Getting The Most Out Of Your Music Website
By Christopher Knab, FourFront Media & Music [05-03-2001]
If you are a regular cruiser and user of the world wide web, then it won't be any surprise for you to know that the design of the sites you visit affects how, or even if, you will use that site.
But you may not be connecting the dots from what you like to see on a website, to what you have created on your own band or artist site. So, to help you get your internet act together I have put together some thoughts on what to do and not to do on your music related webpages.
Your 'Electronic' Press Kit
In the offline world there are Press Kits that contain such things as your CD, Bios, Fact Sheets, Cover Letters, Press Clippings or Quotes, and a Photograph (8x10, B&W glossies). In addition your kit may need to have other useful promotional items in it such as lyric sheets, stage plots, equipment lists, song lists, gig listings etc.
When you create your website and the pages that make it up, many of those traditional items should still be a part of your electronic press kit. But the uniqueness of the web and the new challenges and opportunities that it brings to marketing and promoting your music require you to re-think your on line presence. One simple fact of music promotion that exists both off and online is this; the first impression an artist makes on the music industry at large is a VISUAL impression. In other words, long before most gatekeepers at labels, radio, the press, and at distributors and stores hear your music, they will always SEE your music first in the form of a cover, some stationary or logo/letterhead, or…a homepage on the web.
So let's go through some website kit ingredients and see what we can see.
Bios: Make the first paragraph stand out in some way with a clear description of who you are and what kind of music you make. Then move on immediately to talk about what you are currently doing, ( a new CD, an upcoming tour, whatever), After that summarize your background by highlighting significant facts and achievements. Then wrap it up perhaps with a reminder of some kind about your current activities once again. No long winded information should be in a bio. Also avoid cliches and overblown statements ( "the greatest, most original music ever") type things unless you have a quote from a significant person who actually said the cliché. Then plaster that quote, with appropriate credits to the person who said it.
Fact Sheets: A fact sheet is nothing more than one sheet of information with lots of bulleted facts about your current projects and your interesting background. They are useful because they are a quick and easy way for a busy industry person to get a fix on you and what you are up to.
Photographs: One of the best things about a website is that you can creatively insert several cool photos of you and your fellow musicians throughout your site, or in a special section or gallery of photos you have collected. Be sure though that the photos are as professional looking as the design of your site. Amateur looking anything can really hurt you in an industry that is Image addicted. You MUST have an consistent image which you conceive of and control, and photos are often the most neglected and poorest parts of an artists presentation.
Tour Dates/Performance Schedule: Most genre of music require an act to play live, so be sure to play live as often as you can and keep your performance sections on your websites updated constantly. Nothing is more a turn off to industry reps than visiting a site where the performance schedule lists gigs that are months or weeks old. It is a sure sign that you are unprofessional and perhaps have even broken up or called it quits.
Your Product: This means you have a page or pages dedicated to your CDs, Tapes, Vinyl, or downloadable music tracks. And you state clearly what past, present and even future releases you have for sale. Then…you clearly and directly design this section of your site to steer your fans and customers to HOW they can buy your music. It can be as simple as directing them to an address they must send a check to, or linking them to online retailers like www.amazon.com/advantage or www.cdbaby.com, or whoever you have established an online sales connection with. If you have your own secure server all the better, in fact mixing up all of the above would be the best way to serve the diverse buying habits of your fans. Restricting them to only one choice is not an effective e-commerce marketing decision. You should also include fun and interesting descriptions of your songs, any stories about the making of the record, quotes from your producer or engineers, or other musicians. Have some fun with too, this IS the entertainment business you are a part of you know!
The issue of how you will use sound samples, via WAV files or Real Audio samples is up to you, but you must have some samples if not a rotating selection of some of your songs. As you know, unless you have been living under a rock, the compressed audio technology of the unsecured kind…MP3 has taken the music world by storm. Hot on its heals came secured downloadable technologies such as Liquid Audio, and Media Player. My view on which to choose for downloading whole songs is ALL OF THE ABOVE! Why miss out on a customer? Discussions on the pros and cons and the quality issues on each of the above is beyond purpose of this forum. All I know is many people are using any and all downloadable sound technologies, that is a fact. So, you should have as many of them available to your fans as possible.
