first album that I took the poster off the wall in Montreal, back in whatever 1990, whatever. 1994, that it's still hanging in my office. Cause I went to go see their very first show in Montreal in a club that fits 250 people. Yeah, obviously a super fan ever since. So you need to send me a link to that CD, I want to see the design. So who helped me with that is another guest we're having his name is John Heintz. He runs a band out of Los Angeles, called The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown, and what he does is he just takes legendary musicians from bands like the foo fighters and puts them with people from parliament Funkadelic and the Kool and the gang, and Fishbone, and just put some in a studio and just says, here record, it's a really cool project. But anyway, one of my favorite blog posts that you wrote, and I think it should be a Bible for every musician is called seven ways to make money. Do you remember that post? Yeah. It was the most popular post on Bandzoogle for years and years. And it's funny because, looking back on it, I wrote it in response to getting asked almost daily through email or social media Hey, how can, like, how do I make money? What are other ways I can make money as a musician? And so I sat down and I banged out that blog post, like in a couple of hours one morning and put it up on the Bandzoogle blog, and I would just, it was for selfish reasons that I could, instead of typing out an email every time I could just say, here's a blog post. Here's some ideas for how to make money, and it ended up being by far the most popular blog post on Bandzoogle for many years. No longer, but a lot of , Melanie, our communications manager, a lot of her posts are now our most popular posts, but that one had a good run and obviously a lot of musicians or looking for ways to make money. So it's not a huge surprise, but it was certainly not intentional. It was more for selfish reasons of trying to save myself time of typing up email responses. Well, one thing I overlooked and I think a lot of other people overlooked is what we were just talking about. An online fan club, or Bandzoogle calls it subscriptions. With Bandzoogle's subscription features, your fans pay you a monthly subscription or membership fee and in exchange, they get exclusive content rewards, access to your music and more, and just like with all of Bandzoogle's selling tools, fans pay you directly and the revenue is commission-free. So, Dave, I was just curious will you tell our listeners how this is different from Patreon ,and what's the benefit of having everything on one platform? Sure. Yeah. So it's a similar revenue model. But with Bandzoogle, it's all in one place, right? So you're not sending your fans to join another platform. Obviously we don't take a commission, so that's the big, that's the biggest difference is there's no commission on that monthly revenue. And it's a lot more flexible. So it really leverages all of Bandzoogle's already built in features. So you can really, you can gate different pages and in different content and It's very flexible and powerful. And to us, it's really a matter of keeping fans engaged on your own website, where they're focused on you, and again, for fans, subscribers, maybe a little bit less. So, but just in terms of buying merch, but maybe as part of your fan club, you have discounted merch, things like that. So you want to keep your fans in your ecosystem as much as possible. So I think it's all about driving fans to that place that you own and control and keeping them there and running everything through that one central location that you, again, own and control because Patreon is a big company and founded by a great musician with a great mission. I wish them all the best and they do a lot to help, obviously the arts community more than musicians. There's, obviously they there's many different types of artists that use and creators that use Patreon. It's one of these things where when artists become too dependent on a specific platform for revenue stream. And this is me, Dave cool talking , not Bandzoogle, but just my experience history over the last 25 years. Companies come and go and the most recent example was PledgeMusic, which ended up being a disaster for a lot of artists who came to depend on them for revenue from crowdfunding and things went South really badly, and arguably, some people would argue it, kill the crowdfunding revenue model for artists. I don't believe that at all, and we do crowd funding through Bandzoogle and we're seeing a lot of successful campaigns being run. But it definitely hurt the brand of crowd funding because a whole lot of bands never got paid the money that was raised. And so, getting back to the original question. I think not only with fan subscriptions, but for everything that you're doing as an artist, as much as you can do direct to fan through that place that you own and control. Look, Bandzoogle's a platform, we've been around for 17 years, and we're not going anywhere, but you own your content. You own your domain name, you own, your email addresses, your database. So if you ever leave Bandzoogle, you take all that with you. So nothing changes from your fans perspective. Like they're always going to go to your domain. Your own.com to do all these things. So it's just getting your fans used to and driving them to that place that you know, that you're always going to own and control. Unlike social media, unlike some of these other platforms to generate revenues. Just believe that in terms of direct a fan, you should really own that relationship completely and make all the money. So that's the shorter, Our drummer. He's also got his own band. And I wasn't going to say this, but I feel like I have to, he didn't know about Bandzoogle, and now he does, but for this sole purpose, he made an only fans account and he had to make a special video on Facebook to like, let people know that he wasn't like giving away nudes or whatever people do on only fans. And of course I sent it now. I sent the Subscriptions feature.. I was like dude make a Bandzoogle account. But anyway , Bandzoogle has given musicians, so many revenue stream ideas for things that they didn't really think of putting a lot of time into before, especially