Having a strong, compelling website is a major key to any artist’s success. When done right, all roads lead to it. These roads include your social networks, your business card’s your CDs, your CD packaging, your one sheet, your email address, your gigs, your posters and everywhere else that you appear or are marketed. And a great website then convinces venues and other entertainment buyers to hire you. It convinces all visitors to buy your music, and sends them directly to where they get it. If also convinces those visitors to
come to your shows.
If your website is not accomplishing this, then something is broken and needs to be fixed. Here are some things that make an effective website. Troubleshoot your own website and make any changes that are you feel
are necessary. It won’t take long before you’ll see a difference in the responses you get from it!
- Have A Real Website – It is important that you have your own website with your own URL. Facebook, ReverbNation, MySpace can’t replace a real website for several reasons. First, they don’t have all of the information that a visitor needs to make a buying decision. Secondly, they are cookie-cutter templates making you look like every other artist on those sites. It also conveys a sense of laziness and a lack of professionalism.
- Have A Strong URL – Your URL is the web address of your website. The best URL is ‘YourName.com.’ If that is unavailable, try YourNameMusic.com. The reason this is important is that it has to be easy for people to find your website. If your name is often misspelled, get the dot com addresses of the most common misspellings as well, and have them point to your real site. Stay away from addresses that are ‘clever’; ‘made-up words’, have hidden meetings etc. If someone wants to find your website, it’s best if they can just go right to it. If they have trouble finding your website, chances are they will move on to another artist.
- Reason – It is important to now why people are coming to your website. If you are driving venue owners there because you want them to book you, then facts about your live show, or your live video should be prominent. If it’s to sell music, then your music needs to be front and center. If your are just cultivating long-term relationships, creating anticipation for your upcoming CD etc., then those need to be obvious. If it is all of the above, be sure that they are all represented on your home page.
- Quick Loading Time – If it takes too long (more than 4 seconds) for your website to load, research has shown that many people will just give up and move on. Flash, large pictures, some plugging and where you have your website hosted can all slow down your website’s loading time.
- Music Player – Your music player should be on your home page, easy to see and above the fold (don’t make viewers have to scroll down to ding it. How it works should be very obvious and never require directions. Also, do not have your player on auto play as soon as someone lands on your page. It is annoying, and might get someone fired from his or her job if they weren’t supposed to be surfing.
- Song Streams – Be sure the samples of your music are long enough to give the viewer an adequate representation of your music. 30-second samples that never get to a chorus, or that have long intros are not enough for anyone to base a decision on. Full songs are ideal.
- User Friendly – The easier it is to navigate your website, the longer people will stay on it. Keep everything that your viewer needs to see ‘above the fold’. Make everything, especially links to your other pages, very obvious. Don’t ever hide or bury your links in clutter, or put them in 6 pt. font at the bottom of your page. Instead, have a prominent toolbar. Be sure they can access to everything from every page. In other words, don’t make them go back to the home page to connect to the next thing they want to see. Use separate pages for each different item on your site. For example, don’t lump photos, videos, and music onto one page under ‘Media’. It is not obvious, and it does not let you make each one stand out as well as a dedicated page.
- Fonts And Language – Use reasonably sized, easy to read fonts. Not everyone who views your site will have perfect eyesight. Use common terminology so no one has to guess which link is ‘photos’ your ‘bio’ etc.
- Avoid Pop-ups – Pop-ups can be very annoying. Also, many people have pop-up blockers turned on, so they have to take extra steps to allow pop=-ups from your website. That can be a huge deterrent. Many people won’t do this either because it is a nuisance or because they know you and are afraid they will end up getting barraged with pop-ups from your site.
- Videos – Videos are a major key to booking your act. A high-quality live video that really captures the essence of your show can sell your act instantly. Concept videos, on the other hand, are great for selling your songs. Both should be professionally produced. Informal videos (e.g. taken with your phone) are great for showing your personality and for making your website interactive. Be sure you separate the 3 kinds of videos by labeling them prominently. Your informal videos might be better placed in your blog.
- Professional Photos – Having a page of photos can also be very helpful in selling your live show and your music. Informal, spontaneous pictures are fine, but it is imperative that you also have formal ‘promo’ shots, and segregate them on the page. These are what a venue owner would look at. Be sure that none of your pictures are offensive or inappropriate.
- Contact Information: Include real contact information, such as a phone number and email address. You can get a free Google Voice # to filter unwanted calls, and use a spam filter for your email. Forms that need to be filled in turn many people off. Be sure your contact information is displayed prominently.
