With the rise of social networks, many artists may be tempted not to bother with having their own website, instead relying on Facebook, Twitter etc to ‘connect’ with their fans online. This, however, may result in them losing out – this blog will hopefully address the issues you need to consider when building your own website.
One of the first things to consider is the purpose of having your own website – what do you want the website to achieve? Two good starting points would be to learn where your fans are coming from, and to gather means of contacting them.
Dan Rosies (DR) from Music Glue, a “direct to fan online e-commerce, ticketing and marketing software solution for artists”, explains the importance of using a band’s website to capture fan data:
DR: “‘likes’ and ‘follows’ aren’t enough; what are you going to do when Facebook and Twitter tail off like Myspace? Get an email address; email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
One good approach for gathering a fan’s e-mail address is to offer something in return – for example, a free download of a track in exchange for their e-mail address. At this point, it is worth a note of caution – there are copyright issues in giving away music for free, if you are not the sole owner / controller of all the rights – for example, if it is a cover version. EmuBands recently prepared a guide to Publishing, Mechanical Royalties and Releasing Cover Versions, which will help explain these issues.
We would certainly recommend, if you are planning on offering downloads or streams through your website, to use a third party to facilitate this. Music Glue can help with this, or you can link offsite to, for example, iTunes or Amazon MP3 for downloads, or embed the Spotify play button on your website to keep fans on your website. As Dan Rosies explains:
“I don’t think that you should be linking off to iTunes as your main digital service, the main issue is that linking away will take fans away from your hub.”
One major reason it would be better to use a third party service, like iTunes or Spotify to facilitate downloads and streams is because they have already dealt with the licensing issues. Also, importantly, you are using their bandwidth. A conventional web host would place limits on monthly bandwidth usage, with sometimes expensive penalties for exceeding this. So, if you were to offer a high quality file for download from your own server space, the bandwidth charges can quickly escalate.
As mentioned earlier, another major benefit of having your own website is that you can find out more about where your fans are located and how they are finding you.
Whilst social networks can provide limited analytics, and there are tools like iTunes’ trend reports that can offer the postcode of people who have purchased your music, proper analysis of your own website traffic data can be a massive help (contact your EmuBands account manager for more information on iTunes trend reports, or log in to your EmuBands account and click on ‘Daily Sales Data’).
Marcus Taylor (MT) from Venture Harbour, a web-marketing specialist, explains the benefits of ‘analytics’:
“Web analytics packages, such as Google Analytics, or artist-specific ones like Next Big Sound and Music Metric can be an artist’s best friend, or the biggest time sink. Google Analytics can provide solid answers to tough questions, such as “where do our fans come from?”, “which gigs were worth our time?”, “where should we tour?”, however it requires looking beyond the ‘vanity metrics’ and really getting to grips with the stories behind the data. I recently wrote a post on Presskit.to’s blog about how artists can use data to their benefit, which may be useful.”
Now that we’ve addressed why you should have your own website, let’s discuss the ‘how’.
Firstly, what should you use for your URL (web address)?
MT: “Keep it consistent, short, and descriptive. In almost all cases, www.yourbandname.com is the best option. Avoid using parameters, or frames-based sites, which cause URL problems.”
DR: “The same as everything else preferably… make it as easy to find you as possible. For example, if your Facebook URL is Facebook.com/YourBandName, and your Twitter is @YourBandName, then stick to this naming convention for your website’s URL.”
Secondly, what platform should you use to build your website? There are many great tools to help you build your own website – some general ones, and some music industry specific ones.
MT: “WordPress.org has my vote. It’s free, has amazing plugins, is very secure (if you keep it updated and don’t install crappy plugins), and is highly customisable. If you’re looking for design & hosting included, then services like Music Glue and BandZoogle are good options worth looking at.”
On the subject of ‘plugins’, what should you look to include in your website? Here is a checklist we’ve prepared for you:
• Direct-to-fan sales
• Links to your music on digital services (i.e. iTunes, Spotify)
• Links to your YouTube videos and channels
• Gig listings & ticket sales
• Social media feeds
• Merchandise sales
• Mailing list sign-up
DR: “All of these services you can do with a Music Glue profile page. For free. There are a few good places where you can start an online presence. All are different and some may require you to know a small amount of knowledge to get it off the floor. My recommendation is find something simple to use and update. If you’re a band/artist you should be focusing on the main thing – making music. Music Glue is a simple platform, within half hour you can have a customisable profile page where you can sell your merchandise, tickets and digital.”
From personal experience, I have used a Music Glue website as a concert promoter, and found the quality to be excellent.
On the subject of concerts, as an artist/band, sometimes a promoter may give you an allocation of tickets to sell directly to your fans. Selling them through your own website is another great way of capturing fan data, and it also allows you to offer ‘exclusives’ to those already signed up to your mailing list to encourage sign-ups.
One term you may have heard being used in relation to web marketing is ‘Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO). This means editing your website in a particular way so that you are at the top of the search engine rankings for a particular word or phrase. This, however, may not be of much use to a band, since, in theory, most people would search for your band name, and through a relevant URL you should already be at the top of the rankings.
DR: “It’s important from the online perspective but you need to ask yourself… is your fan base finding you from search engines? Or are they finding you from live shows or something like your YouTube videos that you have tagged up correctly. I think that sometimes artists think they need this, need that, and before they know it they have wasted money and time on features they don’t really need. Why not just abuse the free platform and functions?”
However, in some circumstances, SEO, may be useful:
MT: “In my opinion, SEO is not particularly important for the majority of bands. As long as your band’s website ranks well for your own band’s name, then you’re fine. That said there are exceptions. A good friend of mine performs in a wedding band on the weekends, and by doing a little bit of SEO on his band’s website, he ended up ranking well for a phrase like ‘London wedding band’, which shot his enquiries through the roof. I’ve also seen some smart campaigns where bands have used SEO to outrank illegal download sites in Google, and direct fans to their own website where fans can download tracks for free in return for their email address.”
In conclusion, an artist/band website is an important hub that can allow you to interact with your fans through good content, and gather contact information from them, as well as useful data to help analyse where your traffic comes from. There are many platforms available to help you build your website, and whilst a good URL is important, Search Engine Optimisation is less so.
Blog Author: Ally Gray | Managing Director, EmuBands
POSTED: Thursday 17th October 2013