In the digital age, having a thought-out website is crucial for artists looking to reach and connect with fans and industry folk. However, not all websites are created equal, and it takes some creativity to have your site not only inform fans, bookers, and potential partners but also make you some money. Music Times spoke with David Dufresne, CEO of Bandzoogle, the leading website platform for musicians, about what artists can do to make the most of their online space.
The Basic Things Every Artists Website Needs
1. Design Aspect
"You want to make sure your website looks and feels modern, and that it's cohesive with your brand, or the visual aspects of you as an artist or as a band. For example, the fonts and colors you are using for your album artwork should be cohesive with your social media pages and newsletters."
"Your website should have an easy-to-use menu, and the different sections should be fairly simple to navigate. People are lazy when they come to websites, and if they don't find what they're looking for in about five seconds, they bounce off and they go somewhere else. So your menu should be very clear."
"You should definitely have a bio for fans and press kit for industry people. Then you absolutely must have a music section. There are so many band websites that don't have music, and it's silly. But you need a clear music section with both audio and video. Then you should have a photos page. It's weird, but it's often the most visited page on band websites. One thing that many people forget, but is critical, is a contacts page, where people can get in touch. If you play live, you should also have a calendar page where people can quickly find where you'll be playing next, ticket information, directions to the venue, age restrictions, who you are playing with, etc."
"The homepage is the most important part of a website. It's the page that your visitors will land on. I like to see a quick first impression of the artist because there are a lot of artists that build websites only for the fans they already have. Some of your visitors are going to be your fans that already know you, but you're going to have visitors that don't really know you yet."
1. Include your latest video
"It's a way to give a good first impression, and you're also capturing both the eyes and ears of your visitors; whereas with audio, they might play your song, but if they go back to their Facebook and see a cute cat video, you've lost them."
2. Include a pitch
"Who are you as a band? Give them a quick one- or two-liner about yourself."
3. Include a call to action
"This can be to buy the new album or check out the tour dates if you're leaving on tour, or it could be sign up for the mailing list if you're early in your career and still trying to build a mailing list. 'Sign up for the mailing list and get a free download,' things like that. You should have one, maybe two, very clear calls to action depending what your focus is."
4. Include your latest news
"Talk about the next few places you are going to play. You can import your Instagram feed or your tweets. Give visitors an idea of what you are up to and how busy you are. Keep your fans aware of what you're doing by blogging or sending out a newsletter each month to try and bring back that traffic. For example, you can say, 'We're not touring right now, but we're writing songs. Here's a quick video of a something I'm working on.'"
5. Include widgets that link to social media
"Think of your global online strategy as a wheel -- think of a hub and spokes where the hub is your website and your mailing list and then you're going have different spokes which can be Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. You're going to pick and choose the ones where you think you can reach your fans. So if all of your fans are on Instagram, you should probably be there. You should have some videos on YouTube and might want to have some music on Soundcloud.
"It depends what you're comfortable with. There are only so many hours in a day, so it's smarter to focus on the two or three things that you can do well rather than have a spray and pray approach of being everywhere. Use those spokes to engage those fans and try to get new fans, but as much as you can, try to bring that traffic back to your website because that's where you control the narrative and can get email addresses for your mailing list.
"Social networks change with what's in fashion. A few years ago so many bands were focusing all their energy on and would usually point their '.com' domain to their MySpace page. Then quickly MySpace fell out of people's habits, and they realized those thousands of friends they had on MySpace couldn't be exported to Facebook. So that's why getting those email addresses on that list is so important."
6. Update frequently
"A good rule of thumb is to try to do at least one small thing each week and one big thing each month. Each week, have a little something you can share -- it might be someone else's music. You can write a blog post saying you've just found this amazing artist in you city, or, 'Here's what I'm listening to these days and what's inspiring me.'
"Fans love that stuff. They love to come in your universe. They don't just care about the music; they also care about the artist. So if you're comfortable with it, bring them in your life. Then once a month, post something bigger. For example, a new recording, an acoustic version of a song, or a remix."
1. Biography Page
"You want something that bloggers or venue bookers can copy and paste, so it needs to be concise. However, you can have two versions of a bio. One short, concise one and a longer one that goes into detail about all the prizes you won while in high school and everyone you've played with."
2. Contact Page
"I like to see it as a contact form, that way you're not putting your email right there for spam bots to crawl in and pick up. I also advise bands to have a phone number there, especially if you're trying to get gigs. Often someone might cancel, and if you want to get called, there's a higher likelihood that people will call you to book you last minute if your phone number is there."
3. Music/Videos Page
4. Photos Page
"Make sure they are in a hi-res format and easy to download. Some should be landscape and some should be portrait. Think of publications and how they will use your image depending on size and space. Also, think of bookers who might want to book you for their venue. They want to see what your live show looks like, so have good live shots of the crowd dancing. It might give them more confidence in what you can pull for a venue."
5. Store Page
"Too many bands don't have anything for sale on their website, and I think that's a lost opportunity. If you send people to iTunes or Amazon that's fine, but then you're kicking them out of your website and you don't get to keep 100 percent of the sales. More importantly, however, you get them to sign up for your mailing list so you know who actually just bought your music, whereas on iTunes or Amazon, you have no idea because you don't own that data. Having a store right on your website means you can sell digital music, but you can also sell physical CDs, vinyl, merch, or other nontraditional things such as non-music files, sheet music, eBooks, guitar tabs, or sometimes files for remixes. More and more people are selling either live performance videos or instructional videos. We're seeing some interesting ways musicians now make more money."
Making Money With Your Website
"People are buying less and less music. I think the act of buying is as more your fans supporting you than them actually needing to have those files because they can listen to your music on YouTube or Spotify almost for free. So it's worth it when you do sell something to make it special. When you're selling a CD, focus on having nice packaging and really make it a value added object.
"People will buy vinyl not because they need it to listen to the songs, but because they want the object. So do spend time on those liner notes and the artwork. With digital products, I see a lot of people do really well with 'Pay What You Want," letting their fans name the price or setting a low minimum.
"Fans know that bands and artists need their support, and crowdfunding has become very popular. People are getting pretty creative with the packages they create and how they bring their fans in the process of actually making the product and having the privilege. I think that's super smart and that should be on your band website as well as on Kickstarter or other platforms.
"Beyond music, you can sell other nontraditional items of value. You can sell Skype lessons, guitar tabs, sheet music, used or signed instruments, instrumental versions of your music, merch packages, handwritten lyrics, or even shows at untraditional venues like house or office parties. There are so many creative ways to make a living as a musician."
Looking for more information on building a quality band website? Head over to Bandzoogle.com and also check out their free E-book Building Your Website: A Step-by-Step Guide For Bands And Musicians.