with COVID and teaching is one of them . On your subscription page ,sheet music, song charts, song requests, what are some ways that artists are monetizing through things they haven't thought of before with COVID other than teaching? That was just one that I read. I think there's actually an article 71 ways to reward your subscribers. So we did a little internal brainstorming and there's so many other ways we're seeing creative things that Bandzoogle members are doing. It's interesting because we know of many Bandzoogle members and members that joined specifically for the subscriptions feature since the pandemic hit. And it was out of a need the artists were looking for ways to monetize cause they lost all their touring revenue and seeing some really creative stuff and, There's one artist WhoDust, who it's a husband and wife duo, and they have a great subscriptions offering. And it's important to offer fans like different levels, different rewards, and it could just be $5 a month, again, for that access to all your music. But, they have all these different tiers and one of them, you get artwork, original artwork from Oksha, the singer, and every month they do these live stream vegan cooking classes. Because they're passionate about cooking vegan food, that's such a unique, that didn't show up on our 71 ways list cause it's not something we would have thought of, but it's something obviously that ties into their brand and obviously, their fans enjoy that content. So it's just one of these unique things that, we saw that we were like, Oh, that makes so much sense. Like, why not take what you're passionate about and share it with your fans through this exclusive online club. So that's one example. And you mentioned teaching. Music teaching is one of these things that lends itself really well to the subscriptions model, because you're constantly creating content. New lessons, new lesson plans, new video lessons one-on-one mentoring, things like that. So we have, we see members that have different tiers where you can subscribe and you get access to all the lessons and the sheet music, and then if you subscribe at a higher tier, you get access to private one-on-one lessons every month and things like that. So, again it's about creativity and time management, I guess I would say. Subscriptions is not for everyone, and that's one thing that I always stress when talking to artists. If you're not super prolific with releasing content, it might not be the best revenue model for you. But if you do like to release new music and new videos and interact with your fans a lot, then it's something that you can definitely look at as a potential new revenue stream. Some of these artists like WhoDust and Julian Taylor is another one of our members. Now that they've done that revenue model, When they go back to touring again, they're excited to connect the two things, because there's so much exclusive content you can offer to your subscribers while on the road behind the scenes and green room, and, there's all these new possibilities to feed into this online fan club model . So, it's been a, obviously a challenging year for so many musicians. We've been encouraging artists, get your online presence set up now. You have some time , start trying out different revenue streams like subscriptions or other than merch ,and get that established now so that when you do go back to playing live and do go back to touring the online revenue is not going to go away. It's going to continue and you'll be able to build off of that. So, we're looking forward to seeing, hopefully live shows coming back in 2021 and seeing all artists and Bandzoogle members, some of these members I mentioned who are going to be able to keep these revenue streams going and combine it with the live touring and live show experience. I think it's going to be potentially a really great year for musicians. We're offering our listeners in one of the tiers and all of our tiers are named after funk songs, cause I'm a funk musician. Like literally, The Shining Star, The Bad Mama Jamma, and The Papa's Got A Brand New Bag. Those are our three tiers. And then all three of the tiers were offering a 20 minute screen share into, my Bandzoogle profile, where I personally go over all of the things I love about Bandzoogle. I think the point is just to be creative, whether it's handwritten lyrics, letting fans vote on a song direction, giving fans, producer credits on albums . I would recommend definitely reading 71 ways to reward subscribers, because there's so many things that I never would've thought of. I don't think a lot of people would've thought of. But , let's talk about some of the latest news with Bandzoogle. Other than Bandzoogle, the longest running music tech company is CD baby, which is an online distributor of independent music. And you guys have recently partnered with them. Is that right? Indeed. Yeah, that was in late summer, 2019. And CD Baby's office had been around for, I think, a little over 25 years. And I personally was a customer of CD baby. I think in year three, two or three, I would go to CD baby.com and shop for indie music and just buy CDs. And I'd love the whole direct to fan thing and their founder, Derek Sivers was a really interesting guy, is a really interesting guy. I just bought two of his new books. CD Baby was really the company that inspired me to go down this whole indie DIY root in the industry and, knew that company, obviously for a long time, and I produced a documentary film 15 years ago called what is Indy and Derek Sivers a founder CD baby was in it, and was a prominent voice in that movie. I always championed CD baby and Bandzoogle. I was Bandzoogle member long before, like I mentioned, long before I've worked for them, and even though CD baby had a website platform called Host Baby, and I was like, you know what? CD is great for distribution, but you should build your website with Bandzoogle, cause there's a hometown pride thing here in Montreal. And I just thought it was a better platform. So anyways, fast forward, I get hired by Bandzoogle and then realized like, I can't really talk about or work with CDBaby because they're competitive with the host baby. Website platform. They had over 25,000 members Exactly. So at one