The Magic 8: Essential Menu Options for Your Band Website

When you’re building your new website for your band (or just doing a bit of cleaning up), one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is what main menu options to have. In this blog post we’ll go over which main menu options are essential for your website, how many menu options to have, how you should name them, and how to decide which sections are essential for you to have a complete website.

Make Navigation Easy

The key thing to keep in mind when deciding on your menu options is to make navigating your website easy for everyone who visits your site. And those visitors can be different persons and have different goals for visiting your website.

They might be loyal fans, who are just coming to read the latest news and check out the tour dates. They might be potential fans, who want to hear one or two tracks, read your bio, maybe buy your downloads or join your mailing list. They might also be industry people (labels, promoters, bookers, etc.) looking for specific information, or a blogger looking for a picture they can use, or a short version of your bio.

The best way to keep navigation simple and quick is to limit your main menu buttons to roughly 8 choices. You can push that to 9, or even 10, but after that, it starts to get really messy. On the flipside, if you only have 5 or 6, that’s fine, but less than that, chances are you’re leaving out some key information and content from your site, or that some of your sections end up being too cluttered.

Where should the menu be?

We're big fans of nice and clear horizontal menus at the top of the page, which can be under or over the header image. We're less enthusiastic about vertical, side-bar type menus because our brains are getting used to tuning out side-bars because that’s where ads and static widgets are usually found on most popular websites.

One Clear Purpose Per Section

When creating your menu options, a good rule of thumb is to have one clear purpose per section of your website. So on your Bio page, don’t add a Fan Forum or a Guest Book. On your Calendar page, don’t add a blog. If you have certain features/elements to your site that are important, they should have their own section.

What’s in a name?

When naming your main menu buttons, remember to keep it simple. People have very short attention spans, and not a lot of time. If they have to think about what content *might* be in a certain section of your site because the name is fancy/cute/artsy, chances are, they’re going to skip it. So stick to names like “Home”, “About”, “Music”, “Shows”, “Store” and avoid vague names like “Experience”, “Discover”, “My World”, etc.

So which menu options should you have on your website? Here’s the Magic 8, the eight that we think are the most important:

The 8 Essential Menu Options for Your Band Website

1. Home

Your Homepage is arguably the most important page on your website. It’s where people will most often land on your site first. This is where you can help guide people to which information you want them to see, and what action you want them to take. It is important to have it linked in your main menu as people often want to browse back to Home before exploring other sections.

On your Homepage you should include a short bio, a music player, your latest news, a strong call-to-action (to sign up to your mailing list, or to buy your latest album), and social media links. For a more detailed look at Homepages, check out our blog post “6 Essential Elements for Your Band’s Website Homepage”.

2. About/Bio

Next up is your “About” or “Bio” page. This is important for potential new fans to get to know your background, as well as for media and industry people to get your story. It’s important to have a few different versions of your bio (long and short), as conferences, festivals and media outlets have different needs. For some tips on writing a bio, check out our post “5 Key Elements to a Solid Band Bio“.

3. Music

Seems like a no-brainer, but some artists don’t put an actual “Music” section on their site because they already have a music player on their Homepage. You should always include a music section on your website. This is where you can include info about your full discography, showcase your album covers, have a free song for download, and you can even include lyrics in this section.

A music player is essential to have on your site, but give people the opportunity to get even more information about your music with a specific “Music” section. Also, don’t call that section “Media” as this can be confusing (is it a Press page for the media? Is it photos, videos, music?).

4. Shows/Calendar

Another essential section to have on your website is a “Shows” or “Calendar”, or “Tour” section. Make it really easy for fans to get info about your upcoming gigs, with details on showtimes, cover charges, opening bands, and even directions to the venues. A nice added touch to a “Shows” page is to showcase one of your best live videos, so people can get a taste of what to expect if they come see your show.

5. Photos

It’s no secret that fans love to look at photos of their favorite bands. So be sure to include a “Photos” section, which will also help keep fans surfing your website longer. To help organize your photos, create different galleries for promo shots, live photos, fan photos, etc.

6. Videos

We find that often artists simply send people away to their YouTube channel to watch their videos, but in doing that, you’re sending people away from your own website. Not only that, you’re sending them to a site that is filled with distractions, with tons of ads and lots of other unrelated videos (cats anyone?) to watch.

