“If you don’t have a website that makes it easy for me, I am going to have to move on to the next artist.”

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why-you-need-a-band-websiteWhy you may’ve gotten passed up for that gig

A few weeks ago at the International Folk Alliance Conference, I spoke on a panel called “Keeping Up with Digital Technologies” with Courtney Gallagher, Membership and Marketing Coordinator for Club Passim.

Passim is one of the coolest listener-friendly venues in the Boston area (it’s in Cambridge), so Courtney provided the live music/event promotion/talent-buyer perspective for our discussion.

She said (and we all agreed) that it’s crucial, despite the new tools and services and apps and widgets and plugins available today, that musicians make use of a now relatively old technology: a website.

Not a Facebook Page. Not a Bandcamp page. Not a ReverbNation page. Not an artist page on CDBaby.com.

A REAL website that YOU control— a place to showcase all the audio, pictures, videos, tour dates, biographical details, and contact info that talent buyers, fans, and the press may need when they’re considering promoting your show, writing about your music, or simply deciding whether they like your band.

“It’s important for artists to have a website dedicated specifically to them,” says Courtney Gallagher. “Personally, I promote an average of more than one show a day for our venue, so if I am sending out a newsletter to 25,000 people and I want to feature your act by including a video and you don’t have a website that makes it easy for me, I am going to have to move on to the next artist.”

If you don’t have your own website, you’re not just losing out on promotional opportunities though. You might actually be losing out on gigs too. I asked Matt Smith, Club Passim’s Managing Director, if he would book a band that only had a page on Facebook, Bandcamp, or ReverbNation.

“Of all of those pages, I’d only be likely to give an actual booking to someone with a Facebook page,” says Smith. “Bandcamp only has music (a great thing, but not useful for show dates, etc.), and a ReverbNation page always just feels like a refuge for bar bands. It’s more of a page to house a press kit than for fans. Artists need a centralized location for info for their fans/clubs/etc. to get the word out about shows.”

Keep in mind, these sentiments aren’t unique to the people that run Passim. I’ve heard similar things said by talent buyers at venues all over the country — from small listening rooms to big clubs that cater to every genre. The moral of the story ain’t no mystery: you need a website if you’re going to try to perform live, get press, and build your fanbase.

So how DO you “make it easy” for booking agents, journalists, bloggers, and fans?

Here is a list of things every musician website should have:

1. An updated About page with multiple versions of your bio — You should have a tweet sized description of your music and band, a slightly longer version (about a paragraph), and then the full-blown biography with a list of all your notable accomplishments. You’ll find that promoters and the press will occasionally lift phrases from your bio verbatim, so having a few bio options makes it easy for people to quickly get the info they need.

You don’t have to rewrite your bio from scratch every year. Just be sure to add a few sentences about what’s happening now. (If what’s happening now is also the most important or dramatic news about your band, be sure to put that info at the beginning of your bio).

2. A press page with hi-res photos, press quotes, and your latest press release — This is the bare minimum, assuming all the other stuff a writer would need to cover your music (contact info, videos, music, etc.) can easily be found on your website. Which brings us to…

3. A music player — You’ve GOT to have music available to stream on your homepage (and preferably across multiple pages). A second best option is to put a music player widget in the sidebar of every section/page of your website. Turn the auto-play function OFF as a courtesy to visitors who’ve left their computer speakers on loud.

And a music player that doubles as a music store? Better still!

4. Videos, videos, videos — Fans love ’em. Talent buyers want to know what you sound like (and look like) when you’re performing live. And the press might want to share them when they write about your music. So make sure you’ve got videos on your site that are easily shareable (as in YouTube or Vimeo).

5. Links to the social platforms you’re active on — No need to link EVERYWHERE, but promoters and press all have their preferences when they publicize your event or music release. A blogger might want to link readers to your YouTube channel. A promoter might want to send people to your Facebook page. So you want to have links to the basics: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (You should also have some music on Spotify, because lots of blogs that might write about your music like to use Spotify players in their posts,… but that’s a whole other article).

6. Contact info or super simple contact form — Industry folks might need to get a hold of you ASAP. So be sure your contact info is the email account you check most often.

7. A concert calendar — What’s your gigging experience? Where have you played before, and how often? Where and when are you playing next? These details can be super helpful to talent buyers (and to fans who want to come to the shows), so keep your calendar up-to-date.

8. A news section or blog — What’s happening in your musical life? Again, this info is helpful for industry folks AND fans.

9. A music store or links to trusted music retailers —  Promoters and booking agents probably won’t be buying your CDs or downloads, but a music store on your website shows you’re serious about your music career. Besides, don’t you want your fans to be able to buy your music?

