Kick-Ass Website

WHY BOTHER?

I hate to say it, but most bands do not have their Internet act together. They are more concerned with their music than with promotion. The Internet has given bands the opportunity to do some serious promotion in a very inexpensive, yet powerful way. Handled correctly, you can get more people to your gigs and get your recorded music in the ears of countless people worldwide. Couple that with a professional web presence and you will find yourself getting bigger, and better paying, gigs. If you have a poor website, or worse yet…none at all, you will not be considered as serious as those who have their act together.

FACEBOOK IS NOT YOUR WEBSITE!

I will not go into detail here since I have already written a long article on this subject. I do suggest you read it before continuing this article, if you have not done so. You will find valuable information there on how to use social media as a tool to drive people to your website (which should be the Internet hub for your band, venue or business). Rule #1 on the Internet is “OWN YOUR OWN CONTENT.” Now that you’ve read that article, and know ten good reasons why you must have a website, let’s move on to the important subject of building a state-of-the-art professional site.

BASIC CONTENT

Obviously all band websites will need a band bio, event calendar, news updates, photo gallery, videos, audio clips, and links. Besides these basic sections, some will offer merchandise through an online store. If your band has original music, you may offer paid downloads as well. To make your Internet presence solid, you will also need a tight integration with social media. Currently, it is very useful to integrate Facebook and Twitter into your site. Smart bands will also include a mailing list manager in their site.

DYNAMIC WEB

Gone are the days of static websites. Your website must be your Intergalactic hub and you must draw people there. To do so, you will have to keep it active with fresh content. Keeping a site updated with frequent news, photos and videos is very important to continue drawing the attention of your fans. Remember, you are trying to build a community around your band. You want to keep your followers thinking about you, talking about you AND coming out to your shows. To do this, you have to actively engage them. If you are not interested in doing this, your band will suffer. Promotion is central to all music, and in this Internet age, you have to play the game. I have seen lousy bands pack the house, while awesome bands were drawing a small handful. Why? It was obviously not the music, or the show. The difference generally lies in promotion. No matter how good you are, you can not depend solely on your act to pack the house.

Mojo Foxx recommends a content management system as the foundation of your dynamic site. A CMS is easy to keep updated as you add content through a back-end control panel, much like social media sites. It is a simple process to add your upcoming gigs, news blurbs, some recent gig photos, an embedded YouTube video, or even an unplugged “members only” version of a song. Keep in mind, if returning visitors do not find anything new on your site, they are not very likely to return.

BASIC DESIGN

The design of a band website should match the overall look, personality and attitude of the band. We are talking about a “theme” here. There needs to be a consistent theme throughout the site that fits the band. The logo (see this article) is very important as well as great promo shots of the band. Awesome customized artwork or computer graphics is a major plus. A strong home page will make or break the deal. Statistics show you have all of TWO SECONDS to capture someone’s attention before they are off to the next site.

You need to give thought to a well organized layout, where everything on your site is easy to find. The pages must also be easy to read, so keep that in mind when choosing colors. Survey after survey has shown that readers want black text on a light background if there is a lot of reading. They don’t want to strain their eyes. Rockers tend toward dark themes, but if you have a lot of text, you will want to pay attention here. This page is a good example. If I had a blog on this site with tons of articles, you would prefer to have a different color scheme.

One of our mottoes at Mojo Foxx is “DEATH TO FLASH INTROS.” 95% of people surveyed say that they hate flash splash screens. The majority (and I’m one of them) immediately hit their back button, and do not visit the site. They may look really kewl, but fans hate them, and do not want to look at them every time they return to your site.

The browsing world prefers a site that is as clean as possible, loads fast with easy navigation. Do not be guilty of clutter, that is one of the things that hurt MySpace. It has become proverbial among web developers when we see a cluttered site: “Don’t go MySpace on me.” It also seems tempting to go overkill with all the clever widgets and CMS modules, but you need to keep them to a bare minimum and not let them take away attention from the key elements your visitors are looking for (3 Doors Down are you listening?). Create separate pages for things such as photo galleries, videos and music players.

INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS

Band Bio

In major Internet studies, it has been determined that the most visited page on a website, outside of the landing page, is the “About Us” page. People have this insatiable desire to know more about other people. It is one thing that has fueled the social media revolution. The problem is, this page usually gets the least attention during site construction. You would think something that draws that much attention should garner more of our time. I highly recommend spending some time here. I am pasting some notes from an article I wrote a while back drawing on my web design experience over the years:

BE HONEST: Set forth your band in an honest way. Sure, Rock has an attitude, and Rock can be in your face but you don’t have to be “fake” about it. Hard core fans appreciate honesty…and it’s the hard core fans that keep coming back to your shows and spreading the word about your band.

BE PERSONAL: Get personal with your fans. Talk about the band members individually. Talk about influences. Talk about your favorite flavor of ice cream…whatever it takes. You want to show that you don’t have your noses up in the air…that you are a down-to-earth “approachable” band. No one likes a stuck-up “Rock star.” There is balance for rockers. You don’t want to be too stiff, but you don’t want to get sappy either.

BE PASSIONATE: True rockers need music more than the air they breathe, and it should show on your website. Just as your live shows should be exciting, and not come off as if you are merely going through the motions…so also your web pages should show similar passion. It should not come across as some arduous chore you had to go through. Let the tiger out of the cage! Most band bios sound the same…as if a robot wrote them!