- Easy To Buy Downloads – Make it extremely easy for your visitors to buy your music. This means having ‘buy’ buttons directly net to the music player. Since most people theses days buy their music from I-Tunes and also Amazon, have links directly to those sites. It is short-sided to try to save the 30 cents that these services take by making people buy from you only. People trust these sites with their credit card info, and probably already have accounts there. That means they know the systems and can get your music with one or 2 clicks.
- Physical CDs – Contrary to what you may have heard, CDs are not dead! Many people still prefer to have hard copies of their music. Be sure that you offer a way for people to buy physical CDs. CD Baby and Kunaki.com are 2 great ways to do this.
- Mailing List – It is important to capture the email addresses and zip codes of your visitors for your mailing list. The best way to do this is to offer a free download or something else that is desirable in return for someone joining your mailing list. Research has shown that the best place to put your mailing list sign-up is in the upper right hand corner.
- Share Buttons – Make it easy for visitors to share your website with their friends on multiple social networks by having ‘Share’ buttons on every page. You can get these at ShareThis.com.
- Like Buttons – Have buttons that enable visitors to Like’ your Facebook fan page.
- Calendar – Make it obvious where you’re upcoming shows are. Be certain that you keep your calendar up to date! If you don’t have upcoming shows. And you have a legitimate reason (like taking time off to record), say that. If you don’t have gigs coming up, but you have gigged in reputable places in the past, list those.
- Interactive – The more interactive your website is, the deeper the relationships are that you build with your fans. Surveys and contests are 2 great ways to make your site interactive.
- EPK and One-Sheet – If possible, have a link that brings up your EPK or one-sheet. Make them easy to share or email. That enables your fans to send them to a venue owners that they know.
- Short Bio – People love to know a little about you. However, unless you were a child prodigy, very few need or want to now your entire history beginning with your first performance in kindergarten. A few paragraphs with your career highlights are enough to give your visitor an accurate picture of who you are and what you do.
- Branding – Be sure that the look and feel of the website matches your own onstage and offstage personalities. The colors you use, the graphics, pictures and videos you choose, the fonts you use and even the language you use must all match your brand. Your visitors should know in an instant what kind of music you play, whether your act is primarily fun or mostly serious, whether you would belong in a theater setting or a coffeehouse etc. If the nature of your music and stage show are not obvious because your website is confusing or nondescript, you may lose your visitors after their first glance.
- SEO – It is important that your website is search engine optimized (e.g. strategicallyplacing important keywords throughout the sight.) This makes it easier for the search engines to find you.
- Blog – Having a blog that keeps fans coming back can be very helpful. Use it to tell you fans what you’re up to, where you were playing, about new songs you’re written, about other music you like, your opinions on issues etc. This is where you personality can really shine., and where people find out what you really stand for.
- Mobile – Be sure your site can be seen properly on mobile phones. There are plug-ins that detect if your viewer is using their phone and will resize your site accordingly.
- Tagline – Having a short tagline that describes your act to a tee will help visitors to understand who you are and what to expect. For example, you saw a simple tagline that said ‘Boston’s Favorite Party Band’ you would know exactly what to expect. A tagline like ‘The Justin Bieber Meets Josh Grobin’ gives you a completely different picture. Come up with something unique, dynamic, compelling and descriptive tagline that sets you apart from everyone else. It is instant branding. Use your tagline everywhere!
- News – Having a news section for announcements can also be a great interactive tool Be sure you keep it up to date.
- Status Updates – Having your Twitter/Facebook status updates right on your website also helps to keep your site interactive and current.
- Reasons To Return – Give your visitors a reason to keep coming back. Contests, your blog, surveys with posted results, continuing stories, upcoming announcements, new music, new free downloads, new videos, new pictures etc. are all ways to keep your fans coming back.
- Relevant andf Current – Be sure that everything on your site is relevant to what you are doing now. Be sure your calendar and announcements are all current. Take doen anything that is out of date. It makes it look like you are out of business!
As you can see, your website should be your greatest selling tool. Never take it for granted. Never let it get stagnant or outdated. Put it to work for you. Invest the time, money and effort into making it right. Then watch as it increases your credibility, popularity, reputation, music sales and bookings!
Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, a global business club for serious independent artists, songwriters, musicians and music professionals. Indie Connect helps its members increase their chances of success by providing practical career direction and education, combined with live and online industry networking opportunities. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, an artist manager, a booking agent, songwriter and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He is a published author and popular speaker at music industry conferences.