If you are a regular cruiser and user of the world wide web, then it won't be any surprise for you to know that the design of the sites you visit affects how, or even if, you will use that site.
But you may not be connecting the dots from what you like to see on a website, to what you have created on your own band or artist site. So, to help you get your internet act together I have put together some thoughts on what to do and not to do on your music related webpages.
In the offline world there are Press Kits that contain such things as your CD, Bios, Fact Sheets, Cover Letters, Press Clippings or Quotes, and a Photograph (8x10, B&W glossies). In addition your kit may need to have other useful promotional items in it such as lyric sheets, stage plots, equipment lists, song lists, gig listings etc.
When you create your website and the pages that make it up, many of those traditional items should still be a part of your electronic press kit. But the uniqueness of the web and the new challenges and opportunities that it brings to marketing and promoting your music require you to re-think your on line presence. One simple fact of music promotion that exists both off and online is this; the first impression an artist makes on the music industry at large is a VISUAL impression. In other words, long before most gatekeepers at labels, radio, the press, and at distributors and stores hear your music, they will always SEE your music first in the form of a cover, some stationary or logo/letterhead, or...a homepage on the web.
So let's go through some website kit ingredients and see what we can see.
Bios: Make the first paragraph stand out in some way with a clear description of who you are and what kind of music you make. Then move on immediately to talk about what you are currently doing, ( a new CD, an upcoming tour, whatever), After that summarize your background by highlighting significant facts and achievements. Then wrap it up perhaps with a reminder of some kind about your current activities once again. No long winded information should be in a bio. Also avoid cliches and overblown statements ( "the greatest, most original music ever") type things unless you have a quote from a significant person who actually said the cliche. Then plaster that quote, with appropriate credits to the person who said it.
Fact Sheets: A fact sheet is nothing more than one sheet of information with lots of bulleted facts about your current projects and your interesting background. They are useful because they are a quick and easy way for a busy industry person to get a fix on you and what you are up to.
Photographs: One of the best things about a website is that you can creatively insert several cool photos of you and your fellow musicians throughout your site, or in a special section or gallery of photos you have collected. Be sure though that the photos are as professional looking as the design of your site. Amateur looking anything can really hurt you in an industry that is Image addicted. You MUST have an consistent image which you conceive of and control, and photos are often the most neglected and poorest parts of an artists presentation.
Tour Dates/Performance Schedule: Most genre of music require an act to play live, so be sure to play live as often as you can and keep your performance sections on your web sites updated constantly. Nothing is more a turn off to industry reps than visiting a site where the performance schedule lists gigs that are months or weeks old. It is a sure sign that you are unprofessional and perhaps have even broken up or called it quits.
Your Product: This means you have a page or pages dedicated to your CDs, Tapes, Vinyl, or downloadable music tracks. And you state clearly what past, present and even future releases you have for sale. Then...you clearly and directly design this section of your site to steer your fans and customers to HOW they can buy your music. It can be as simple as directing them to an address they must send a check to, or linking them to online retailers like Amazon.com, CDNow, or whoever you have established an online sales connection with. If you have your own secure server all the better, in fact mixing up all of the above would be the best way to serve the diverse buying habits of your fans. Restricting them to only one choice is not an effective e-commerce marketing decision. You should also include fun and interesting descriptions of your songs, any stories about the making of the record, quotes from your producer or engineers, or other musicians. Have some fun with too, this IS the entertainment business you are a part of you know!
The issue of how you will use sound samples is up to you, but you must have some samples, if not a rotating selection of some of your songs. As you know, unless you have been living under a rock, the compressed audio technology of the unsecured kind...MP3 has taken the music world by storm. Hot on its heals came secured downloadable technologies such as Liquid Audio, a2b, and Media Player. My view on which to choose for downloading whole songs is ALL OF THE ABOVE! Why miss out on a customer? Discussions on the pros and cons and the quality issues on each of the above is beyond purpose of this fourm. All I know is many people are using any and all downloadable sound technologies, that is a fact. So, you should have as many of them available to your fans as possible.
News and Views Section: This is the part of your site where you post any and all information about you and your music that doesn't fit in any other section. Your hobbies, political and social concerns, gossip, or just anything that might be of interest to your fans. YOU MUST CREATE REASONS FOR YOUR FANS TO RE-VISIT YOUR SITE! This section of your site could be the place for just that.
Contact Information: Duh!!! Well you would be shocked at how many sites out there forget to have an email link for visitors to use to contact you. Just like in the offline world the number of musicians who forget to put their phone numbers, addresses, etc on their promotional materials is astounding. So do not forget this basic, essential tool on your site...and...put that contact link on every page, you have no idea what pages your fans may go to and go no further within your site, so cover yourself on this by putting an email link on every page of your site!
And before I forget...
Creating a great looking, easy to navigate website is a new necessity for any musician serious about making money with their music. It is an added responsibility that every artist and band must commit to now. There is more competition now then ever before, but it is also a very exciting time for a determined and dedicated musician to make a lasting impression with their music. Accept the challenges I have suggested and make them work for you.
Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.
Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.
He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".
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