Think it’s hard writing the perfect pop song? Try keeping track of the number of T-shirts buried in the back of your band’s van.
Bandize, a new web service for musicians that’s currently in closed alpha, gives bands a suite of online tools to manage everything from tour bookings and social networking to mundane tasks like accounting and monitoring merchandise levels.
The five musician/web developers behind Bandize say they are trying to cover all the bases in an attempt to make musicians’ lives easier.
“The main thing we’re doing is all of it,” said Beamer Wilkins at the South by Southwest Music festival trade show last week. Wilkins, 25, and his team have been working on the service for just over a year. In fact, their first focus group to discuss Bandize was held at last year’s SXSW festival.
The overlap between music and technology has never been greater. Virtually every band rocks the internet to promote itself these days, using MySpace, Twitter and other popular services to attract new listeners and keep current fans loyal. A wave of iPhone apps like Gigotron, a winner at this year’s SXSW Interactive Web Awards, make it easier for music lovers to find shows they want to see.
Soon, Bandize will deliver business and communication tools that let bands collaborate more easily as they work to take their careers to the next level. Bandize will go to public beta within six months, according to its founders, and will cost no more than $10 per month per band. (Want to try Bandize now? The first 50 Wired.com readers that use Twitter to request a free trial will be whisked into Bandize’s closed alpha.
Bandize lets bands keep track of tour dates, venues and hotel accommodations, and print out tour itineraries. The inventory-management tool keeps track of every T-shirt or CD that is sold or given away, registering the cost of the swag or the profit from the sale. Bandize lets bands sync their social networking info on MySpace and Pure Volume (Bandize is also working with Facebook), and assign tasks to each other and track productivity.
Every band member gets their own Bandize login, making it easier for anybody to update the data at any time, and accounting data can be exported to popular bookkeeping software.
Scott Hansen, a San Francisco-based electronic musician who records and performs as Tycho, has been using Bandize during the closed alpha. He said it “absolutely” simplifies the music biz.
“My manager works with it handling a lot of the day-to-day, and it’s nice to be able to collaborate in a single space instead of requesting e-mails from him,” Hansen said in an e-mail interview. “Feels more like we’re working on things together now.”
Hansen said he finds Bandize’s novel inventory management system especially useful.
“I sell a lot of T-shirts, so it’s cool to see how much I made on merch at each show I played,” he said.
Other web services, like ReverbNation, help bands make the most of their online marketing and distribution efforts, but don’t offer merch-management tools, even though that’s where some bands make a healthy chunk of their earnings. Meanwhile, software solutions like Indie Band Manager offer powerful tools but don’t offer the easy access, flexibility and collaboration possibilities of an online service.
With offices in Austin and in San Jose, California, Bandize developers are working on an open API to allow for more Web 2.0 functionality, and they’re developing an iPhone app so the bass player, for instance, could update publicity info while riding in the van (if he’s within range of AT&T’s mobile network and not strung out).
Bandize’s Andy Miles says he tracked tour information for his now-defunct band Exit the King using an elaborate system of bookmarks in Safari, but the undertaking required lots of maintenance. He tested Bandize on the road and found it helpful, he said.
“I would like to think it’s kind of the tour-booking hoss,” Miles said.
The musicians who created Bandize seem to have thought of almost everything (although Wired.com has not had a chance to test the service extensively yet). Bandize even has a feature for keeping track of your group’s assets, like guitars, amps and other valuables. Entering the data once means it will be easily accessible online if you need to file a police report if your trailer gets stolen while you’re on the road.
“Can you tell me the serial number on your guitar?” asked Miles. “No.”
The service also lets band members assign tasks to their bandmates. While there’s no guaranteeing the bass player will actually put up the fliers when he’s told to, at least “everybody knows now,” said Bandize’s Ajit D’Sa. “There’s no excuse.”
Possibly the best part of a service aimed at notoriously short-lived bands: Musicians can take all their personal data with them when they join another group, and bands can cut off a crazy lead singer when they kick him out for sleeping with the drummer’s girlfriend.
“When one guy quits the band, you can shut him out” from your group’s account, Wilkins said.