The web is now part of everyone’s local area. Many people who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) come see you in your physical local will be happy to engage with you on the internet. If you choose not to make this easy and rewarding then you are making a big mistake.
The venues that you are play are your physical local. The other local you need to cover is your website. Sadly many artists think this is too hard and either don’t do it or do it poorly.
It’s a Mistake
In the 80’s we figured that blowing ourselves up with nuclear bombs was a no-win situation. The grand and emotive vision of a wasteland populated only by mutants was enough to help us to see that trade and peace was a better outcome for all. Sadly online many artists don’t look at the big picture. They don’t see the wasteland that their actions (or inaction) delivers. As time goes by and they find themselves in that wasteland they start blaming the situation; the others. Don’t get me wrong you won’t all make it but if you don’t put your best foot forward then you are asking to fail.
Let’s start by looking at some silly mistakes. What should be rookie mistakes but not all of these people are exactly rookies:
Can’t buy the record: There have been several artists I have stumbled on online and wanted to buy a record. I know the net is fickle so if I don’t grab it now I probably won’t run into them again. I have spent 15-30 minutes of making Google searches and plowing through oddly mismanaged websites, Facebooks etc only to find I can’t find or purchase a record at all. I forget these acts.
Confusing Shopping: The Frozen Autumn (I showed a video in the last post) grabbed my attention on YouTube by appearing in results alongside similar bands. Well done. I liked their music enough to investigate further. I wanted to buy a record. I Googled and found a website (which sadly seems very out of date). There is a page that shows that there are a lot of releases but no links to the albums. There is a link to an external shop but when I get there there is almost nothing to buy. If I persevere and push through the shop then I find there are 3 CDs but I have to use a dropdown to choose. Sadly I have no idea which album I want to choose as there is no way of auditioning material. I might like the second record but hate the third? I don’t know, I feel stressed. I can only buy physical CDs to be shipped. I don’t want that as odds-on the CD case is broken by the time I get it in the post 2-4 weeks later.
Crazy Pricing: I am a Garth Brooks fan but right now I wonder if he isn’t insane (find me an artist who isn’t) as when I go to his site to look at buying the latest album. I find there are digital downloads of everything (great) but they are either the same price as the CD or MORE EXPENSIVE! Um? So if I buy the CD, make you post it and I wait for it to arrive, that is easier on both of us than if I simply download it (at lower quality) and start listening right now? I love you Garth, and could be up for two albums, but have you been drinking?
Get a new marketing person.
Why can’t I get a Digital Download now? Offer both. That way I get the music now and can pay more for the physical CD if I want.
These days with Bandcamp and the like there is NO EXCUSE for not letting fans access your material easily and right there in your site. If there is some nasty legal mess that prevents access to certain titles then tell us and apologize.
Get it Right
The internet is a big place, with many outlets doing everything they can to siphon off your visitors. YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud etc are all interested in moving people around. The more pages people click, the more adverts they see. This is not in your interest. You need to get people to your Web Site. Your website is your stage on the internet.
Just as you should control the stage when you are playing live you must control the stage when you are online. Your website should offer everything a potential and existing fan should ever want of you. When a person first arrives (either from a live show, YouTube, or an external link) they are asking themselves:
“How can you (the artist) make my life better (today, right now)?”
You need to answer this pronto. Let people see straight up front who you are and what you do. If you are a Metal band or Folk Rock then I need to recognize that. Don’t try to tell me something complex on the top pages, just show me how you can make me happy (or not so I can leave with dignity) and how to drill down to the stuff I want.
Basic rule of sales is that the longer you hold a person in front of you the greater chance you have of making a sale. Firstly you must do this by letting the fan see and read a lot of material. If you don’t want to create that material then you will probably fail. Give nothing = get nothing. Secondly you can leverage that into tie-ins just as Kiss and Star Wars really became the masters of. The t-shirt and action figures keep you front-of-mind for the fan and provide advertising as others see them. Not to mention the tribe aspects of identifying as one of yours.
I will advise WordPress as the place to build your empire. Use wordpress.com where they give you everything you need for free. There are other options sure and one may be better but for now I doubt it very much. I’m not getting paid for referrals but say having used many methods before and having issues at every turn. I won’t say that WordPress won’t break your brain when you first get in but it does work and stay that way. It also offers everything you need for the foreseeable future. If, down the track, you want or need to change a template then it won’t kill your whole site.
Turn The Page
A good website needs some basic elements or pages. These are your Navigation:
Home: This is where people may land (or if not, come to to orient themselves). It needs to cover who and what you are pretty fast. You can do this one of two ways: with a logo if you are known (if not then don’t push your logo) or with a picture of you in action. Your on-stage should represent you very well. If not then revise your stage show and outfits. Your band/working name needs to be nice and clear. Show your latest album (which hopefully is no older than 6 months), and live schedule and a video. Don’t: try to put everything on this page, just the pointers to let people get to what they want. Don’t use landing or splash pages – you might think they look pretty but everyone hates them.
Music: This is the second page in your Navigation. It is what you do so put it right up there. This page should be the overview of your career – a page that shows your Discography and links off the the individual projects is perfect as it shows you have a history and offers choice. If you don’t have much catalog then consider merging this with your Home page till you have a bit more material in a year’s time when you have 3 CDs. Don’t: make things that can’t be linked to; every project has a story even if you can’t offer it for sale.
Album Pages (are a sub-set of Music): Best to pop each album project on its own page as that gives each album room to breathe. I vote for embedding your album from Bandcamp at the top of the page as that brings cover, music, tracklist and even a buy button. Each album should have a flavor of its own and you can let that show here. Use words as they get closer to the soul than any pretty picture (and your album cover should have you covered there). Explain your muse to let fans feel they are getting closer and understand you more. If you write songs that people may be interested in the lyrics (and that should be every song) then paste all of them in at the end of the page. It may make for a toilet roll but remember the longer you hold someone the greater chance you have of getting them engaged. If they have pressed play and start reading then you may get 3 songs in rather than be abandoned at 30 seconds as there was no other reason for them to stay on this page. Don’t: hide older music or albums because you no longer like it or are embarrassed, it may be the very record that a visitor likes and would buy. If nothing else it builds your story and shows how far you have come.
Video: Remember that video is the best selling tool you have so offer it (but not before your buy-able music) as not everyone wants to listen and read. Make a page that at least covers your video hi-lights. If you release only two videos per album and only one concert video per album then in a year from now you will have six videos. You may choose to pop the videos on the Album Pages as well but make sure there is a way that people can get to your videos easily. Remember these videos are embedded from YouTube. Don’t: let this (or any other page) become a mess or stale.
About: yes you are a person, or a group of people. Tell us who you are. I may hate the Idol/Masterchef thing but it works as it is personalizing people and telling stories. Music is made by people. You may actually make music because you want to hide from the world but your fans want to understand you. Explain who you are and why you do what you do. Write it like a book you would want to read. Don’t: bignote yourself or stop at the high point. So you opened for Metallica in 1984. It happened. Move on because it is now 2015.
Contact: God forbid that anyone wanted to talk to you about opening for Metallica (yes again) but they can’t get you. Now I don’t think open email addresses are a good idea for Spam reasons but you can use the in-built Reply form right there on any WordPress page. Just let people know that this post won’t be published. If someone asks you something, always respond. Remind them to leave you an email address. Don’t: forget to keep an eye on your email and check WordPress Spam regularly (sadly the more traffic you get the more Spam will pile up real fast).
If you cover all these bases (and you see there aren’t that many) then your site should be everything needed to be your place where fans can get what they want from you and you from them.