Instead, create a “Videos” section on your site and embed your best videos there. This also allows you to curate which videos people see, because on YouTube, there might be hundreds of live videos filmed by fans that might not best represent your band. Having your best videos on your site allows you to put your best foot forward and control the video content that visitors will see.

7. Store

So important, yet this is another section that is often overlooked. Instead of simply providing links sending people away to iTunes or Amazon, why not sell music and merch directly to your fans? You’ll get a higher % of the money (ahem, with the Bandzoogle store you get 100% of your sales), and also collect email addresses in the process. You can still include links to places like iTunes for those that are more comfortable shopping there, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to sell directly to your fans. And make it super easy for them to do it in a few clicks.

8. Contact

Last but not least, make sure to include a “Contact” page on your site. Some people bury contact info in the footer of their site, but you’ll want to make it easy to get in touch with you, especially for media or industry people. So create a specific “Contact” page and include info on how best to reach you for booking, media inquiries and fan correspondence. You can also add your social links and a mailing list sign-up to this section as well.

Order Matters

These eight sections were actually listed in a specific order. It has become standard to have the “Contact” page at the end of the menu, and the “Store” also towards the end. A “Homepage” is usually the first option on the left side of the menu, with “About”, “Music” and “Shows” coming next. It’s become so common, that people’s eyes have been trained to navigate a band website in a certain way.

So try to more or less stick to this order when creating the navigation on your own site. Maybe that’s boring, but your website is your “business”... and we sure hope your content and design is what actually makes your website interesting.

Optional Sections

As we mentioned earlier, you can push the number of main menu options to 9 or even 10. Some sections that you might think of adding would be:

Blog, or News

You can include a blog right on your Homepage, but if you just have some latest news and want to send fans to a specific section to read more in-depth posts, you can create a specific “Blog” section on your site.

Press Kit

If you’re actively promoting a new album, having a specific “Press Kit” section can make the lives of bloggers and other media people much easier. You can include your bio, official photos, your album cover, music for download, your best video, and any previous press you’ve received. For some tips on creating a great digital press kit, check out our post “Musician Website Quick Fix #9: Add a Digital Press Kit”.

What about sub-menus?

In some cases, you’ll have information that doesn’t quite fit into your main menu options, but is related to them. This is where a sub-menu option, or sub-page, can be useful. For example, if you wanted to have all the lyrics for your songs on your website, you could make that a sub-menu option of your “Music” page. If you’ve decided to have a “Media” section instead of separate “Photos” and “Videos” sections, you can have those as sub-pages of “Media”.

But use sub-pages sparingly. You want to keep navigation as simple as possible, and having too many sub-menus can really make navigating your site a messy experience. This is especially true when navigating websites on a mobile device. If you’re using sub-menus, make sure that the main menu option is clickable, and include links to the sub-menu options on that page.
What menu options do you have on your site? Did you leave out anything that was included in this post? Do you have sections that we didn’t mention that you feel are essential to your website? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Dave Cool on 02/26/2013 | 16 comments

Band Website Love: Melody Walker

Every week, we highlight one of our favorite websites on Bandzoogle.

Who: Melody Walker
What: Americali / FolkPop
Where: San Francisco, CA
Why their website rocks: Since we’re at the Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto, we’re giving some love this week to the website of showcasing artist Melody Walker. It all starts with their fantastic Homepage which has a great custom header image, nice branding, and all of the essential elements we like to see like a featured video, latest news, social links, mailing list sign-up and a music player. We also love their Bio page which has a nice photo with their bio on one side of the page, and some great quotes on the other. Really nicely done. Happy folk conferencing guys!

Check it out at: www.melodywalkermusic.com



Posted by Dave Cool on 02/22/2013 | 0 comments

How to Create a Translated Version of Your Bandzoogle Website


As with any web based enterprise, there is increasing potential for musicians to broaden their audience to fans from around the globe. Offering a translated version of one’s site is a great way to share your music and artistry with these fans. While a multilingual version of Bandzoogle is in development, in the meantime, here is a solid method for offering a translated version of your website.

The following method involves creating an additional version of each page and then providing an easy link so that visitors can quickly access it. As an example, I have provided a Czech version of this website.

