Avoid costly mistakes when you build your music brand!
Your website is the main hub of communication when you build your brand: avoid costly mistakes with these advices!
Your website is central to your branding. Take good care of it!I am publishing my new studio website with a new design and with a new domain name: www.fandangorecording.ca. I was forced to do it due to some very unfortunate mistakes; they cost me now a lot of time and money. I am really hopping you can learn from my story and avoid doing major mistakes that will harm deeply your brand.
I started Fandango Recording back in 1998, and, within a year, I started the studio’s website, the main hub for all marketing and communication needs. I did choose nextwebhosting.com, a Toronto hosting company located in Markham, as I wanted to give my business to a small local business; I am not a big fan of supporting the corporate folks. I rather prefer to support the small businesses, as I know they are more beneficial for the community. And I wasn’t wrong; within 2 years, from a one man operation, nextwebhosting.com became a “few” guys operation, and I started to deal with a very nice lady, always helping when needed.
The customer support was outstanding, maybe not the fastest, but it worked good, a guy called Leslie was doing the stuff. I confess am not an expert on designing websites, so I used the WYSIWYG website software type, like Front Page, later switched to Mac and use Sandvox. These programs are very easy to use, you choose a theme, I didn’t see the point of having a really fancy website, the design was never a cutting edge one, but is was good enough for what I needed, and, more importantly, being so easy to use it, I was able to save some money building the website myself while having total control.
It wouldn’t have bother me that I have to pay someone to do the website actually, but I didn’t want to pay steady month by month in order to update and publish new things almost weekly; that would definitely added to the cost of the operation, and I wanted to keep the studio prices at an affordable level. And it worked quite fine for over 20 years.
However, lately, during the last two years, I started to have problems with the host: the uptime was lower and lower, and, every time I had to upgrade I had to call in for support. Most of the time I was told that the problem lies on my side, which I knew it was not true. I did not change in any way the settings for publishing, and, as proof, I wasn’t able to publish updates for let’s say a week, and, all of a sudden, it worked, without me changing any of the settings. I am convinced there were changes on the host side, and I have never understood the attitude of denying this fact.
In the end, after a lot of back and forth, I decided to change the host, and this is when the major problems have started.
Changing the website's host…I had to move the domain name www.fandangorecording.com, who was supposed to expire within two weeks after I decided the move. The new host offered to do the transfer of the domain name. That is when I found out that I need to have the domain name unlocked, and have an Authorization number for the transfer. I wrote to the old host a few times, and I got no answer at all.
I was digging in a bit more, and I found out that the old host actually resold the domain name to me; the actual registrar is a company called onlinenic.com. You find that checking with “whois” on google. I contacted them and they told me that the host has to issue the domain name, and asked me to be patient for 2 days. Within the two days, they got back to me, told me that the old host will send me the authorization code. Two days later, I was sent the authorization code.
The new host tried the transfer again, but, despite having the authorization code, the old host refused to unlock the domain. So, I got nowhere. It was a day before the expiration of the domain name, so I decide to weight all the options.
Some lawyer mumbo jumbo…First, I discussed with a lawyer, and it wasn’t encouraging: beside costing quite a lot, I could eventually have some results after a long period of time. Eventually! That, together with the fact that I did not exist anymore on the web, and I had to wait until I get back the domain name, would actually make all my ratings go down completely and lose the good positions I had with the web browsers – google, yahoo, bing. It was like starting all over from the beginning. Legally, the name belongs to the one who pays for it, but the old host abused the situation and created such a delay, that eventually the name expired. It was illegally from their side, as far as the lawyer told me.
When a name expires, it stays for 30 days with the registrar, then you can ask the registrar to give it back for a lot more money - a recovery period. I actually did that, the onlinenic.com said they would sell it to me for 10 times the price, I agreed, then they asked me to provide identification documents. I did it, but then it was total silence, never answering the rest of the calls and emails.
This is a very unpleasant situation: you work for years to build a brand name and a reputation, and, when you try to switch services, you get into a major trap, and you’re at the mercy (?) of the hosts. What is really bad, you loose business. All these months that I didn’t have the website up, any potential client was not able to reach me.
