While sites like Facebook, SonicBids and Reverb Nation allow you to have a web presence with easy-to-use plug-ins, they do not have the flexibility a stand-alone website provides, and they are not owned by you, which is important.
These days having a web site with a user friendly platform like WordPress is as simple as paying for hosting and following the instructions. And yet, many bands and artists do not present themselves well on their websites. A site doesn’t need to be fancy, with animation and music that starts streaming automatically. (In fact, the latter is a bad idea.) It just needs to tell your story as fully as possible and let people know how to get in touch.
Here are 10 things every band or individual musician’s web site needs:
• Homepage: Ever go to a band’s website and find yourself in the middle of a tour blog or a six-month old item on a festival gig, or a full-page photo and bio of the bass player, or a year-old list of dates? The message this presents is that the band is careless, lazy or disorganized, and possibly all three. Your web site should always open to a homepage that is a map of your site, with a great, representative photo, headlines that convey your essential message, something folks can read and a variety of buttons with titles like “music,” “video,” “store,” “tour dates,” “press” and the like, that will take visitors to that information with the click of a mouse.
• Bio: Nothing tells your or your band’s story like the story of you or your band. Write an exceptional bio or have one commissioned, and either give it a dedicated page or put it under an obvious category, like “press.” Fans want to know about you, but more important, so do journalists who might write about your band or agents who are considering hiring you for shows. Those professionals don’t want a mystery; they want information, fast.
• Gigs: Update your gigs regularly — weekly, if they are being constantly added to your schedule — and list them all, even if they are private events. (Listing the latter lets people know you are available for private events, which are typically more lucrative than club shows.) A full schedule also sends the positive message that you are a working band or performer and tells fans when you are visiting their region or simply playing next, so they can put your shows in their calendars. Few things puncture your credibility as much as a list of expired dates or no dates at all.
• News or blog: This can be a blog that lets fans know what you’re up to, or the place that tells the world at large about new albums, tours, endorsements and other news. Real bands and musicians have active careers with things worth writing about. Those things should be trumpeted.
• Contact information: Let people know how to reach you. Fans like to contact the artists they follow, and you might find that engaging regularly with people who want to know more about the music and gear you play and love via email is rewarding. Also, people who want to book your band or contact you for other business reasons need your email address or phone number. If you’ve got a booking agent and manager, include their contact info, too.
• Videos: Having a video page is important. Today, most booking agents want to see a performance video before they will consider hiring an unfamiliar band. Don’t let YouTube be your curator. Present your favorite videos on your own page.
• Downloadable photos: On-line and print media publications that write about you or your band will often need band or artists photos, and possibly a jpeg of your latest album cover. It’s important to have these readily available to be downloaded at a moment’s notice. You never know when the listings section of the local paper is going to find a hole to fill when it’s about to go to press, or when an editor working on a story past midnight will decide he or she needs a photo. So be sure you have a selection of downloadable high-resolution jpegs available.
• Music: This, like video, is crucial. You can offer downloadable MP3s if you want, but all that’s essential is streaming files of your music. Everybody needs to know what you sound like.
• Merchandise: You can set up a comprehensive store — CDs, shirts, coasters, mugs, baseball caps, whatever — on your website by partnering with companies that specialize in providing custom shops, including ebay. If you’re just selling CDs, at least install a link to Amazon, CD Baby or some other source that’s selling your discs online. By the way, online sales of downloads are essential, although if you’re in a market that caters to an older audience, like blues or Americana, then making physical CDs available is also a requirement.
• Social media: As important as it is to have your own website, it’s also important to have a presence on popular social media. So place links to your Facebook, MySpace, etc., pages on your website, too.