Step 1: Add the corresponding second language pages. Make sure to select “not in menu” as the page type and watch for cognates in naming your pages, as each page must have a unique title. One typical case is the word “photos” which is used in many languages. If this page title is going to be used for the language page, you might select “pictures” as the title for the English version of the page.



Step 2: On each page, add a text feature at the top. Within that text feature you can include a link to the corresponding second version of the page. It is a good idea to provide a link back to the English version on your second language pages and also, a right side justification to these links and the inclusion of a small flag icon makes for a nice touch.



Step 3: Replicate your features on the second versions of each page. This is the most involved step as you will be translating the content of your different features. While Google’s translation tools continue to improve, it is always best if you yourself speak the language, or if you have a friend or colleague who does and can skim over the translation.

In implementing the content, do keep in mind that certain features have settings that apply across the site. For example, instead of entering text in the Mailing list sign-up form options under the manage members subtab of the mailing tab, I opted to place a small text feature over each mailing sign up form with the text in the appropriate language. In building a contact form, for the second language version, you can use a custom mail form feature which will allow you to correctly title the fields for the form for the second language version.

Having completed all three steps you will have successfully created a great looking and easily accessible translated version of your website.




As a musician, do you have any strategies for reaching different language audiences ? Do you already have a translated version of your site? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Dave English on 02/20/2013 | 7 comments

5 Ways to Save Money on Lodging While on Tour

This is a guest post from Indie on the Move. Indie on the Move is a collaborative music venues database & tour booking resource for independent musicians to book their own U.S. tours - for free. In this post they go over 5 ways bands can save money on lodging while on tour. Enjoy!


Hitting the road and playing directly in front of your fans is one of the best ways to spread the word about your music, and is one of the most exciting aspects of the music business for many artists. Of course, it can also be downright expensive. The tour budget has to include transportation, lodging, food, and promotion. But a tour on a budget doesn't have to mean sleeping in the van or sneaking ten people into a two person room. At the same time, if you want to maximize the amount of money with which you arrive home, don’t just plan on staying in a hotel every night. Check out the following tips for low cost lodging options...

1) Reach out to your fans and the other bands

Network with your fans in the areas you'll be touring. If you've built up a rapport with some folks on Facebook, through email, or in person when you've played in the city before, you might know someone who would love to offer a guest room or two as you're passing through town. Fans always love hanging out with a band that they like. Be smart if considering staying at the home of someone you've never met or don't know well though - head for a hotel/motel if the situation seems unsafe in any way. Check out some of the tour stories HERE to get an idea of some of the crazy situations you can run into while on the road (we know from personal experience).

Don't limit your potential hosts to your newest fans. Obviously, if you have close friends or relatives along your route, be sure to reach out to them in advance and let them know when you will be in town. Does your college roommate, second cousin, first music teacher, or others that you may have lost touch with live in any of the cities that you are playing? This could be a great chance to reconnect and save a little cash at the same time.

The easiest way to secure free lodging when you don’t have fans, friends, or family in a given city is to ask the other band(s) if they have any extra floor space for you to sleep on after the show. Anyone who has been out on the road knows how tough it can be on expenses, and is usually more than willing to accommodate you if they can.

Crashing at the home of a fan, friend, or another band can mean much more than a place to sleep for the night. You might find yourself enjoying a home cooked meal, some free drinks, meeting great new people, or initiating a late night jam session that leads to the next hit.


2) Price shop online

Head to your computer or grab your smart phone and shop around for a great deal. Websites like orbitz.com, kayak.com, and expedia.com allow you to search by location and then sort the results by price. Before booking check out the hotel's website or give them a call, as the direct booking price is sometimes lower than through a third party website. When you speak to someone be sure to ask about parking - paid parking might make a great deal less of a bargain. Motel 6 is usually pretty nice and it is consistently one of the cheapest places to stay in almost every U.S. city (they are virtually everywhere too).

Expand your search to include spots outside of the immediate area where you are playing. Lodging further from downtown or major attractions is often cheaper. Is there a major event such as a festival, big sports game, or college homecoming driving up the cost of hotel rooms (and making them harder to come by)? Take a look an hour or two towards your next destination and toss the keys to the night owl in the group.

Need a room at the last minute? Download the Hotel Tonight app to your smart phone. It hooks you up with unsold hotel rooms for same day check in, often at a steep discount.


