Website Basics for Musicians - Rachel Oates

Digital Marketing Basics for Musicians: Your Website

On Friday night I had a lovely time having dinner, drinking wine and talking marketing with 3 very talented musicians; Elizabeth Hunter, Daisy Chute, and Lou of Dear Joy.

As well as having so much fun, I also learnt a lot from listening to these guys about the main things musicians think about when trying to get their music out there, I also started to understand a little more about the processes that go into writing and recording songs, thinking about merch, and booking gigs.

In the past I’ve done some work with bands, I’ve designed t-shirts for them, filmed music videos and taken hundreds (probably thousands…) of gig and promotional photos. My marketing experience is primarily for e-commerce sites, as well as some other bits of work for artists and blogs, etc. – so how can I connect my two passions: music and marketing?

It got me thinking a lot about creating a new series of blog posts focusing on digital marketing techniques musicians can use to help gain a little more exposure and get the recognition they deserve. The plan is to focus on one are in every post: social media, PPC ads, Youtube, etc. but today I’m going to start with sorting out your website!

Building Website Basics - Rachel Oates - Photo from Unsplash

Getting Started

So let’s assume you’re a musician; you’ve written some awesome songs, got some quality recordings, you’ve played a decent amount of gigs and you’re feeling pretty good. You’re going to need a website.

You can choose to design something from scratch or use some kind of content management system; WordPress is a popular choice but others like Wix and Square Space are also options.

Whatever platform you choose, you’ll want to choose a good domain name. Try and stay away from ones that are MyBandName.wordpress.com and buy an actual domain like MyBandName.com; it comes across as more professional and is easier for people to remember. It shouldn’t be too expensive – usually only a few pounds per year but it’ll be worth it.

Also try and make sure your domain name is as simple and memorable as possible. Lets imagine your band is called Frozen Bannanas, good URL’s would include:

  • FrozenBannanas.com
  • FrozenBannanasBand.co.uk
  • FrozenBannanasMusic.com

Whereas, you’re better staying away from things like:

  • Frozen–Bannanas.com
  • FrozenBannanas123.co.uk
  • fro-ban-band.net

Example of website - Paramore - Rachel Oates

What About Content?

So you’ve set up a website, what do you fill it with? Whenever I’m building a site from scratch I think from the consumer’s perspective first; why are they coming to your site?

As a huge music fan (with zero talent myself) I’m often found stalking the websites of my favourite bands and here’s a few reasons why:

Music

I want to learn about their music. I want to know what they’ve released in the past, where I can listen to it online, where I can buy it and what their plans are for future releases.

About The Band

I’ve fallen in love with this band’s / singer’s music… but who are they? I want to learn a little bit about you, why you started making music, who you’re influenced by, how long have you been performing? – I just want to know you’re human. It’s about making that emotional connection with your fans.

Gigs

When are youplaying next and how can I get tickets? Always link to where people can buy tickets and, if possible, a Facebook event.

Also if you want to add in a little section of past gigs you can do – it’s a nice way to show off if you’re a smaller artist and you’ve supported someone big or headlined any cool venues – but this should come second to upcoming gigs.

Merch

Mostly I go to a band’s website to buy merch – make it easy but don’t look like you’re just trying to make money off your fans. You can use an external site to sell your merch and link to this from your website, but if you want to host it all yourself you can get a bunch of plugins through WordPress (e.g. WooCommerce) to help you with the whole process and take care of the transaction side of things.

Social Media

Find an area to put all your social media links – I usually want to follow my favourite bands so I can keep up with what they’re doing. Make sure you make it easy for your fans to find how to follow you.

Gallery, Videos & Press

This is a great opportunity to show off your music videos, recordings of live shows and photographs – including gig photos and promo shots. Also where you can, it’s nice to link back to photographers / people you’ve worked with (I’ll explain why in the SEO section later).

You can also use this as an opportunity to link to any interviews / articles / blog posts that have been written about you.

Blog

This section isn’t essential but it can definitely be nice. It’s a great way to keep your fans coming back to your site and keep them up to date with what you’re doing – are you in the studio recording new material? Are you travelling and performing in a bunch of different places? Why not share your experiences and photos on a blog? It really helps build a connection with your fans!

Contact

Make it easy for people to get in touch with you – a contact form is a great option for this. If you don’t have a contact form, make sure your email address is very easy to find. People might want to get in touch to work with you, book you for a gig, or any number of reasons – make sure they can do this with no effort.

Example of website - The View - Rachel Oates

Growing a Mailing List

Mailing lists are invaluable to musicians; you can keep in touch with your fans, tell them every time you release new music, a new video, have an upcoming gig, have new merch. Ultimately it will increase both your fan engagement and the money you make.

I’ll make another post about how to write and send the best possible emails but for now I’m just going to talk about how to get those email addresses. There’s a couple of really simple things you can do:

Make It Easy To Sign Up

Don’t make your fans search all over to see if there’s a mailing list to sign up to. Depending on what you’re using to send out your emails, you can get plugins / widgets for tools like Mail Chimp.

Alternatively you can use a tool like MailMunch on a bunch of platforms including WordPress, Tumblr, Joomla, etc. to create a variety of forms to collect email addresses; they can be pop-up forms, embedded in different areas of your site, or a header on every page of your site. Plus it’s easy to integrate with pretty much any email marketing platform: Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor, etc.