BE HUMBLE: Keep your ego in check. Rock band egos are well known and fans don’t like it. You have to balance letting people know you are a kick-ass band without sounding like you could blow Led Zeppelin off the stage. You don’t have to say you are the best, everyone else is making the same claim. Let your fans handle your bragging rights. I always felt a person that has to brag attempts to cover up his shortcomings. People that are the best have no need to brag. I think the same applies to bands.

BE CONFIDENT: You can be confident without coming across as arrogant. People are drawn to confidence…and you are trying to draw them to your gigs. Work that mojo and give them some reasons why they need to come out and see your show.

BE POSITIVE: Keep things on a positive note. Keep things upbeat. You are a rocker…make the site get up and boogie.

BE UNIQUE: If your band has a unique show or style…put attention there. Usually there will be something very unique about your band, so play it up. Also try to approach the whole bio in a unique way so it doesn’t sound like the same-o same-o. I mentioned to one band that they should post brief individual bios but with a unique twist. I said put everyone’s name in a hat and have each band member draw out another band member, then write their bio. Further, I mentioned they ought to make them different by finding something funny or eccentric and put in a line or two about it.

The sky is the limit. The main advice I would to leave you with is to think outside-the-box and make your bio page interesting.

EVENTS

Your website should be THE PLACE to go to for your events. The idea for our website, Rockin Mississippi, initially grew out of frustration as my wife and I would look for bands to go out and see. A small number of bands would post events on ReverbNation (how many non-musician people out there even know about checking that site). Many just rely on posting Facebook messages. Some use various event sites (again, who among the average even know about them). There was no consistency. When we would look for websites, we found few bands had them. Oftentimes, we could not tell if a band was Rock or country. On a Friday evening, when we wanted to go out, my wife would sometimes spend an hour or more trying to find a Rock band. LISTEN BANDS…it is frustrating for your fans and even more frustrating for potential bands that have few means of finding you! If someone is not among your Facebook friends, how do they know about your event? You have to make your band “discoverable,” and you have to keep your gig info current. And remember, your website is the hub, and the one place that fans can be sure to always scrape your information. It is imperative to have an event calendar on your site and keep it updated. A content management system makes this very easy.

PHOTOS/VIDEOS

Keeping your site fresh with recent gig photos and videos is a piece of cake. The only thing important to remember here is to optimize them for the Internet using Photoshop or some other editing program. Do not put 4MB (4000KB) photos up when a 1000px shot of 150KB or so works beautifully, and loads quickly. Photos that load slow, send people running. Fans love photos and they go nuts if they are in them, so consider putting up a fan gallery for your diehards. They will link to them on Facebook and other social sites, and bring you more attention. Always remember to keep them thinking about your band, talking about your band AND coming out to the shows. If you have some good YouTube videos, have a page to embed them on your site. Try to limit them to your best, good quality vids. We all hate crappy, distorted, shaky videos.

MUSIC

If you are a cover band, you should have your playlist online. My wife and I have not ventured out to see certain bands because we could not determine their style from browsing online. If you have a specific genre and want to draw newbies out, list the songs you play. You could be missing out on potential new fans! Original bands have the toughest job of all. The majority of people want to go out and hear songs they know. Of course, the songs they know come from bands that were once fighting, like you, to get people out to hear their shows. They paid their dues by building up their fan base and getting attention. If you have original music, it is important to “get it our there” for people to hear but you may need to sell it as well. There are numerous smartphone web apps that integrate with your website and even Facebook, as a canvas page.

LINKS

Links help your search engine rankings and build camaraderie. Link to your venues, fellow bands, and give reciprocal links to sites that link you.

MAILING LISTS

Each website should house a module to build your mailing list. The trend is shifting away from email, but at this point it is still valuable. Do not overload your fans with email, but use it to promote your keys gigs, major website updates, new music downloads, etc. The same thing applies to services like Twitter. The novelty has worn off, and most people do not want to be tweeted about what you had for breakfast…or other useless twat.

ONLINE STORES

Online stores are a great way to sell your band merchandise. If you have t-shirts, CDs, or other merchandise, you may want to put up a store. You never know how many people may like the convenience. I have heard lots of people say things like, “Man, I wish I would have picked up a t-shirt at the last show,” or “I wanted to get a t-shirt and CD. but didn’t have enough cash on me.” Every one that wears one of your t-shirts in public is giving your band free advertisement, so get them out there.

CONTACT INFO

I have tried to get contact info on several bands to write to them about getting listed on our Rockin Mississippi website. It is as rare as a righteous politician. All bands need a easy way to be contacted. Venues have told us that they pass by bands on sites like ReverbNation if they do not display a phone number or email address. If you do not want your email displayed, then use a contact manager module to mask the address.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is very important, but can be very complicated as the rules constantly change. I have written about this recently on another blog, and will port the articles over to this site soon. It is important for your band to be discoverable by search engines using keywords. If someone is looking for a “South Mississippi Rock Band” or a “New Orleans Country Band” they will come up empty-handed (go ahead…try it). Getting good SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) does not happen overnight, but will NEVER happen it you do not work it. Getting your website setup with Google and Yahoo/Bing webmaster tools is VERY important as well. You have a lot analytical data and tools to help with your SEO. Getting a Google Analytics account will provide additional assistance.

QR CODE

The Who were 40 years ahead of their time when they wrote “Goin’ Mobile.” The Internet world is moving more and more rapidly toward smartphones and tablets. Place your QR code on business cards, posters, flyers, banners…well everything. Not everyone who has been drinking can remember the name of your band, or the website you told them to go to. If you have a QR code, they can scan it and have your site on their phone. Plus they can save it to their phone desktop.

John Cripps, Google+
Originally Written: 10.07.12