3) Rent a room from a local


Don't know anyone offering their place for free in a certain spot? Find one for cheap online. Check out sites such as airbnb.com, wimdu.com, or roomorama.com. The latest craze in budget travel, these sites connect guests, those looking for accommodations, with hosts, anyone with a house, room, or even a couch to rent for a short term stay. The cost per night can be incredibly low, and allow you to explore a part of the city away from the touristy areas you might not otherwise be exposed to. Again, be cautious about staying with a stranger - check the website you are booking through for safety tips.

Is your place back home empty while you're out on tour? Consider listing it on one of these sites - you could rent it out to people visiting your home town and make a little extra cash to offset tour expenses.


4) Sleep in the van

Not really. But sleep in the tricked out rv? Maybe. Compare the cost of renting an rv to the cost of accommodations along the way and the numbers just might add up. Know someone with an rv you can borrow? Even better. Be sure to factor in the cost of fueling up the rolling home along the way, as well as any fees for staying in rv parks or campgrounds any nights you don't have a free place to park. You will also want to consider the feasibility of navigating city streets if playing mostly downtown venues, and the driving ability of those on the team.

If you go this route, try using the oversized vehicle as a billboard promoting your tour and hang a banner from it announcing upcoming shows whenever and wherever parked.


5) Work the discounts


There's almost always a deal to be had, you just need to find it. Ask the talent buyer at the venue you're playing if they have any relationships with local hotels or motels. Are you a student? Veteran? AAA member? There are often small discounts available for these groups. You might also find special deals through affiliations with the college or university you attended, professional groups you're a member of, or even through your credit card company.

Long story short, type, quality, and cost of travel accommodations can have a huge effect on you and your bandmates while out on the road, so don't just put these decisions off until the last minute. Assign these tasks to someone on your team and coordinate accordingly with the show dates that you secure. And of course, always remember to keep safety at the top of your priority list when deciding on places to stay.


Have you used any of these tactics to save money on lodging while on tour? Are there any that you've used that weren't in this list? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Dave Cool on 02/18/2013 | 0 comments

Musician Website Love: Glyn Bailey

Every week, we highlight one of our favorite websites on Bandzoogle.

Who: Glyn Bailey
What: Singer-songwriter
Where: Manchester, UK
Why his website rocks: Glyn Bailey’s website has a great Homepage, complete with latest news, social links, a music player and a featured video. But what we really love about Glyn’s site is how he organized his Music section. Using a 2-column layout, Glyn positions some great reviews next to each album, so fans can read what critics are saying right there on his site next to the “Add to Cart” buttons. Nicely done!

Check out his site at: www.glynbailey.com



Posted by Dave Cool on 02/15/2013 | 10 comments

[VIDEO] How To Showcase

Our Director of Artist Relations Dave Cool was recently featured in an instructional video by the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. The video offers some great tips for musicians on how to showcase at a conference or festival. Nice sweater Dave!


Posted by Melanie on 02/15/2013 | 3 comments

Musicians: Find The One Key Metric That Matters For Your Career

This blog post originally appeared on the music/technology blog Hypebot (@Hypebot) and is written by Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net), who also maintains a writing hub at Flux Research.

From time to time concepts and approaches from the world of tech startups have relevance to indie and DIY musicians. Recently the concept of "One Key Metric" has been making the rounds of Silicon Valley. Though not a new idea, the recent attention has resulted in some useful exploration. It's particularly relevant to emerging musicians attempting to establish a business-like focus that doesn't get in the way of making art.

The concept of One Key Metric was recently put into play in tech settings by the combination of renowned investor Marc Andreessen and investee Mixpanel, a mobile and web analytics company. Together they are waging war against "bullshit metrics" in a campaign that's clearly about marketing Mixpanel.

Bullshit metrics have long been referred to as "vanity metrics", for example by Eric Ries in "The Lean Startup," and they refer to metrics that are ultimately fairly meaningless and even distracting in understanding whether or not a startup is making actual progress or just blowing smoke.

As musicians have taken their game to the web, discussions about vanity metrics have been ongoing without necessarily using the phrase. Examples include:
  • Facebook Likes
  • YouTube Plays
  • Twitter Followers

These metrics can indicate a general level of buzz around an artist but, in part because they can be easily gamed or are incredibly superficial, there are a variety of limits on how important they are, especially once a band has established a baseline of attention on which to build.