point, yeah, and they were Bandzoogle's really primary competitor for a long time. And that changed, five, six years ago. CDbaby is a big company. They do with a lot of things really well, and they stopped investing in host baby as a platform. And it, it fell behind the Squarespace and Wix of the world and Bandzoogle, whereas Bandzoogle had the luxury of focus. All we did was the website platform. That's, we spent all of our time and energy and money investing into was making the best website platform for musicians that we could. And so in 2019, CD baby made a strategic decision that they were going to get out of the website hosting business for musicians. And yeah, we got to talking with it. We've always had a lot of communication open with their team and I've known some of their staff for many years. It's been such a nice partnership on so many fronts because there are another, they're one of the most musician friendly companies, again, in terms of educating artists, they do an amazing job with their blog. Like I aspire to make the Bandzoogle blog as good as the DIY musician blog. And I finally got, speaking of writing. I don't really write so much anymore, but last year I wrote a guest post for the DIY musician blog, because I just finally wanted my author byline on their blog because it meant a lot to me personally, because I was such a big fan of Chris Robley and what he's done with that. Yeah. Because I see, I saw him contribute to Bandzoogle's blog posts. Yeah, exactly. So we did a guest blog exchange where I got my name on the DIY musician blog, and Chris contributed to the Bandzoogle blog finally after all these years. So there's been a lot of those nice moments and, they do so much on the education front, like the podcast with Kevin and of course their big DIY musician conference. So, there's a lot of similarities there between the ethos of Bandzoogle and CD baby. So we migrated all of the host baby members to bands Google in late 2019, early in 2020, and are now partnered doing a lot of things together, mostly again on the educational front, just a sort of combining forces. One of their staff , they have a promotional tool called show.co, which is this really powerful tool for Spotify ads and advertising online. And so they did a demo and a webinar for our members recently, and we're doing a lot of stuff like that. So yes it's we're, we've been partnered now for a little over a year and it's on a personal level, it's been really fun to finally be able to talk about CD baby and Bandzoogle in the same breath and not as competitors . I'm going to steal a quote from Chris. He says, it's not all about video ads. Video is King, but it takes more than a King to rule a kingdom. And I love that website show.co because it's an interactive banner with your music for Spotify ads, Twitter ads. Things that don't always display video, and I think people overlook that. And it's a great way to just get your music out there instantly. I want to ask you, do you think it's possible that 25,000 subscribers on host baby would've lost their websites if it wasn't for you? I don't know what the alternative plan was to be honest. So I hope not, but I know that CD baby wanted to give their host baby members a good home and with a company that shared their values in the industry and, Bandzoogle was obviously a no brainer. And the discussions were, I mean, like super amicable and just very positive and I don't know what would have happened if Bandzoogle wasn't there. Maybe they would've found something else or I'm not sure I can't even speculate, but we're thrilled that that they turned to us and hopefully we're, hopefully those host baby members are, enjoying using Bandzoogle and having access to all these direct to fan tools that we had developed over the years that that they didn't have access to at host baby. So. It's a, who knows what would have happened, but we're certainly happy to have been there to help out. Was it a challenge at first for Bandzoogle to know that all at once, just having all of these new subscribers, I mean, did, what was the challenge like for Bandzoogle? I am fortunate that I am not smart enough to understand coding or development, and so I was not involved in that. We call it the great migration . Taking artists' websites on one completely different platform, migrating them to our platform and making sure that the websites don't go down and that they look close as possible to what they had originally. I mean, it was a huge undertaking that our CTO, Collin, and the development team and the support team and Stacey, of course, our CEO leading the charge was instrumental in getting it all done. And it was It was wild. And it was pretty amazing to see how similar a lot of the websites we were able to recreate with our design team. Our lead designer, Josh, was able to recreate a lot of the templates and make and modernize them so that they were responsive on mobile. And, make sure that a lot of artists who were using host baby, when they were migrated, their sites looked the same, except they had added functionality and they were mobile friendly. So that was the goal and it was an ambitious goal. And managed to accomplish it, and I think that everyone is relieved and happy that we're not doing it again this holiday season I'll put it that way. Our support team is incredible, and whenever I travel to conferences and I hope to do so again, next year, the first thing our members usually tell me is how awesome our support team is because they are, they're great. They're super knowledgeable, they're super friendly, and most of them are musicians. The amount of work they did to help in that process of welcoming, thousands and thousands of brand new members who were used to a different platform was pretty incredible. So it's, it was an amazing thing, but like I said, I think we're all happy that we're not going through that again this holiday season, we can relax a little bit. Oh, so the support team clearly did an amazing job because over 80% of host baby users are still with Bandzoogle to this day. I'm curious. Have you ever been to Chicago? Have you ever done a conference in Chicago? That's where I'm from. I know it's funny. So I have of course flown through Chicago. I don't know how many times, but, it's