We are supremely excited to announce the arrival of BandLab Sounds. Sounds provides unlimited access to BandLab’s extensive sample library, all for free. BandLab is helping millions of artists discover their sound by offering universal access to the tools they need to make better music.
The BandLab team would like to take this opportunity to discuss why and how we made BandLab Sounds. It’s been an extremely rewarding process and we’re excited to offer a peek into how the BandLab product team empowers creatives.
The decision to make our sample library freely available to anyone was pretty simple. We have great content, it’s free to use, and we want to help people make awesome music. Let’s do it. However, the sound-content market is fierce and we have some stellar competitors. To truly break out from the crowd and empower more artists, we needed a bit more vision:
There are no barriers for artists to do their best work.
At the heart of Sounds is our belief that access to creative tools should be available to anyone. With BandLab Sounds, there’s no monthly subscription and there’s no cap on downloads. We’ve made it easier than ever to discover your sound and make your hit.
But really, how do we eliminate those barriers? What does it look like on the ground?
Provide creators with everything they need to make great music and producers tools to build sustainable careers.
The mission is clear: We provide anyone who wants to be a creator (make their own music) the tools and content they need to be successful. Our tools will also help producers (those who distribute sound content) build sustainable careers through audience growth and self-monetization.
We’re not satisfied with the current state of sample services and we decided to do something about it. While we have some lofty goals, we understand that the most important thing we can do for our community is deliver value. That’s why we’ve first focused on opening the BandLab loop library to users of any audio workstations.
To set us up for later success, we needed to validate that our sound library offered enough value to end users to spark the next phase of growth. Growth means artists successfully using our library to make music. We wanted to bring the right tools rather than all the tools from the start. We needed to make sure that users were satisfied with browsing, discovering, and collecting new samples.
Ultimately, the team decided our first objective should be to make a product that creatives love.
Make a royalty-free sample service that creators love: BandLab Sounds
But wait, what do creators love? Who are we building this for anyway?
BandLab has a lot of successful features in its ecosystem: the Mix Editor is the best place to start your musical journey, Albums are the best way to self-monetize your work. We’re constantly releasing improvements, new functionality, and fixing bugs (🤫). However, it’s a special opportunity to design a new service for a new set of customers from the ground up. At BandLab, that means designing and validating our product decisions with real people right from the start.
So how does that work?
We reached out to musicians across the globe — from California to Melbourne — to learn exactly how they use samples in their creative process. Our mission is to design with the people who will be using BandLab sounds right from the get-go, so every feature you interact with is the direct result of collaboration with producers who know a thing or two about using samples.
There’s more to come, too! We believe the design process is never finished, so we look forward to continuing to work with creators worldwide to implement and refine more great ideas. At the end of the day, this is a platform designed for and by creators, so if you have any feedback we would love to hear it. In fact, this kind of feedback is just the thing that makes BandLab Sounds so unique: it really is a musician-centered design.
Lea(r)n to Move Fast
As we gathered information about the value of Sounds through interviews, we also needed to build the service. This is no small feat! While all the valuable details about how to grow Sounds over the next few years were crystallizing as part of the conceptual design phase, the team set their own deadlines for release.
In the middle of September we decided on two mega-deadlines we committed to hitting:
October 15: Release a production prototype of the Sounds service
November 17: Publicly announce Sounds as a new BandLab product
One certainty to good product development is that it’s uncomfortable. If you are growing 4 inches a year, your clothes aren’t going to last very long. We believe the same thing about our products: we expect growth, and innovation comes through iteration.
The sooner we were able to release a functioning prototype to the world, the quicker our cycle of improvements would begin. In a matter of weeks, the team built the Sounds service prototype and nailed the October 15 launch. If somehow people found the bandlab.com/sounds page, they would be rewarded with a brand new site, rich with fresh sound content.
Let us take a moment to be honest: It wasn’t very pretty, the navigation was confusing, the landing page was clunky, it was missing key features our competitors offered like download packs or filter loops by BPM (fingers crossed we’ve released those as of you reading this). Remember what we said about discomfort?
Let us also take a moment to be clear: people loved it. Within a matter of days, almost 100,000 loops had been previewed on the site. Creators were engaged. After browsing the site and downloading a few samples, 90% of users communicated they were comfortable recommending the service to their friends. Musicians understood its value. We had to redraft our success metrics because we had already accomplished them.
Most importantly, we knew what needed to be improved for the November 17 launch. The prototype launched with a dead simple way for users to give feedback and suggestions for improvements. We messaged people interested in the service on Reddit and Discord and collected direct feedback. We validated that our design system was meeting the needs of our original interviewees.
BPM filtering? The team knew it was important and that it would eventually be available to end-users, but having people continually remind you that they need it for their workflow held us accountable for delivering. We also saw that our landing page was underperforming. We had all the context we needed to make informed decisions on which improvements to make.
In the 4 weeks from the prototype release to the November 17 public launch, we were able to redesign almost every aspect of the site based purely on insight from interviews and direct feedback from the prototype.
It’s just the beginning
As with all new BandLab products, the public launch is really just the beginning. Our process of iteration and improvement is just picking up speed.
To support artists to find their own sound, we’re exploring new ways to edit and manipulate samples on the Sounds page itself. We want to empower everyone to define their own unique artistic voice and this comes through simple and powerful customization tools. Additionally, we’re exploring what it means to make your own packs or collections.
As you can see in our mission, we also want to help producers build sustainable careers. While we’ve now helped creators make better music, we’re now investing time researching how artists can represent successfully themselves on the platform. We want to know what it means to contribute sounds to our ecosystem, where producers find value, and how we can make it easier than ever before to release your own sample content as an independent artist.