News and Views Section: This is the part of your site where you post any and all information about you and your music that doesn't fit in any other section. Your hobbies, political and social concerns, gossip, or just anything that might be of interest to your fans. YOU MUST CREATE REASONS FOR YOUR FANS TO RE-VISIT YOUR SITE! This section of your site could be the place for just that.
Contact Information: Duh!!! Well you would be shocked at how many sites out there forget to have an email link for visitors to use to contact you. Just like in the offline world the number of musicians who forget to put their phone numbers, addresses, etc on their promotional materials is astounding. So do not forget this basic, essential tool on your site…and…put that contact link on every page, you have no idea what pages your fans may go to and go no further within your site, so cover yourself on this by putting an email link on every page of your site!
Some Other Consideration for a Music Related Website
* Make sure your graphics are easy to read…PLEASE!, no light green text on a green background for example. The font size that you choose too should be at least a 12 font and not in some ancient script font either. Make it something you would want to easily read yourself.
* Watch out for tricky moving images. Java applets and any animations that move may be very slow to load. You may have sophisticated broadband connections because you are really into every new technological improvement connected with the internet, but most users do not, and will not for a good long while.
* Obey the '8 second rule'! If your webpages do not load up within 8 seconds, most web cruisers leave, get frustrated, and move on to other pages or sites.
* Some sites on the web use Frames to keep their visitors within the domain of the site. I do this myself on my site (www.4frontmusic.com) because I give a lot of my information away for free, so in my links section I will send you to another cool site, but you will visit that site within the 'frame' of my site. Think about frames and how you will use them before you make your decision.
* No more webcounters! Stop putting those silly little millage-readout type thingys on your sites. They were cool in 1996, but they are stupid and can be quite embarrassing too.
* Think about creating a Chatroom for your fans to gather in and spread vicious rumors about you…just kidding. When your fanbase gets big enough for this, then be sure you schedule regular visits to make yourself available in them. At least once a month, you or a member of your group should commit to being available in your chatroom.
* Make newsgroup links available for your fans. If you are a political animal, or are involved with social, religious, or hobbies of one kind or another; let your fans know about the better newsgroups out there.
* Be sure you have a Guestbook for your fans and visitors to sign. This is really your mailing list, but you don't have to call it that. Whatever you call it though, you must have a way for visitors to sign up for a newsletter, or a mailing list of some kind. If you are not hip to the value of a growing mailing list, please leave now and do some research on this essential topic.
And before I forget…
* Choose an easy to remember URL. Your address should not be something like; www.meanderingfreewebsite.com/members/bands/ or whatever. You should invest in an easy to remember domain name like www.knab.com, or www.4frontmusic.com or www.fourfrontmusic.com Think about it, the most visited websites are the ones that are easy to remember!
* Don't forget to promote your website by linking to as many other genre-related sites you can find, and offer to exchange links with like minded artists and bands. Include your url on all your promotional materials, flyers, posters, business cards, cds, and yell it out from the stage at all your live shows too.
* As your career grows and your website hits and visits increase, and as your content grows consider adding a search service to your site to make it easier for fans to find information from your site. Also consider archiving your older data in a special 'Collectors Corner' or some such place.
* Sign up for the free daily newsletter that www.mi2n.com offers. They report on the constantly evolving e-commerce of music. What new companies are starting up, who is buying up who, what new music promotion and/or technologies are out there. There is a ton of news everyday you could become aware of if you took the time to read this amazing newsletter. Also there are many other such e-commerce and music newsletters on the internet, get out there and learn new ways to promote your music online.
Creating a great looking, easy to navigate website is a new necessity for any musician serious about making money with their music. It is an added responsibility that every artist and band must commit to now. There is more competition now then ever before, but it is also a very exciting time for a determined and dedicated musician to make a lasting impression with their music. Accept the challenges I have suggested and make them work for you.
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