10. Email capture tool — This probably won’t be used by industry people either, but it shows you’re taking the right steps to interact with your audience — and again, don’t you want to build your email list?

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If you write about music, book shows, or promote music events, let us know: what do you look for in an artist website? What makes your job easier? Please comment below.

Are you trying to kick-start your music career without a website? Try HostBaby FREE for 30 days!

Marketing your music 101: 
essential tips for getting your music out there

[Notation drawing from Shutterstock.]

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  • Anytime an artist ventures to ask me, I echo your sentiment regarding websites. These days, it’s easier than ever to roll out a serviceable artist website. I always suspected promoters weren’t terribly impressed with sites like Bandcamp and ReverbNation as the main band focus page, now I have it on good authority. Great article, I’m gonna share this one.

  • Kadmium

    It’s hard to trust this as advice when you go on to sell us a website service. “You know what you need? A website! Luckily, we can sell you one…” It just reads as native advertising (ie extended sales pitch, disguised as an article).

    • I hear that — but the advice is sound no matter what service you use to create or host your website. Many talent buyers I’ve talked to feel similar to the folks at Club Passim.

      Of course I hope musicians use HostBaby, but more than that I just hope they have a website.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Kadmium

        Fair enough :). What are some of the essential things that need to be on an artist’s website?

        • Here’s a few essentials:

          1) About/Bio page
          2) Press page (which can have press quotes, but should also have everything else the press needs: press release, links to hi-res photos, etc.)
          3) Concert calendar
          4) Music player (preferably one that is accessible from the homepage and on all other pages), and either a website music store or links to external retailers (for downloads and CD/vinyl) and streaming platforms
          5) Videos
          6) Contact info
          7) Blog and/or news section
          8) email capture tool/widget
          9) social sharing options
          10) Photo gallery, or prominently featured photos on About and Press pages
          These don’t all need to be items in the top navigation, but all should be easily found. Some can be combined in sub-navigations, or featured in the sidebar as a widget on all pages, etc.

          Anything else? What do you expect to see when you visit a band website?

          @ChrisRobley

  • Cool. Thanks for sharing.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Cool. Thanks for sharing.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Terry Grinde

      I didn’t know a thing about website building – not ONE thing – when I was “elected” to be my band’s media/booking/promo manager, but I went online and dug in to learn. Didn’t take long and our site is now nearly at 30,000 hits after just a couple years. We’ve made great strides in a short time and won many awards, and I can’t tell you how many times a promoter or venue owner has said that the website sold them on the band. Our site is perhaps not the most professional, slick presence on the web, but it is functional, looks pretty good and has gotten us a ton of great shows, like Country USA opening for Toby Keith and Cadott Country Fest where we played two days on the side stage, sharing the bill with Brad Paisley on day one and Florida Georgia Line on day two. In Riverside, Iowa John Michael Montgomery actually opened for us. In all of these instances the promoters used our site to contact us. None of this would have happened without the website. It’s a lot of work and requires daily attention, but it’s well worth the time spent. If you don’t have one, or don’t know how to build one, take the time to learn and get to work – you won’t regret it. It’s pretty easy and anyone can do it.
      You can check out our 5th GEAR website here: http://www.5thgearwebsite.com/

      • Nice. That’s great to hear. Sounds like you’re getting to play with lots of big acts. Only thing I’m not seeing on your site at quick glance is a way to sign up for your email list. Have you considered using an email capture tool and exchanging an MP3 for an email address?

        @ChrisRobley

        • Terry Grinde

          Can you recommend a good one that’s free?

          • Are you already hosting your site with HostBaby? If so, give them a call and they can help you get it set up on your site. If not, you could check out a list management service like MailChimp (which is free up to a certain amount of subscribers/emails sent per month).

            @ChrisRobley

  • Dezparado MGD™

    In Personal Experience Its Better Just To Have A FaceBook Artist Page & Twitter To Direct Fans To, Both Free Of Charge With A Greater Chance At Connecting With New Fans!
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  • cbusche

    Exactly whats wrong with the music industry. People more concerned with visuals in listeners world. Courtney gallagher , lol if the website isnt good we move onto the next one . Bahahahaja adding to a image based music world. Horrible write up cd baby.

    • Robin

      hmm – The music “industry” is both entertainment and business, both of which are visual and need information. If you don’t want to make money from your music then don’t engage in “business”, but for those who do I reckon this article has great advice.

  • Katherine

    Couldn’t agree more… I even recently launched a workshop to help artists create/understand their website! 🙂 http://www.katherineforbes.com

  • Nice. I like your crisp, minimal design too.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Maybe you’re making connections or getting on booking agents’ radar through word-of-mouth or they see you perform, but for lots of bands, talent buyers are less likely to book them if they don’t have a website.

    @ChrisRobley