Let’s analyze the idea of the brand. You need to have a message, a mission if you want. It basically means you need to define clearly what you can do four your clients, to establish a clear identity. That should be both a business performance criteria and a marketing mission. And once you define all of that, then you need to start to build on it, every day and hour by hour. And that is what I was doing for years. This is not a single week process, it takes a lot of time and perseverance. It is the same for every brand in any type of business.
Of course going to court to get the domain back was an option I did consider it; but was it worth it? I don’t think so, you loose your focus, and waste time. And even if you win, it will take a long time, and as the name disappears for such a long time, that in itself is a loss as the search engines will take down your ratings. Beside that, I decided to redo the design of the website.
New website, new design…
- I bought the same domain name, but with the .ca extension, so instead of www.fandangorecording.com the website is at www.fandangorecording.ca.
- I decided to make a new website. Because I know it will take some time to get back all the people that knew about the old website, I decided to use/learn a more performant website builder. Not only that, but, as I have an idea or two about how to build a brand, I decided to offer this service to potential customers. Therefore, I wanted a software that offers a lot of flexibility and potential. Not cheap, but, if you know you will build more websites, I think this is the better alternative. I decided for Rapidweaver and many of the stacks made for it.
- Using Wordpress is nice, easy, however, it is a bit more limited than Rapidweaver in my opinion. Website hosts offers you this option, but it has a cost too. If you need to do more websites, the cost per website is cheaper with Rapidweaver.
The process of learning new software could be very frustrating, as Rapidweaver is different from Sandvox and the likes, and it can be as easy or as complex as you want. It does have a certain learning curve; I spent a lot of time learning, but at least I can be in control of what I am doing.
And I got to the fine point of this blog: after all is said and done, here are the advices I have for you:
Never buy the domain names from the host, period!This is quite a big mistake you can do, not thinking at what can come next. So, register your domain name with a registrar - I did it with domain.com, but any of these registrars are OK (however, check for one that is in business for many years, and definitely check the references).
Get a good, well-known host for your website.Do your homework, find one that has good uptime, check the net reviews, also, that offers website builders like Wordpress or Joomla, or if you decide to use something. Make sure the host can accommodate easy the website made with your software of choice. I did choose A2hosting, which comes with a lot of recommendations as being really friendly for Rapidweaver websites.
When you check for a host, it would be a smart idea to keep an eye on it for a period of time, they do have sales from time to time, and you can save money. Another important thing, pay for a larger period of time, it definitely comes cheaper. I did it for 3 years and I would recommend it.
When it’s getting close to expiration, you are asked for far more money than what you pay first time for renewal: this is where having the domain name with another company will help you get a good deal and you actually can negotiate: if you buy the domain name from the host, there is not too much you can do, and you have to play how the host wants.
If the host does not give you the same good deal, you can just buy from another host at a discounted first time rate the space, do it again for 3 years, and that’s it. The former host can do nothing, because you have your domain in a different location, and you just point to that location from the new host. The host can’t lock the domain transfer if it is registered with another registrar. I didn’t know that, and people generally do not know that, so they continue to pay an insane amount of money.
I used to pay to the former host 35 dollars/year for the domain name; the new name I have now is actually 12 dollars, and I was wondering why there is such a difference; I found out that actually the second hand domain name resellers bump up the prices a lot. This is another argument you want to register your domain name with a first hand respected company; you pay less and you have control. You just have to make sure you pay for the domain name in time.
You should avoid to have your email with the host of the website.Have the email with a paid service, where is very secure and you don’t have to loose time if you need to move it with another host. I had this bad experience, and it is extremely time consuming: all the software accounts have the email registered with them. Once I lost the access to the email, all the communications were broken: updates, news, offers, etc. I have software from tons of companies: Steinberg, UAD, Lexicon, Acoustica, SSL, Best Service, 8dio, Soundiron, Native Instruments, Soundtoys, Waves, Sonox, Arturia, U-he, Valhalla, SSL, Relab Development, Brainworks, DSM, Spectrasonics, Yellow tools, Ueberschall, Superior Drummer Toontrack, Bob Katz, Katzrog, Nugen, Hofa, Magic, etc, I think there are over 100 software companies.
The problem is you need to change the email with all the software companies, so you find out about updates, news offers. That is a huge task, takes a lot of time, it’s really a wild ride. I am doing it now, and I would be happy if you follow these advices, it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, while preserving and adding to the process of building a brand and have the proper business continuity.
I have learn a lot from the past several months, and I hope you will learn something too from my mistakes.