What a band needs to find, just like a startup, are "actionable metrics", a phrase I associate with the lean startup movement. The concept of One Key Metric, or what "Lean Analytics" coauthor Ben Yoskovitz termed "One Metric That Matters" prior to the Mixpanel/Andreesen bullshit campaign, is a tool for finding a single actionable metric that allows you to honestly measure progress in the most meaningful way possible.

I'll go with One Key Metric for the moment, since that reads a bit quicker, and point out that one metric is not enough in the life of a musical act. But given how overwhelming analytics can be when combined with all the other information one is processing on and offline, the idea of finding the One Key Metric that matters for you during a particular stage of development is quite useful for maintaining focus and avoiding being sidetracked by vanity metrics.

When you're just getting started, the important on and offline metrics are fairly obvious:
  • Did more people show up at your second local show than the first?
  • Are people liking your Facebook page or following you on Twitter?
  • Is your official website achieving an increasing number of page views?

As you move on, you'll recognize that likes and follows can be fairly superficial. However, though the number of people at shows may fluctuate, overall growth in attendance remains important over time if you're attempting to build a career.

But let's say you decide to do a grassroots tour before you're getting national buzz. In that case you may suddenly be facing smaller and less interested audiences and the overall attendance at shows for that tour becomes less important than connecting strongly with the fans that do attend and establishing a baseline of interest by which one can compare future tours.

So the One Key Metric in your local market might well be attendance numbers at shows but when you enter a different stage of development or take on a time-limited project such as a grassroots tour a different metric may need to be identified.

The process of being clear about where you are in your development and identifying actionable metrics with a focus on finding One Key Metric for your current stage of development is a powerful thing in and of itself. It can help you cut through the noise while also deepening your understanding of where you stand in the world.

Here are some metrics in random order to consider in your process of identifying the One Key Metric for your current stage of development:
  • Attendance Numbers
  • Likes/Follows Accumulated
  • Shows Booked
  • CDs or T-shirts Sold
  • Emails Gathered

Note that some of these actionable metrics can become vanity metrics, for example, obsessing over Facebook likes after you've established a core following. That can lead to giving away music for likes when you really should be asking for an email and growing your email list. On the other hand, if you're trying to attract the attention of a major label and your social media followers number in the hundreds, then focusing on those numbers as social media proof is worth some serious effort.

I've previously written about the issue of social media vanity metrics. But recently I had an encounter with a friend of mine that gave me a perfect example of focusing on the wrong metric.

A Case of Obsessing Over the Wrong Metric

My friend is a highly respected improvisational jazz trombonist who does not use traditional jazz standards as the basis for his work. Though he's been honored by Downbeat magazine multiple times, his style of jazz is not enjoyable in the way that many find jazz improvisations that begin and end with melodies from identifiable songs. That means his audience numbers remain relatively small and his cd sales are even worse than the shift to digital formats can fully explain.

I attended a recent show and my 40-something musician friend was received with great enthusiasm from a small but packed house of mostly 20-somethings, only some of whom were involved with improvisational music. After the show I heard more than one person remark about how "amazing" and "incredible" the performance had been, some of whom were directly addressing my friend.

While talking with him after the show, he shared his concerns about miniscule revenue from streaming media and the bottoming out of CD sales. Yet he didn't mention or provide a way for people to sign up for his email list and later acknowledged that he wasn't that good about collecting emails. My general impression is that he also doesn't send out newsletters very often.

I could say a lot more especially since this particular musician has agreed to be my marketing project for 2013. But the key issue I identified in our initial exchange was that he is using CD sales as his One Key Metric in evaluating how his career is going and it's the wrong metric at this stage of his development.

Honestly, if he shifted to email newsletter signups as his One Key Metric, then not only would he remember to gather them but he would be building a base for upping CD sales, show attendance, merch sales (if he had some merch) and even social media metrics.

And that's how the One Key Metric process should work:

1. Take an honest appraisal of where you currently stand.

2. Identify the One Key Metric that will best focus your energy while supporting your current stage of development.

3. Work the One Key Metric while evaluating your progress and observing how it affects your overall growth.

As your development progresses, your observations and evaluations will allow you to deepen your understanding of what will move you forward. Eventually, sometimes sooner rather than later, you'll recognize that it's time to shift focus to a different metric. That will depend entirely on where you stand and where you want to go in both the short and long term.

