Music career planning the smart way - Part 2
The centre of them all - your website!
So, you know you are up to it, you trust your music is outstanding, you are absolutely sure you have what it takes, you did your homework, you started to gig, get a good reaction and get slowly fans, and now you have the first member and most important member of your team on your side – your lawyer. You know that you will need an agent, a business manager and so on, but they are not the priority right now, there are other things that are important and requires your attention.
You need to build your brand, and the fist question is: what do you want people to know about you? I don’t have specific answers, this one is entirely up to you. But I can tell you this much: you have to be honest, and you have to be consistent. It has to come as a natural thing; the more the image represents you as an artist, the more comfortable you will be with it in the long run. Once you make music, play steady clubs, get to interact with people, built a fan base, you can’t have too many messages. Remember, we talked about the brand and the name of the game is consistency.
You are who you are, and your music reflects that, behind every great song there is a story, an idea that has everything to do with the artist personality, with his views and his life stories. Why you make music, and what your music meaning is, where are you and where you want to be could be good starting places… Trying to be someone you’re not will take you nowhere, period. As we are going through life, we change, we embrace new ideas, we explore new territories, and all these changes will influence your music, but that’s not to say that you’re different; in plain English, think of who you really are, not who you want to be.
Once you figure out the answer, you are ready to start your marketing plan. The central point for now should be your website (at least until you make the cover of Rolling Stones magazine!). Please do not reinvent the wheel, at least in the beginning. Look around to the artists including the big names and see what are they doing. Do not copy, but understand why they’re having the websites made the way they are. Not everybody is an expert at building websites, however, you have to have in mind the fans, and make it easy for them to get the info they want to have. Study different formats and then decide. Pay attention to the structure of it, and start to plan what are you going to put in it. Your originality is important, and make sure it can be seen, even to the point it stirs the spirits! But make sure that your fans can understand easy your message and find it easy to communicate with you.
Your website is the centre of it all, and it is far more important than any social media platform. Social media platforms come and go, but your website is here to stay. It is the only place that you have full control, be it design, the relationship with your fans (yes, in Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and so on you do not own that relation!), you are directing the user experience (the social media platforms don’t care about you, they need to advertise products or games or anything else and they use you for that) so you can create a more personal and focused relation and communication with your fans.
A smart website has to offer a pleasant experience to your visitors; however, you have to have in mind that you want you visitors to watch an embedded YouTube or Vimeo video, get engaged and leave a comment on your blogs, download (or stream) a song, purchase your CD or songs or t-shirts, subscribe at your newsletter, follow you on social media and spread the word. You want your visitors to come back, as they want to know more about you, about your gigs, your life. You definitely want all these acts to be as naturally as possible, so you have to put a lot of effort in it. We live in a society where all of these are normal, just think of the tons of magazines, TV programs, and so on: they are all based on offering an experience, a virtual life if you want, so you don’t really have to create a new business model, you have to adapt existing models bringing yourself in the picture and offer something honest and unique… of course, your music must be that way, otherwise we’re just wasting time here.
I strongly believe in being honest and building a fan base one at a time. You may have heard of Rush: they built a fantastic audience during the years, a very loyal fan base, one by one… If you think that it took years, you’re right, but you want this type of loyal fans, they will stand by you, and they will do that for two reasons: first, the quality of music and second, you being honest and consistent on delivery. That is what I would call being professional and passionate about what you’re doing.
Getting back to the website, once you look around, you can get a pretty good idea about how it has to be. I can’t really advise you how to do it; suffice to say, there are many options, from doing it yourself – you need to buy a website design software – to have a professional doing it. There are also many websites that are hosting and give you the tools to do it, or just do it for you. Every scenario has pros and cons; I would however do it the most professional way. And that doesn’t mean you can’t do it if you’re not a professional website designer, because you can, it is not that hard. But what makes the difference is the quality of the pictures and videos you are using, and here I advise you to use somebody who knows his stuff; the same applies for the general layout and for the combination of colours. The main things here are to get informed about websites, know what you want with it, and get it done somehow. Is that simple.
Let’s look at some details about the website. As you get a clear idea about what you want, it’s time to start doing it. First thing first, you need a domain name. This is important. I would not go for the free websites that you can have, but where the domain name starts with the name of the host/service. Why would you do advertise for them? By doing it, you send a signal that you have doubts about yourself, so why would somebody else believe in you?
When choosing the domain name, try to keep it as short as possible, and then try to get something that it’s easy to remember. Of course, your name is the first thing that comes to mind. If you’re a band, then the band’s name. Make sure it is available, and if it’s not, find some ways around so you can use it.
There are a couple of places that can help you with your website, they can build it for you, they even provide marketing and PR services: check out www.bandzoogle.com www.ourgig.com and others. If you can’t afford to hire a designer or know yourself how to do it, this is a viable alternative. Usually most musician’s websites have a poor design, as they do not invest (time or money) too much on it. Don’t do that mistake! Have a website that captures the attention of the ones that are checking it! When somebody gets into your website, you need to keep them in it for a while, it is your chance to present yourself, to establish a connection, to place a call to action and do a sale. They expect to be dazzled, and you have to deliver!
The visitor experience has to be a rich one, you want him to come back and check it out again. Do not give an excuse to visitors to back out from the website; make sure the website has valuable content! Before they listen to your music, they want to know your story, and you have to conquer them with words! The Bio/About has to be written well, be very personal, unique, and memorable, so the reader can relate easy! Avoid vague description, and be very specific.
Try to find the right balance between elements with high visual impact- like photos, colours, backgrounds and content. Have a News page, and make sure it’s updated every week. Try to also offer a blog, there are many issues people are interested in, and the fact that you’re a musician gives them the sense that your opinion is valuable, or, at least, they want to know it, because they are following you.
In your blog you can keep a photo diary, post behind-the-scene-photos, fan’s photos, press photos, embed original videos; you can give fans stories about yourself, with the ups and downs, we all love gossip, don’t be shy to use it, answer you fan questions – make sure you mention their name! When answering your fan’s questions, place first a call to action, let them know that you are going to do it, and you expect their questions, this way they will go again and again to your website.
You can also offer reviews about the instruments you’re using in your blog, even reviews about the places you visited when you were on tour, like hotels, restaurants, and stories about the people you met. Post some interviews or summary of discussions you have with other musicians or people from the music industry!
The two very important things that you have to have it in your website are the call to action and a web store! An example of call to action is when you ask your fans to come and meet you when you have a gig (and make sure you post in News or Blog some pictures with you meeting fans afterwards). Engage the visitors, post a poll, ask them questions, post their responses, ask them to get involved in actions like fundraising or teams, and ask for feedback!
Pay attention to the web store, which is so easy to set it up today! If everything goes right, visitors want to buy a song or an album or a t-shirt, give them that opportunity right from the website, while you have their attention! Once they’re gone, they will focus on something else.
Maintain your website, upgrade it every week, be present, be persistent and be yourself!