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BandLab’s vision is simple: A future where there are no boundaries to making and sharing music. Founded in 2015, BandLab is the next-generation social music creation platform on a mission to break down the technical, geographic, and creative barriers for musicians and fans. Free-to-use, the mobile-first cross-platform DAW and social ...

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Meg Banich

How BandLab Built a Boundary-Blurring Creation Platform for Music Makers

BandLab is the music creation platform you’d build if you were basing your fantasies not on the analog, brick-and-mortar studio, but on the quirky, post-UGC, post-Google Docs universe where everyone makes music from everywhere. With a vision to democratize music production and break down long-standing barriers, BandLab has the right intuitive feature set, guided by an awareness that making music is about more than tools; it’s about social co-creation and engagement.

The company has dreamed big enough to pull all the scattered pieces of music creation, collaboration, and sharing together, yet remains laser-focused on user experience and constant improvement, maintaining both a stellar app store rating and a near-weekly update schedule. The first truly cross-platform and device-agnostic music making space, BandLab is bringing music creation to the world’s often overlooked potential music makers, with tens of millions of users starting millions of projects a month. And it does so for free.

One of BandLab’s most distinctive features, a versioning system for music projects reminiscent of Google Docs meets GitHub, allows for active remote collaboration on tracks, a true game changer for users. In addition to this versioning, cross-platform DAW, other built-in services like BandLab Sounds offer unlimited access to a curated collection of thousands of royalty-free loops and samples created by professional musicians from around the world. The app also has built-in effects and filters that allow creators to design their own sounds. After creating a track, users can do a final mix, share it, get feedback, and continue playing with their song—or even open up their tracks to let other users get creative with them. Thanks to these features, BandLab has been embraced by fans-turned-creators and young emerging artists, as well as more seasoned musicians and producers.

This younger demographic sees music creation differently. The music industry has had separate lanes for creation and consumption, but BandLab blends the two, in the mold of UGC platforms like TikTok and Instagram. “Though the market is already there, there have been longstanding tech challenges for music creation to the masses on mobile,” says BandLab CEO Meng Ru Kuok. “To really create a seamless experience requires deep investment in music creation tech, which is why we went as far as to build our own proprietary audio engine in order to truly allow collaboration.”

Music creation has always had a deeply social side, but fluid yet flexible online collaboration and co-creation have become essential for younger music makers. In the digital-first world, creators need more than tools; they also need community. Kuok sees the potential to build social elements into the very first moments of music production as a necessity. As a young man in college, part of the very first wave of Facebook users, he saw firsthand the ability for social media to replace physical communities and formats with digital ones. The possibilities hinted at a new, highly creative future for music, where the categories of fan and musician merged.

“Music is inherently collaborative. MySpace died because of Facebook, but nothing rose to serve that music niche. Social networks inevitably became big, but they are generalized,” explains Kuok. “There’s a lot of focus on features and the inevitable cloning process of these features, but when feature parity has been achieved, what really differentiates platforms is its community of users and what they’re on the platform for. The whole journey we’ve had at BandLab has been about making a great creation product, but with a social heart to embrace that community.”

Music’s unique nature requires a dedicated approach, the BandLab team insists. It’s not an add on or a background feature; it’s the core of what’s drawing a massive community together. “Music is different, different from audio, different from short-form video. It has its own value, which is why we’re focused on music and all the things associated with it,” Kuok explains. “There’s a huge total addressable market of musicians and aspiring music makers that other apps and software haven’t bothered to reach and encourage. By giving them more tools and helping them make connections, you can bring real social impact and improve their lives.”

To engage the world’s underserved music makers, BandLab has kept its main features free, but features like BandLab Albums (launched late last year) have introduced monetization into the platform. “Independent musicians and creators are our core focus and our roadmap includes more monetization opportunities for artists to support their creative process,” says Kuok. “Though social impact is a core part of our mission--which is why we’ve been free for so long--we believe we have a key role to play in helping our users create sustainable business models for themselves. As BandLab ourselves, we’ve built our own business model and future monetization routes through ways that don’t create inequity for artists and that boost success for all.”

About BandLab

Founded in 2016, BandLab is part of music technology group BandLab Technologies, and is the flagship digital product in the organization’s portfolio of music experience brands.

BandLab’s best-in-class mobile music creation tools and audio hardware empower creators everywhere to make music and share their creative process at an unprecedented level. Free to join, BandLab’s approachable software is based in the cloud, making it the most accessible, collaboration-friendly music production platform anywhere. Users can self-release tracks and retain complete control of their music rights, giving artists full autonomy and allowing them to keep 100% of their earnings from monetizing their music. It reported its first million users in April 2017.

The BandLab product family also includes BandLab for Education, an award-winning music creation platform with classroom management tools used by schools in over 40 countries worldwide, and Cakewalk by BandLab, a professional-level digital recording studio for career musicians and producers.