Tell Them Why They’re Signing Up

You can’t just add a form and expect people to sign up. Tell they what they’re signing up for: what information will they recieve? How often with your email them? Keep it brief but detailed.

Give Them A Little Extra Incentive

Make sure people who are signing up to your mailing list feel like they’re getting something else from signing up that they can’t get from just following you on social media or visiting your website. Maybe you could offer them first access to gig tickets, a free download of a track or a small discount on merch?

SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s basically about making sure your site ranks highly on the right searches on Google. It’s about generating organic traffic to your website and attracting new fans. SEO can be really complicated if you want it to be but there are a few simple things you can do to increase your ranking hugely and today I’m going to go over these basics.

Think About How Potential New Fans Use The Internet

Again, this comes back to the idea of thinking of yourself as a music lover (which you probably are anyway) – how do you go about searching for bands you already like? And how do you go about searching for new music?

When the band Chvurches were forming and setting up their website, they realised that when their fans went to search for their music if they searched for ‘churches’ they’d get thousands of irrelevant links, so they changed their name to ‘Chvrches’ which made them pretty unique on the internet. Today a simple search for ‘chvrches’ will provide a fan with many useful search results: their website, music videos on youtube, their social media profile, articles written about them, and no links to actual church’s websites.

Chvrches on Google - Rachel Oates

Search Engine Keywords

The basics of SEO is centered around keywords. Keywords are how you get found. Keywords are how people search. And some keywords are searched more often than others. Once again, you have to put yourself in the mind of a fan.

A big thing to consider are brand vs non-brand keywords.

  • Brand Keywords relate directly to your band / music. It could be your band name, the people in your band, your album names or song titles, even specific lyrics.
  • Non-Brand Keywords are more general terms which could be about your style or music

Focusing on brand keywords is imporant because they’re unique to you and they allow fans searching for you to be directed straight to your conent. However, in order for a person to be searching for these keywords they need to have heard of your music or you.

Let’s take a pretty well known example: A Brand keyword for the band Journey might be ‘Just a small town girl’ because that’s a widely known lyric. People might use that brand keywork to search for information about that song, song lyrics, covers of the song or to find out what band sang it. But if they’d never heard that song in the first place, it’s pretty unlikely anyone would search for the words ‘just a small town girl’ and if they did, they might be a little creepy… So, optimising for these keywords requires you to already have some level of popularity or some other way of people hearing about / discovering your music.

All that said, when it comes to bands, non-brand keywords aren’t always that useful because, in practise, fans don’t really search for them that often. When was the last time you searched on Google for ‘rappers in London’ or ‘metal band from Sheffield’?

So, how do you figure out what keywords you need to optimise for?

Well this is where things get complicated and I’ll probably write a whole blog post on this in the future but for now, sticking with the basics, I’d say choose about 5 or 6 keywords for now and, depending on your popularity, try a mix of brand and non-brand keywords. Maybe go for:

1) Your Band Name

2) The name of your latest album / single

3) The style of music you play

4) The name of the city / town you usually play in or are from etc.

Optimising Your Site for These Keywords

So I keep talking about these keywords, but what do you do with them? There’s a couple of really simple things you can do:

  • Meta Tags – Use them on your site in the Header, Meta Description and Meta Tags. Plus, make sure your headers are descriptive.
  • Write Great Content – Your site isn’t going to rank very well if it’s all images. You need text and you need to sprinkle your keywords throughout it. Obviously, don’t saturate your text in keywords – write for people first but take search engines into account too.
  • Use Header Tags – Oraganise your content using actual header tags in the HTML – h1, h2, h3, etc.
  • Post Regularly – This is where a blog can help you because the more often you post, the higher your ranking is likely to be
  • Add ALT Text To All Images – This helps Google known what your images are and they’re more likely to show up in image search results – don’t forget to be descriptive and use your keywords

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a great little plugin called Yoast that will help you with a lot of these. Take a look at how I used it in my last blog post:

Using Yoast for SEO on Blogs - Rachel Oates

Link Building

The more (quality and trusted) sites link back to your site, the higher it will rank. A great way for musicians to do this is to get press coverage – get magazines, newspapers and music bloggers to write about you and link back to your site.

If you know other musicians you can always do each other a favour by linking to each other’s sites (this is coming back to the linking to artists thing I mentioned earlier). If you’ve recently performed with another musician, or if you’ve had someone take some promo photos for you, or someone has designed you some artwork… as long as they have a website, you two can work together. You link to their site and give them a shout out and they can link to yours and do the same.

It’s taking the old principle of networking and word of mouth promotion and updating it so search engines will like it too.

 

There’s ovbiously so much more I could say about this, but it’s already getting to be a super-long blog post. If you’re interesting in finding out more about any of the things I’ve talked about, check out the links below!

Plus, I’d love it if you’d let me know what you thought of this post down in the comments, the next post on this topic will be looking at how musicians can best utilise social media so if you want to stay up to date with all my posts and be notified when that’s published, you can sign up over on the sidebar –> 

More Reading

If you guys want to read a little more about this or hear some other people’s ideas, check out these great articles and blog posts:

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