Gary Falcon Lang is the founder of The Patchbay – a digital marketplace to bring together music creators and fans.
The Patchbay is built with MultiMerch and Journal theme – albeit a heavily styled one, so you won’t be able to tell it’s Journal at first glance.
Instead of Journal’s regular reds and blacks, The Patchbay features a beautiful palette of violets, blues and pink neon, giving it a distinct outrun / synthwave style.
We asked Gary to share his story on getting his MultiMerch marketplace from idea to reality – to learn something important ourselves and share the knowledge and experience with the community.
– Could you tell us a bit more about your background?
– Before The Patchbay, I was actually a digital seller myself. I had to rely on the goodwill of third party marketplaces when it came to royalty payments as there was no way to monitor my accounts – and I had gotten scammed a few times.
I had good knowledge of this stuff and wanted to create a transparent environment for sellers to be able to see their sales in real time and have complete control over how their products are listed.
Synthwave was a big thing for me after I lost my father to an illness – it was then when I first heard a song called Under your spell by Desire. I started looking into the genre, went down the rabbit hole and never came back out.
I found solace in a small self-built community and scene – with awesome people that were part of it. It made me strive to help push the scene forward, help them create an industry – by offering a way to safely monetize content.
Sadly, the scene has had its fair share of scammers and people trying to manipulate the goodwill of a community that wants the best for the scene.
– So, what's The Patchbay all about?
– We've launched The Patchbay in 2017 as a digital marketplace specifically tailored to audio related ventures. Our mission is to help artists and content creators grow through the power of organic reach.
Creators on The Patchbay offer all kinds of audio content ranging from sample packs and mastering tools for audio professionals to complete tracks and music albums by professional artists. We also have plans to expand our purely digital marketplace further and offer some tangible capabilities – by letting our members offer merchandise, for example.
All of the content is created, submitted and sold by members – the marketplace essentially runs with user-generated content.
The Patchbay gives you an ecosystem of your own within the marketplace
Once you pass verification you’re free to create your own product catalog – with categories, options and attributes – basically, your own store within the marketplace.
You have your public profile, banners, social links, everything – you can give your store your own style.
Launched in mid-2017, the marketplace has so far attracted just under a hundred sellers with about half of them being the most active.
According to Gary, the scene is difficult to communicate with as most artists prefer focusing on the music side and are generally busy doing live shows and creating albums – or are simply wrapped up in family life and reluctant to spend that extra time communicating and cooperating with third parties to share their content.
Nevertheless, The Patchbay, that uses digital capabilities of MultiMerch, has attracted some of the prominent artists in the industry such as Timecop1983, Arcade Summer and Michael Oakley. Some of the other well known members of the scene present on the marketplace are The Midnight, Waveshaper, Kalax, Miami Nights 1984, Stilz, Occams Laser and The New Division.
– How exactly did you get started with e-commerce?
– As I had the idea shaping up back in 2015, I tried all sorts of CMS and e-commerce platforms from OpenCart to Magento, from Drupal to WordPress.
Had to go through a score of platforms before settling with MultiMerch
In fact, I almost settled on WordPress, but soon realized it just isn’t right for me.
To accomplish the vision of The Patchbay, I really needed some kind of an e-commerce platform tailored specifically to multi vendor marketplaces.
Thus, I ended up going with OpenCart, which is open source and quite simple to work with. Since OpenCart also has a number of great premium themes available on ThemeForest, it saved me the trouble of implementing my designs completely from scratch.
I spent a while doing theme research and finally settled on Journal, which seemed to be offering all of the features I was looking for.
As you can see, today The Patchbay looks nothing like the default Journal styles. While I use it as a base, the design is completely overhauled to give the marketplace this distinct synthwave look.
– Why MultiMerch?
– When I got to choosing a multi vendor system for the marketplace part of my website, there were two major solutions available – MultiMerch and Webkul.
I was originally introduced to MultiMerch by an old developer friend of mine, who suggested that it may be a good idea to use MultiMerch for one of the early requirements I had.
MultiMerch has offered what I need from the start
Back then, I mostly wanted to have seller accounts on my platform and show sellers their royalties and real time earnings.
Even back in the earlier versions, MultiMerch did this and much more. They allowed sellers to actually sign up, manage their catalogs and personalize their profiles – this blew my mind at that time!
In fact, this sparked quite the revolutionary fire inside me. Ever since that moment I built the site around the iconic dashboard for sellers, with a much clearer view of what I wanted to achieve as the site evolved.