Though you can learn a lot from how others are advancing or retreating, your journey is your own and another musician's One Key Metric may have nothing to do with what your's needs to be.

As you move forward with a focus on One Key Metric, you'll begin to find that you can more easily identify which information about topics such as social media marketing is important to you at that stage. This ability to identify what's important will actually make it easier to learn about other topics as well because you can file them away for later reference or absorb information without being diverted from where you need to focus at the moment.

Once you establish the clarity that such a process can bring, you'll find that all this marketing and business nonsense that takes you away from making music isn't quite the overwhelming mess that it appears to be when you first enter that world. And that can only be a good thing if you're like the best musicians I've known over the years, all of whom are happier playing music than updating their social media accounts.

[Thumbnail image courtesy Mrs Logic.]

Posted by Dave Cool on 02/13/2013 | 5 comments

Bandzoogle Hosting Website Demolition Derby at SF MusicTech & Folk Alliance

We’re hitting the road in February to host our signature “Website Demolition Derby” panel at a couple of conferences. Plus, we’ll be participating on other panels, offering free website reviews, and hosting a member meetup in Toronto. Here are all the details:

SF Music Tech Summit: February 19

Our CEO David Dufresne will be on hand for the SF Music Tech Summit to host a Website Demolition Derby where he’ll deconstruct artist websites. The exact time is to be confirmed, but if you’ll be at the Summit in San Francisco, be sure to say hello to David and come get your website reviewed.



Folk Alliance Conference: February 20-24 in Toronto

The Bandzoogle David’s will be invading the Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto. Our CEO David Dufresne, Director of Artist Relations Dave Cool, and support team member David English will all be on hand for one of our favorite conferences. Lots of BZ involvement again this year, here are the details:

Free Website Reviews
Entrance to Exhibit Hall
10AM-6PM (Thu-Fri-Sat)


We'll be offering free website reviews to attendees of the conference once again this year. Our table will be set up at the entrance of the Exhibit Hall, so come by to get your site reviewed, eat some free candy, and talk with David (at least one of the three will be there).

Website Demolition Derby
Friday, February 22, 2:00PM (Mountbatten B)


David Dufresne and Dave Cool will host this Derby which will focus on both artist and business websites. To submit your website for consideration please fill in the appropriate card in the Registration area and drop it in the box marked BANDZOOGLE WEBSITE DERBY beginning Friday morning at 10:00AM.


You can also catch David Dufresne on the following panel:

Social Media In the Folk World
Friday, February 22, 11:00AM (Mountbatten B)


Social Media is fast paced and ever changing. It can be an overwhelming task trying to keep up with how and what you should be doing to best enhance your career. This workshop will discuss the role that social media plays in the Folk World today. We get the feeling David will bring up this important point during the panel.

Bandzoogle Member Meetup in Toronto: Saturday, Feb. 23

While we’re in Toronto for Folk Alliance, we’re going to do a little member meetup. If you’re attending the conference, or simply a Toronto based Bandzoogle member, it is open to all, so come join us to talk music and websites before the final night of showcases begins. Oh, and the best part? Drinks are on us!

Details:

Saturday, February 23, 6:30PM
@ Elm Street Lounge (inside Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto)


Posted by Dave Cool on 02/11/2013 | 0 comments

Band Website Love: Trouvere

Every week, we highlight one of our favorite websites on Bandzoogle.

Who: Trouvere
What: Pop duo
Where: Nashville, TN
Why their website rocks: After posting a blog about how to unclutter your website, we couldn’t help show some love for Trouvere’s nice, clean, simple website. On their Homepage they have a fun introduction video featured right at the top, some exciting latest news about the band, and make it clear that they’re giving away the first single from their new album (and they’re collecting emails in exchange, very smart). Plus, they took the time to get a professional photo shoot done, which makes a huge impact on the look and branding for their website. Nice job guys!

Check it out at: www.trouveretheband.com



Posted by Dave Cool on 02/08/2013 | 2 comments

Email, Email, Email: If You Make Music You Have to Be Able to Tell People About It

This post orginally appeared on the TuneCore blog. Benji Rogers is the Founder & CEO of PledgeMusic. PledgeMusic is a global direct-to-fan funding platform for musicians to record and tour. Benji is an independent musician himself. Follow Benji on Twitter.

I toured for years, and in retrospect I invested a few too many of those years in MySpace.

