You might not think you need a website for your band. After all, there’s Bandcamp, Soundcloud and other music streaming sites for getting your music out there. And, of course, for videos there’s YouTube, while Facebook and Instagram take care of promotion and communication with fans.
But look at any full-time, legitimate band. What’s the difference between them and a minor band? They have a website. Granted, plenty of bands with websites have a record label that either helps them set up their site or does it for them. But if you’re not on a record label, why wait for one to scoop you up and make your dreams come true like you’re Cinderella? Creating a website is prime impetus for pushing your material and presence to the next level.
You need good content to make the site worthwhile. In other words, you need quality recordings, videos, and pictures. Now’s the time to begin your journey towards improving everything your band has to offer.
It Starts With a Domain
You could use a blogging platform like Wordpress or Tumblr for free, but as you’ve probably noted when looking at these types of blogs, your site address (domain) would be something like “bandname.wordpress.com”. Maybe that’s something you’re cool with for the moment. Wordpress has a launching point particularly for music—basically, if you use it, you’ll be including plugins and choosing from themes that Wordpress created specifically for music purposes. You can also just start from scratch and choose your own plugins and themes.
If you want your band name to be the domain (“bandname.com”), you’ll have to choose a host and pay a monthly fee for the domain. This is the best way to be professional about it. For one, you can choose a host that will also provide free email addresses for your band.
Steve Benjamins, a website consultant, designer, and musician, offers some useful tools for finding and buying a domain name. You need to make sure the name isn’t taken, and for that there’s instant domain name search. Next, choose a host. Being a musician, Benjamins isn’t a fan of GoDaddy because it supported the Stop Online Piracy Act (you’ll have to read more from Benjamins about what the deal is there). Rather, he prefers Namecheap. Other options include Bluehost, JustHost, Gandi, and iwantmyname. My advice is to check out all of them and choose the least expensive one. And if you want one that’s easy to use and won’t try to upsell you on stuff, I’d choose Namecheap over GoDaddy.
Now Choose a Website Builder
For music purposes, Wordpress is great, but Squarespace also has a music-centered option. One primary difference between the two is Wordpress is open source, meaning anyone can create plugins and themes, but quality control isn’t assured. Squarespace builds all their own stuff, so you won’t run into that issue, and with Squarespace you’ll be able to build a top-of-the-line, high-quality site.
Weebly is another great option and is super easy to use, as is Wix. When it comes down to it, Squarespace is fantastic for established artists who don’t have to worry too much about budget, but if you want a free option, you can’t go wrong with Weebly, Wix, or Wordpress.
Different hosting services offer integration with different building apps. If you decide to go with Namecheap, for example, Canvas is a free option, while Weebly will cost you $6 a month. Meanwhile, GoDaddy is keyed in on Wordpress. If your hosting service doesn’t already integrate with your site builder, you’ll need to manually download files from the builder and go from there. Your builder will be able to help you figure out how to do this, as will tons of tutorials online.
Build Your Website
Now comes the fun part. Stick with simplicity and ease of navigation. If you’re using Wordpress, all you have to do is choose a theme from the directory, or if you’re interested in spending money to ensure quality and narrow it down quicker, you can check out Theme Forest’s Entertainment section. You can customize your colors and whatnot a great deal in Wordpress. With Squarespace, you can also add a merch store. Both Wordpress and Squarespace include music players, and you can also embed your Bandcamp player or other streaming player.
You’ll want to have your logo, music files, bio, videos, pictures, and written content ready to go. You can embed YouTube or other video players. The secret to a great site is to make it visually arresting. Consider embedding video on the homepage—if not video, then display images. But you’ll also want to broadcast your important goings-on, such as album releases and tours, in big, bold terms right away.
Optimizing Your Website
This is the part that most of us band geeks don’t know too much about and don’t care to. Basically, there’s a way to optimize your website so that people are better able to find you online. This search engine optimization glossary tells you everything you need to know about the industry terms if you want a crash course. According to the glossary, website optimization is “The process of using controlled experimentation to improve a website’s ability to drive business goals.”
What’s your goal? Feel free to experiment until you feel the site truly represents your band. You can find out how many people are visiting through Google Analytics or SEMRush.
For a band, optimization is about updating the site regularly with fresh content, linking to your social media channels, and making sure your title tags, headers, and keywords are good. So basically, the more active you are as a band, and the more you update your site with content relevant to your activities, the better your optimization. You won’t be able to have irrelevant titles, headers, and keywords if you’re only posting authentic content, and you’re labeling it so as to be clear about what it is.
Congrats! You made it through this simple tutorial. I hope it’s helpful. Happy building!