This is a response to Ariel Hyatt’s recent post ‘The Musician’s Guide To Affordable, Effective Websites’. In this article, Ariel outlines the fact that all musicians should have a website, and goes on to detail how you can set one up on a tight budget. In this article however, I want to elaborate on some of the points she makes, and give you an alternative method to setting up a lot cost website. As I’m sure you know, there’s more then one way to skin a cat, and today I’m going to show you a method that has worked well for me.
I’ve already outlined step by step how to build a music website, but today I’m going to be looking at the reasoning behind each of these decisions, so you can yourself decide if they’re right for you. I will also be looking at the set up cost, so you will know how much something like this will set you back. Considering what it costs to get a ‘professional’ to set up a website for you, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised…
Essentials For Setting Up Your Own Music Website
Here are the essential items you need when setting up your own musician website:
Hosting is essential when it comes to setting up your own website. While many people tend to go for the free options (E.G A Blogger blog), this is ultimately a bad move. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being the lack of control.
If your website is hosted on another site (Which is what happens when you go down the free road), you’re too dependant on someone else. What happens if that website goes out of business or stops being popular, then what? MySpace is a prime example of this. A few years ago, every musician had a MySpace page. People invested tons of time and sometimes money into their page, but soon the whole MySpace era began to die out. Many people came off MySpace when much of the internal traffic went, which is a shame when you consider how much time and effort people put into those pages.
If you have your own website however, due to the way search engines work, your site will only get stronger with time. This will mean, providing you share the right things on your website, more people will visit it naturally via search engines. And providing your music is good, more visits = more fans.
If you opt for free web hosting services, you also put yourself at the mercy of the site’s true owners. If they for what ever reason decide you site doesn’t match their terms of service, they can delete your site with no prior warning. Not something you want to be thinking about when trying to build up a strong brand for yourself.
So what hosting company would I recommend? Well, I’ve been using Just Host for over a year now, and have had nothing but good experiences. I was with another hosting company prior to this, but Just Host is a lot cheaper, easier to navigate, and faster with the customer support. I actually picked Just Host after a couple days of research, so am confident it’s the best choice for the kind of hosting we need.
The good thing about Just Host is you get unlimited web space and unlimited bandwidth. On top of this, you get a free domain name (E.G. yourband.com), free advertising credits, and space to host an unlimited amount of websites. In other words, you can have as many websites as you want for no extra cost (Bar the cost of each additional domain name, which is £7.95 each).
So how much does this cost? Well, that depends on how long you want the hosting for. Using the discount code ‘50off’ you get a big saving either way. You can always pay £35.76 for a year if you want to put down as little money as possible upfront, but I prefer to get 4 years worth of hosting for £69.60. Doing it that way you get more then a 50% savings, and since we’re in it for the long run, why not?
Hosting, Total Price: £35.76
A HTML Editor / Content Management System
This is just a fancy word for a website editor. This is how you’ll be making your website, as well as editing it and adding new content. It is important here that you get a content management system that is not only easy to use, but is also easy to access and doesn’t require any extra software to make it work.
When I started out making websites, I used to use Dreamweaver. While this was valuable as it helped me learn HTML, putting in this amount of work into your website won’t be for everyone. Because of this, I suggest using Wordpress.
The type of Wordpress I’m suggesting to use is the self hosted Wordpress, and can be found at Wordpress.org. This is not be be confused with the free Wordpress.com, as this website will be hosted with someone else. Once again you will have the issue of the site not being your own, and risk having it banned without warning.
Please Note: If you sign up to Just Host you will be able to easily set up a Wordpress website in about 1 minuet, so hold off from downloading all the files from Wordpress.org for now.
Wordpress is basically blogging software that allows you to make a professional looking website with little to no programming knowledge. If you could set up and operate a MySpace page, then using Wordpress shouldn’t be a problem. Even if you have never made a MySpace page before, with the right guidance making a Wordpress site shouldn’t be a problem at all.
