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« 3 Essential Elements of Music Marketability | Main | Managing Relationships With Fans When Your Fan Base Gets Too Big »
Tuesday
Mar222011

The Musician’s Guide To Affordable, Effective Websites

I got a slap in the face in Perth, Australia two weeks ago.  I went there to talk about Apps, Foursquare, and advanced web marketing strategies.

I had many one-on-one sessions with artists and a vast majority had a big problem:

They didn’t have web sites.

When I say they don’t have web sites, I mean they’re only using MySpace and Facebook.  Which is a critical mistake. See here why: http://bit.ly/musicadiumpaper

I’m not saying this to make anyone wrong or to be righteous.   Websites, as I soon found out in Australia, are very expensive to build with local web designers. A few artists showed me quotes of $5,000 for a website. It’s not 1997 anymore and those quotes are not OK.

An effective website can be created $20 or less a month with no upfront costs.

So for those of you who need a template and an idea of how to get started on an affordable web site, and how to create an effective one, this is the article for you.

I think that most artists get themselves crazy building web sites because they have trouble keeping it simple, and this is the key.

Your web site is there to do two things.

Number one: Help you engage with and make new fans.

Number two: Make you money.

That’s it.

Here’s how to set yourself on the right path…

Step 1: You must have a domain name.  To register a domain name go to godaddy.com (USA) crazydomains.com.au (AUS)

Register the domain that you would like to use.  I highly suggest a dot com  (.com) if you can get one and no sashes or underscores if you can help it.

TIP: You should also make sure that the YouTube, Twitter and Facebook page names are also available.  You want to make sure your socials match.

Step 2: Choose which option you would like.

Pay As You Go

A pay-as-you-go option with a web site builder, can get you up and running very quickly and you won’t need a designer to build for you.
Here are my favorite 3 in alphabetical order. All 3 have excellent call-in customer service to help ease the confusion.

Bandzoogle – http://bandzoogle.com/

Their lite version starts at $9.95 per month easy to use and the first month is free!

Hostbaby – http://www.hostbaby.com/

Owned by CD Baby, Hostbaby has recently undergone a fabulous face-lift and it’s easy to use. You can store unlimited emails and send newsletters through your custom site. It costs $20 per month or $199 per year.

Nimbit – http://www.nimbit.com/instant-band-site/

You’ll need a Nimbit account (either Free, Indie, or NimbitPro all details on the site). Note: these are real Wordpress sites!  If you want a Wordpress site this is a great pay as you go option.  Easy tutorials too!

Working with a Web designer

I suggest crowdspring.com or LinkedIn for finding affordable Wordpress designers. Make sure you read the designers reviews and see examples of his work before you hire him so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises.

TIP: Don’t pay more than $500 for a basic Wordpress site.

TIP: Don’t work with an “arty” web designer who does not build in Wordpress because he will give you a flash movie intro or a complicated site. If you want artsy, buy a fabulous new outfit, or create a physical piece of merchandise using http://www.MerchLuv.com that’s really cool, and expresses who you are. But please don’t be “artsy” on your website.  On your website be clear and functional.

Step 3: Build Your Homepage

Your entire website should be easy to navigate with a nav bar across the very top of each page or down the left hand side (at the top) so visitors can see it, (not buried where they have to scroll down).

A. Be branded with your look, your colors, and your logo (if you have a logo) and of course a stunning photo of you / your band.

TIP: your socials should all match your site colors.

B. Should feature your name, and your pitch, or specifically what you sound like in a few words.  If you feel weird creating a “pitch” use one killer press quote or fan quote, which sums up the way you sound.

C. Features a FREE MP3 in exchange for an email address.

USE: Reverbnation, Pledge Music, Topspin or Noisetrade

http://www.tinyurl.com/reverbfreebribe

http://www.tinyurl.com/pledgefreebribe

http://www.noisetrade.com

http://www.topspinmedia.com

D. Link to your social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Reverbnation, Sonicbids, Last.fm, and anywhere else you maintain an active profile.

