In July, I was fortunate enough to speak at the New Music Seminar in NYC. The premise of my talk was: "Attrack, Engage, Sell: How to make a band website that rocks", condensing my 15 years of building artist websites into 15 minutes. It was great fun. Since then, I've received a lot of follow up questions so I'd like to revisit and expand on the talk over the next few blog posts.
Before I get into how to make a great artist website, the first question is why? Why have a website at all?
As a musician, you have many options to create an online presence. Why not just have a MySpace page? Or Facebook? Or even just Twitter? It is something I get asked a lot. I have a simple answer:
You own it.
You own the fan list, and more importantly, you own the experience that fans get when they hit your site. No noise, no ads, just your message and your music.
50 Cent knows this -- He is one of the few artists with over 1,000,000 MySpace "friends". Yet, he directed fans away from MySpace towards his own site, ThisIs50.com. Why? His label said:
"The thing that separates ThisIs50.com (from MySpace) is that we control the e-mail database."
Owning your fan list is an important and powerful concept. It becomes especially clear when, like many bands, you move from MySpace to Facebook as your primary social network. Since you don't own your fan list, there is no way to carry them over -- so you end up losing a chunk of your fanbase in the process. When you own your fan list (even a simple email database), you are in control, and you can move it to any service you like.
On your website you also own the experience. You control what your fans see, and the messaging that you send them. No social network noise, no ads, no other competing links vying for your fans attention. A recent article in Wired magazine re-affirms how important this is. They spoke to labels, looking at the trend of moving their artists away from social networks as their main web presence. They found that:
"Artist websites (...) strengthen the fan relationship more than a social network can, by emphasizing an artist’s own brand"
Brands aren't just for corporations -- your "brand" is your unique identity, what defines you as an artist. Showing a clear and memorable brand on your website helps to set you apart from the noise that fans are bombarded with online. It helps your fans to identify you, connect to you, and remember you later. By owning the experience on your website, you can focus fans on your brand with no distractions and direct them to your call to action to deepen their connection.
Social networks are important. In fact, they should be a key part of every musician's online presence. But, they should be used in tandem with a great home base - your website - where you can create a unique experience for your fans and have the flexibility to grow that connection over time. In my next post, I'll go into more detail on how to most effectively leverage your social networks to drive traffic to your website. Stay tuned!
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