The great thing about Wordpress is the things it allows you to do. There are thousands of free add ons called ‘plugins’, each one offering a new function to your site. Some of these functions include allowing you to stream your own music, allowing you to capture email addresses for your mailing list, including a picture gallery for your gigs, and much more. In fact, if there’s a feature you want to add to your site, then most likely someone’s made a plugin for it.
These plugins are quick and easy to install, and part of what makes Wordpress the content management system of choice.
Content Management System, Total Price: Free
A Email Marketing Service
While it’s not something I’m going to go deep into today (I’m sure someone’s written about the importance of starting up your own mailing list on Music Think Tank already, but if not you can search my site for the full low down), setting up a mailing list for your website is essential.
Email marketing should go hand in hand with having a website, but can be costly if you go for the market leader Aweber. If you want a free option however, MailChimp is free to use while you have less then 2,000 subscribers. This is an unbelievable offer, as by the time you get past the 2,000 subscriber mark you should be making more then enough money from it to pay the monthly fees.
It is important that you monetize your list properly, and you do more then just stick up your opt in form and expect people to sign up. Put your form in a prominent position so people can see it. Give something away to entice people to join your list. Interact with your list so they stay responsive.
Email marketing should play a bit part in your music career, but doing it wrong will actually repel people from your music. No one wants to be messaged a few times a day about extremly minor ‘updates’ (Read “repeating the same thing over and over again”), so do this and people will unsubscribe from your list as qucik as they signed up.
If you don’t know much about building a list yet, you should check out Ultimate Mailing List. This site has a lot of good tips on how to build up your list, as well as how to interact with your subscribers properly.
Building A Mailing List, Total Price: Free
Total Price To Have Your Website Set Up For One Year: £35.76 (That yearly price goes down if you buy a longer hosting plan). Not bad right?
Optional Tools For Setting Up Your Musician Website
While the above tools are all you need to get a good website up and running, there are a few other optional extras that you may want to consider. Both of these are paid for options, but have a look as you may find they’re worth it.
A Premium Wordpress Theme
A Wordpress theme is the actual design of your website. If you change your theme, the way your website looks will also change. While there are a lot of free pre-designed themes available for you to use (You can find many via your Wordpress, as well as all over the internet) many of them are ugly and and already used by numerous other people. Because of this, it could be a good idea to get a premium Wordpress theme.
Places such as Woo Themes and the Genesis Theme provide you with high quality themes that you won’t see plastered all over the net. While there will of course be a few other people with the same design as you, most likely you or your visitors won’t ever run into them. Besides, you’ll see a LOT more people with the same site design as you if you use a free theme.
A premium theme can really make your website stand out for the crowd (They look a lot nicer and are often SEO’d), so could be worth considering.
Premium Theme, Price: From Woo Theme from $70, Genesis Theme from $59.95.
Now we’re coming to one of my favourite tools, E-Junkie. E-Junkie is a website that allows you to create shopping carts and ‘buy now’ buttons for your website. What sets this apart from other such buttons however, is the ability for it to sell your digital downloads hands off. Ideal for the music scene, right?
So let’s say you’ve got a new CD you’re about to release. You will of course want to sell it online, and may even go down the route of selling your music on iTunes etc. But why not set up a ‘early bird’ price for your mailing list’s subscribers as a reward for them? They can get it a day earlier then everyone else, and for cheaper. And the only place they can get it from at this stage is your website.
Once you’ve uploaded songs to e-junkie, you don’t have to worry about it any more. Their system handles taking payments, making sure payments are authorized, and product delivery. They also have a lot of other features which make your life a lot easier, but it’d probably be best to check their website for all the details.
Selling Your Music With E-Junkie, Total Price: From $5 a month.
So there you have it, another look at how to set up your own website on a budget. Your website should be the home base for all your musical activity online, and getting people back to your website to hear / buy your music (As well as sign up to your mailing list) should be your number one priority. Remember to check my site if you want a specific step by step guide to setting up a website. It doesn’t take long to do, but will benefit your music career for years to come. Good luck.
This article was written by Shaun of Independent Music Advice, a website dedicated to increasing the business knowledge of independent musicians.