Once we went live and began processing orders, I had much more feedback going from my sellers – which not only helped me improve The Patchbay, but was also useful to MultiMerch team in improving their software.
These days MultiMerch is incredibly powerful. Although it is primarily designed for general purpose marketplaces, it also has digital capabilities such as an option for sellers to offer downloads for sale – which let me create a fully digital marketplace based on MultiMerch.
We’re really having quite a productive partnership with Gary and The Patchbay.
Back in the early days of MultiMerch 8, there were quite a few issues – both minor technical glitches, but also major compatibility problems with Journal. This was before we began offering improved compatibility with Journal.
The more third party modules you add to your OpenCart marketplace, the more systems you have working – and, possibly, conflicting – together.
MultiMerch has gone a long way since then and Gary’s feedback was immensely helpful in making the system better for everyone.
– What kind of a team does one need to get to where you are today?
– You would probably be surprised, but the marketplace is entirely run by me. The current state of The Patchbay is mostly a result of my efforts throughout the journey – I managed the rise of the platform from the frustratingly early days to the proud moments of today.
It’s great to be in control, but advisers always help
I have a select few advisers who give pointers, but less is more – that’s how I feel when it comes to my own projects. This way you get lower overheads and less outside control – which gives you a chance to get things done exactly as you imagine them.
Still, having an advisory team with different areas of expertise definitely helps when it comes to solving issues and overcoming challenges that will eventually pop up in such projects.
Indeed, we were a bit skeptical when Gary first got in touch with us. We generally recommend having at least a technical person on the team when it comes to building multi vendor marketplaces – I actually covered this topic in a guest blog post with iSenseLabs a while ago.
Even with the power of MultiMerch, it takes more than just software to run a successful marketplace. Managing technical and marketing sides of a business isn’t a simple task for a single person. This is why we at MultiMerch usually offer services by our team for businesses with no technical co-founders.
In this case, however, Gary has proved us wrong and managed to get The Patchbay from idea to reality almost completely by himself – with a little help from our team
– What do you think about MultiMerch? How could we improve further?
– I like how you understand the importance of MultiMerch and digital marketplaces.
As time goes on, more and more businesses are evolving online, creators around the world are looking for a digital solution to sell their expertise – whether physically or digitally.
Digital is everything
Today, the emphasis on digital is huge. With larger players in the market such as Envato or Fiverr, it’s nice to be able to compete and offer something special.
I think focusing more on digital would be a game changer – tools, refinements, features. Allowing vendors to create their own discount coupons would be great, being able to control every aspect of your marketplace including how your sales and things go is huge for creators.
Refinements to the option system to make listing easier, attaching downloads to options for more fidelity, general interface improvements to profile pages and such.
These are all great suggestions. Even before we began working with Gary, we took client feedback seriously – ultimately, this is what MultiMerch looks and feels like in real life, in the field.
In fact, we’ve just implemented the seller discount coupon system that Gary mentions here and sellers on The Patchbay will be the first ones to be able to sell more using their coupons.
A major interface redesign project is also on the way alongside a number of important features for marketplace owners such as optimized instant checkout to boost sales and a set of marketing tools.
– Some thoughts on the process in retrospective. What tips could you give other business owners who consider launching their own marketplaces and are facing the same challenges as you did?
– Keep moving forward! Adapt. When you burn out, take a break and come back. Don't give up.
If you’re running a marketplace by yourself, try to gather a basic understanding of the code – this way, you are much better equipped to deal with technical issues that will eventually arise.
For OpenCart users – the error log in OpenCart will be the bane of your existence. Understanding it even on a basic level will help you immensely.
You’ll have to be the master of all trades if you are a sole person running the marketplace. As more vendors join your platform, prepare to be capable in photoshop, video editing, marketing and lots of other things at once.
Keep moving and don’t give up!
Running a marketplace is a tedious task – don’t expect a quick profit and don’t do it purely for monetary reasons. However, love what you do and don’t give up – and you’ll get there eventually!
This is exactly the advice I would give business owners and entrepreneurs out there – whether building multi vendor marketplaces or something completely different.
MultiMerch was initially a one person hobby project and it took us years to get where we’re now. This would not have been possible had I not believed in what I do and stuck to it through years of work.
Don’t do it just for the money, don’t give up and keep learning – you’ll need as many skills and experience as you can get!
For more information on Gary and The Patchbay, check out his other interview with Echosynthetic here: https://echosynthetic.com/2017/05/17/the-patchbay-an-interview-with-gary-falcon-lang/