E. Include a Facebook “like” widget.

F. Include a Twitter stream updating in real time.

G. A blog feed / news feed, or new shows updating onto the page via widgets.

H. If you like sharing photos, a Flickr stream, which ports over to your blog!

Nav Bar elements / tabs:

1. Bio/ press kit. For your press kits use Sonic Bids or Reverbnation.

TIP: Photos/ Images. Make sure your photos really capture who you are. Make sure they have clear instructions on how they can be downloaded.

2. Buy music – iTunes or a storefront

3. Your tour shows or performances

4. Your Blog

5. Your Contact Info

Make sure that you have your contact information with an e-mail address or a contact form there so people can contact you for online publicity, booking, or just to tell you they like your music. Don’t make it hard for anyone to find you online.

After your site is done make sure to keep your social media sites updated!  That means daily.  This way your whole site remains interesting and dynamic and fully updated.

For how to do that please read my Musician’s Social Media Pyramid.

Reader Comments (12)

Thanks for the post , Ariel !
Here are some links that I hope be useful :

To check out if your name is avaliable on the main emerging social media websites , go to KnowEm : http://www.knowem.com .

If you want to buy a domain name the best place to make a search is checkdomain.com : http://www.checkdomain.com .
I use a DotTK domain name ( http://cebe.tk ) , that is free and I'm using for more than 5 years without any problem . You can register your name on http://freedomains.webpresence.tk .

IMHO the best , most stable and free webhosting ever is Google Sites :http://sites.google.com . There you can use your YouTube and Blogger under the same account . Friendly interface , many templates and much more . Easily you put all your widgets there , like Reverbnation tools . The best : you will rank very well on Google once your site will be running on their enviroment .

To have a mobile site go to mobiSiteGalore on http://www.mobisitegalore.com . You can build a free 3 pages website with your YouTube videos , images , etc .

Good luck for all !

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterCebe

I'd recommend not going with bandzoogle. It works out to be quite expensive in the long run. The lite subscription will frustrate you, and you'll end up upgrading. I find sites built using bandzoogle take a long time to load too.

Wordpress is great. We built our website free, and it looks slick. http://www.over-reactor.com/. The best thing is - no monthly subscription fee. You don't want that expense when starting up a band.

Our business (Over-reactor) is set up very differently - two performers/songwriters (who record, mix and master), a graphic designer/video producer, and a publicist. By structuring our band's business this way, the only thing we need to outsource is bookings.

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterCory Blight

The more awareness that is created about taking that first step and owning your own bands website, the better.

Great introductory post Ariel, may I recommend Autonomous Industry Digital Development Guide.

From page 5 through to page 24 we go through how to make a free band website and ellaborate on some of the key topics you have brought up.

I also second not using a service to host everything for you and pay monthly. Once the band own their own domain and hosting and go through the very few steps it takes to understand how they work and get them synced, the better it will be for their future ideas.

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Ariel - great post and so relevant to all of us.
I used some options for online presence and I agree so much with our need to have our own place.

I actually came upon this great site on which I'm opening my music page and directing my domain. I had some wordpress efforts but here I just put in my tunes and stuff and am online - highly recommended.

Al

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterAl

The best thing about offering a website is knowing that your product is available to the public! In essence,, you are your own publisher, With every hit, I feel grateful that our music is making someone smile or relax ,,,, something to enjoy and the "Magic" is LOVE !!!

Great post. I recently stumbled upon a new Internet project for the arts that looks very promising, called Art of Me. The web address is http://artfme.com/ . It is not trying to sell anything, but rather it seeks to provide an online space where talented actors, musicians, writers, dancers, and other artists, can display and discuss their works, collaborate with each other, and interact with fans.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

"It’s not 1997 anymore and those quotes are not OK"

As someone who's been on both sides of that fence, let me tell you that tech buzzwords have changed a lot, but when it comes to clients, it's absolutely still 1997 and it always will be. From Real Estate, to retail stores, to musicians, most clients are the sole reason that their websites become so expensive. They don't have a clear picture of what they want, they've got unrealistic expectations across the board, and no concept of the work-hours they waste by constantly changing their minds.

