A lot of musicians find the idea of building a website daunting. It sounds difficult, it sounds expensive, is it really necessary?
In a word, yes. While a huge amount of business and growth takes place on social media, if you don’t have a nice website to point to, you’re going to have a hard time impressing the big cheeses (bloggers, managers, A&R reps, etc.).
A common complaint among independent musicians is that building a customized website is very expensive; a few artists have shown me quotes for more than $5000. It’s not 1997 anymore, and those quotes are not OK. It is perfectly possible to create an effective website at an affordable price. There is a global marketplace of fabulous platforms and talented designers who can help you build a beautiful site for a few hundred dollars. Or, if you are willing to do some of the work using a templated design, an effective website can be created for less than $20/month with no upfront costs!
A lot of artists drive themselves crazy building websites because they forget that simplicity is key. Your website exists to do two things:
Number one: Help you engage with and make new fans.
Number two: Make you money.
Here’s how to set yourself on the right path…
Step 1: Get a domain name.
The easiest way to register a domain name is to use GoDaddy. You can register a domain in almost any country through GoDaddy, or you can use other country-specific sites like crazydomains.com.au (AUS).
Register the domain that you would like to use. I highly suggest a dot com (.com) with no slashes and underscores if possible. GoDaddy will guide you through this process, and if you have any questions, their customer service is great.
Some of the website builders featured below have options where they will register a domain for you. Check out your options thoroughly before you make any moves!
TIP: Try to purchase a domain name that matches the URLs on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. This way, if someone Googles your band, they’ll easily find your website and all your social media channels.
Step 2: Choose how you want to build your site
DIY Pay-As-You-Go Website Builder
A DIY pay-as-you-go option with a web site builder can get you up and running very quickly and you won’t need a designer to build the site for you.
Here are my favorites in alphabetical order. All four have excellent call-in customer service to help ease the confusion.
Their lite version starts at $9.95 per month ($8.29/month if you purchase a full year). It’s easy to use, and the first month is free!
Owned by CD Baby, you can store unlimited emails and send newsletters through your custom site. It costs $20 per month, and the first month is free. You can register a domain name through them, send newsletters, and CD Baby gives you free digital distribution on 5 albums or singles.
Reverbnation is a one-stop shop for digital music marketing tools. You have to have a Premium account ($19.95/month) to use their Site Builder, but it comes with access to the full range of Reverbnation’s tools and opportunities, including digital distribution and newsletter marketing.
Squarespace is wonderful, and highly flexible. It’s $8/month ($12 if you’re going month to month), it comes with a free custom domain, and they make it easy for you to create a beautiful, professional website. You can choose from a vast array of templates (some designed specifically for musicians), and you can switch between them at any point.
Working with a Web designer
If you don’t want to use one of the sites above, then you might think about hiring a web designer. I suggest crowdspring.com for finding affordable designers. Make sure you read the designer’s reviews and see examples of his/her work before you hire him/her so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises.
TIP: Don’t pay more than $1,000 for a basic site. It really shouldn’t cost that much. Also, keep in mind that your website has to be clear and functional. Don’t go crazy with elaborate film intros and moving parts. If people get confused by your website, they’ll leave. Make it nice, but keep it simple.
Step 3: Build your homepage
Your entire website should be easy to navigate with a navbar across the very top of each page so visitors can see it (not buried where they have to scroll down).
We freaking love this website. You rock, Steep Canyon Rangers.
Remember – your site needs to support your brand! The colors you choose, your logo, the pictures you use… these things are all incredibly important, and help tell your story. Figure out what story you want to tell, and then keep your brand consistent. Try to make your socials match your site colors and style as well.
Another great website that supports the band’s brand. Note the Spotify Follow button up at the top!
Your homepage should feature your name and your pitch, or specifically what you sound like in a few words. If you feel weird creating a “pitch”, use one killer press quote or fan quote, which sums up the way you sound.
Another very effective addition to a homepage is a ‘free download in exchange for an email address’ box. This is an easy way to capture data on new fans, and get your music into their ears. I recommend using a Noisetrade widget (http://noisetrade.com/). Create an artist account, upload a track (or two, or ten) that you want to offer as a free download, then go to the Tools section and scroll down to ‘Embeddable Widgets’. This will give you a beautiful little button to put on your website.
Isn’t it pretty? Don’t you want to press the button?
Don’t forget to link to your social media! Most of the site builders featured above will help you do this. Your website should be a focal point, where a new fan can find everything you’re doing in cyberspace. A Spotify follow button is also a good addition to a homepage.
Step 4: Fill out the other sections of your site
1. Bio/ press kit
TIP: Photos/ Images. Make sure your photos really capture who you are, and give clear instructions on how they can be downloaded.
2. Buy music
Make sure people can find where to buy your music (iTunes, Amazon, etc.). Building your own storefront is always a good idea. But we don’t recommend putting this on your homepage. People are so used to streaming nowadays, and if your homepage doesn’t have a readily available Soundcloud or Spotify link, they may lose interest. An embedded Bandcamp link is a good compromise for this (people can stream it, but there’s still an option to buy).
This is a great idea from Steep Canyon Rangers – adding Spotify playlists to your site!
3. Your tour shows or performances
We recommend using Bandsintown for this. This allows you to link your shows across different platforms.
4. Your Blog
Blogging is a great way to connect with your fans and build your brand. Here’s a great blog post about how to get started in blogging.
Embed your best videos, put up your best press quotes, link to an interview you did with a music blog… Basically, talk yourself up. The more legit you look, the more legit people will think you are.
6. Your Contact Info
Make sure that you have your contact information with an e-mail address or a contact form so people can contact you for online publicity, booking, or just to tell you they like your music. Don’t make it hard for anyone to connect with you online.
After your site is done, make sure to keep your social media sites updated! That means daily. This way your whole site remains interesting and dynamic and fully updated. For how to do that please read my Musician’s Social Media Food Pyramid.
Good luck, be creative, and have fun!
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