one of the main connecting hubs flying down from Montreal. I've only ever been to Chicago outside of the O'Hare airport once. And it was for a conference, and I forget the name of it. Our CEO at the time had just left, this would have been probably six or seven years ago. And he had been booked to speak on a panel and I filled in for him and it was literally flew in the night before, did the panel in the morning and flew out. So I went across the street from the hotel, the hard rock hotel, ate some deep dish pizza and went on my way, but I did not visit Chicago proper. And I hope to one day be able to do that. You got to come to Chicago because so many musicians in Chicago would benefit from you speaking, hopefully they'll listen to this podcast but I mean, it, this also brings me into Bandzoogle templates, and with a lot of competing website platforms, they really break the templates down by business. If you run a restaurant, if you run a bar, if you run a food blog and then there is a template for if you're a musician. With Bandzoogle, it's everything is obviously templates for musicians, but the templates are broken down by music genre and therefore helping artists to brand themselves in a better way. How do you go about building the templates? Because you guys have a ton of templates and in four variations for every template for jazz pop rock metal. How do you go about finding the latest trends in what artists are doing? That is the job of our lead designer, Josh, who's based out of Vermont, and he, and Danny another designer on the team . It's almost monthly that we release a new template. We probably release 8 to 10 templates a year and you know that I don't know what their process is, exactly. I find out about it when the templates are ready and we promote them. But it's obviously important for us because we're websites for musicians and then we're not trying to be websites for different types of businesses. So like you said, in our templates user, you can not sort by business. You start by genre and it's the same templates, and the same variations, however, We know it's important to put things into context, depending on your genre. So just so that you can see the template using imagery and branding that might make more sense to your genre. So that's, it takes a lot of work to do that whenever Bandzoogle releases new a template, but we want to make sure that your brand is important as an artist and changing your website design can be a big deal. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to put things into context and the right way to make you feel comfortable with the decision. But that being said, you can change your template 10 times a day. There's no extra charge. There's not, you could, your content doesn't get affected. You don't have to start over. It's just, you're re-skinning the site and the content. So, some Bandzoogle members change their design all the time and some just do it every year or every couple of years. But we put a lot of love and attention into the font selection. I know the font selection is important and the color schemes and the imagery. All of the templates are designed by our lead designer, Josh and our design team, so that out of the box, they look beautiful and you can use them as is. But with the visual editor, you can, you can customize the fonts. You can upload your own custom font. You can customize the colors of the links and the buttons in the menu, and you can really drill down and completely customize every single template, but out of the box, they look gorgeous and very much usable as is, but of course you can customize to your heart's content if you need. I love how the pages are built out to help artists excel within the music industry. Like things like having a dedicated EPK page, a dedicated page that music industry professionals can go to and see everything all on one page. It helps artists excel in the music industry, what Bandzoogle does with all of their templates yeah. So EPKs, they're a popular tool obviously for musicians to use ,and we're going to be doing some more work on that front in 2021, adding some more functionality and maybe some EPK specific templates to make it even easier if you want to have a simple site, that's basically an EPK . But yeah, it's all the preset page templates, again that's something that you won't find at a generic website platform of course, but for us it's a no-brainer just to help musicians make it easier for them to wrap their head around, what content should be on the music page or my EPK page or my bio page or whatever. We have all these preset options that you can start with and then customize again. You can move things around on the page, of course, add additional features, but we want to set up our members for success and have a nice clean layout and design. So that's why all those preset page templates are in the platform. Built by musicians for musicians, BandZoogle is an all one platform that makes it easy to build a beautiful website and EPK for your music, and Funktastic Chats listeners can go to www.BandZoogle.com and try it for free for 30 days. And I guarantee you, after three days, you're going to want it for life. We're going to give you a promo code FUNKTASTIC to get 15% off the first year of any subscription that's www.BandZoogle.com and enter the promo code FUNKTASTIC. Dave Cool, thank you so much for speaking with us today. I learned a lot and I know our listeners have learned a lot too, so I really appreciate it. I can't wait to stay in touch with you. Mike, It was good to talk to you, man. I really appreciate it. How cool was that interview with the vice president of Bandzoogle, Dave Cool. BandZoogle members have earned $5 million since start started the pandemic and no other company really takes the time to talk about making money and monetizing your career the way that Bandzoogle does. Make sure you go and create an account with them. Next week is going to be the first of a three-part series with world renowned musician, jeff Berlin. This is going to be the most definitive interview that anybody has ever done with him. So stay healthy, make sure you're taking care of one another, be extraordinary. And we'll see you next week.
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