I've built probably 50 websites now for clients and only once has the final product resembled the initial contract. The solution, of course, is that artists should never use an actual human web designer -- they need an automated system that will not negotiate and firmly restricts their choices to the available options.

Just wanted to speak up for web designers -- it's not our fault that our clients are stupid.

March 25 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Cory: Chris here, founder of Bandzoogle.

Our goal at Bandzoogle is to make building a site easy; we aren't the cheapest solution around, but if you are using an external store and mailing list, and need to host media, our prices work out to be around the same.

Your site looks great; clearly you have a designer on hand with strong photoshop and coding skills. Bandzoogle is designed for bands who don't have those resources; you can create a great site without having to fire up Photoshop or learn to code.

The other benefit to using a site like ours is that your store is tied into your mailing list, which is tied into your members-only pages, etc. This makes it easy to do things like email everyone who purchased a CD.

In terms of your site speed, we host sites on Amazon S3, which is one of the fastest cloud based servers. If your site loaded in more than a second or so, then that is not normal for our service.

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I'm a professional web developer. I do this kind of thing for a living, and I've been doing it well since 2002.

As far as your opine that a website should not cost $5,000, well, to be blunt it's absolutely absurd. You talk about the importance of branding a band. You're absolutely right. Branding is the most important thing to keep in mind when you're starting out.

Now, I would be the first to admit that most musicians are very creative. Chances are plenty of them can draw. Some can dabble in graphic design. But here's what you're forgetting.... If you want to look like a professional band, then you should be hiring a professional to come up with your brand. Do you think RCA or Columbia don't spend a pretty penny on marketing?

Is it cheap to hire a professional? No. Is it cheap to hire a professional band? No. It shouldn't be cheap to hire a professional designer. What you're asking bands to do is rip off designers by crowd sourcing and skimp on their branding.

What you're suggesting here would make these bands look like local bands. National touring acts don't have template sites and sonic bids press kits. Can you tell me the difference between a template website with a sonic bids press kit and a myspace page? Honestly, what is the difference? They both look cheap and unprofessional.

In the end a successful band is run like a business. A real business needs business investments. And like any other business venture you get out what you put in. If you're trying to skimp on the second most important part of being a band (your image - first would be the music) chances are you're going to stay a local band.

Is it cheap to create a brand? No. Is this something every band has the money to do? No. Is this something every band should do? No. The question here is this: Are you doing this for a living, or are you doing this as a hobby?

If you don't plan on becoming a musician to support yourself, then you shouldn't be investing money into the effort. It takes a lot more than just a time investment to be successful in any field. It most certainly takes some kind of a monetary investment. This is also true with music.

In the end, my point is that you get what you pay for, and when you pay nothing for a website it certainly looks like it. Unfortunately, it's not 1997. It's 2011, and an amateur website makes your band look like an amateur band.

March 28 | Registered Commenterjeremy miller

@jeremymiller you've never uttered a lie in your life!!! :) wow - i couldnt have said it better myself! if you cant invest decently into your brand, then you cant be serious about making it in todays digital economy!

Great Article..Another VERY AFFORDABLE THING an artist can do is setup a blogspot blog...ITs absolutely free and there is so many free templates that are clean and very useful....in conjunction with a .CC domain which is also free for the first year you can setup an entire website for free right of the bat..

March 30 | Unregistered CommenterTM101 RADIO

Great blog - many musicians don't understand that social media should be the entryway to an online presence, not the presence itself - with 2 - 3 social media, a blog and a website, you will have an excellent start on building good quality links and capturing an audience - just make sure you update regularly with good content! - it can be done very cheaply, as the other things are usually free. And something is always better than nothing - something is what you build on. Great tips, great blog!

September 30 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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