To be fair, this did well for me for a while, as I was able to show people what I was doing and when. Go to my MySpace page—it’s all there. But what I didn’t anticipate was that MySpace wouldn’t let me communicate with my own fans. I could broadcast something to everyone visiting the page, but I couldn’t use MySpace to get people to that page in the first place. Oops.

Being the kind of chap I am, I always kept an email list. If you met me after a show, it was pretty much impossible to talk to me without having a sample CD and a mailing list thrust into your hands. This meant that over those years I was able to compile a list of people I had met or who had seen me live, load them into my Bandzoogle account and email them something the night I met them or the next day.

When I was playing full-band shows, each member of the band would have a clipboard, and the person with the fewest names at the end of the night had to buy the drinks. In those days, this wasn’t cheap, so we were all pretty motivated. Plus, it meant that when we put records out we could tell people about them directly – not just broadcast to everyone on our pages that they were out.

When Facebook launched, I watched this massive drive of artists and bands trying to get people to “like” their pages. Having watched MySpace dissolve and my reach with it, I was not about to fall for this one again. And so when Facebook began to charge for reach, I was not at all surprised.

What artists need to realize is that Facebook is a social network. It makes money by selling ads, not by selling your music. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends all over the world, to share pictures, to connect, and so I have been screaming for the past three years to anyone who will listen to give up the endless quest for likes. You don’t need likes, you need fans, and you need a way to tell those fans what you’re doing.

The fan that wants to be on your email list wants to know what you’re up to. If you don’t have such a list, then how are fans supposed to find you or know where you’re playing? If a fan saw you last night but you don’t have a way to share something with them–a song, your next show in their city, etc.–they just won’t know, and you, the artist, lose.

One of the easiest ways to generate a mailing list is to pass one down from the stage. Tell your fans that anyone who signs it will get a track sent to them that night. Then actually send it. It’s not exciting, it’s not techy, but it’s real. Also, with the evolution of the smartphone, fans now receive emails as interchangeably as texts or calls.

Think of it this way: The same device you use for browsing pictures of ex girlfriends or boyfriends, calling your parents, or booking holidays is with you at all times. Your band’s information will be sent to this same device in many cases, so having an “in” may well prove to be the most important connection you can make in the next few years.

One of the most successful ways I’ve seen this done was by Ben Folds Five while they were doing an album with us. From the stage at each show Folds played, he told his fans to take out their smartphones and to email imadamvp@benfolds.com. Once they did this, an auto response went back to the fan with a link to a new song and a link to pre-order the new album.

We watched as thousands of people hammered this email account and got instant access to a brand new song and a link to preorder the new album right then and there. Further, Ben and his team could now access these people to let them know about future shows and releases.

No social network will ever eclipse this type of connection with fans; they simply were not designed to do so. They’re the wrong tool. With companies like Bandzoogle, TopSpin, FanBridge, ReverbNation, MailChimp and our very own mail client at PledgeMusic, one thing is certain, though: If email is not the biggest part of your social strategy, then you are giving the power of communication with your fans to companies who will gladly take them and whose advertisers will thank you to no end for providing them with eyeballs.

But look at it this way: If your fans “like” you on Facebook or “follow” you on Twitter, what are the odds of even 20 percent of them seeing your post at the time you post it? They may like and/or follow 30 to 40 other pages, all of whom are posting at the same time, and all whilst looking at people’s cats, kids or food.

If you have 150 friends all posting something a few times a day, you will be lost in the stream. Your band’s vital info will fade into that noise. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Path, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. You can and should—just don’t rely on what you don’t own. If you pay a service like the ones listed above, then their job is to make sure your emails get delivered. This is not a social network’s job.

Bottom line: If you make music, you have to be able to tell people about it.

You have to own your own means of communicating. Relying on Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm to decide what posts your fans should see is just giving away power. Not that Facebook is in the wrong here; it’s just not their job to be your email provider. Likewise, Gmail is not supposed to be used as a way of communicating with your fans. Each of the companies above does offer amazing widgets for capturing email addresses though, and some for free.

You need to get serious about the way you email. Number of email addresses is the first number we look at when assessing the viability of the artists we work with, for one simple reason: If you make music, you have to be able to tell people about it.
Posted by Dave Cool on 02/07/2013 | 6 comments