Tips for Indie Band Websites
by Alex Cosper (10/4/14)

Ideal band websites are not like other industry websites in many ways. Just compare the intentions behind visiting a musical website versus visiting a real estate website. While a band website is more like a destination to enjoy music and learn about its creators, a real estate website is more about researching homes. If you're using a real estate site to buy a home, then chances are, unless you're a wealthy investor, you are using the site to narrow down a list of choices to make one big purchase. A band website is more like a place where you may find several albums or songs you want to buy, but it can also simply be a place to explore a wide selection of music crafted by one artist.

Let's look at a different comparison between music and something just as affordable, which is books. A website selling books can either be like Amazon that sells a long list of authors or it might be devoted to one author who has written several books. Chances are, not all those books will be available to read completely online, although there are indeed authors in the world that make all their work availaboe for free online. But let's say the object is to make money selling either music or books. The music site probably has a lot more leeway to showcase several products for free download while the book site is more likely to just provide sample paragraphs or sample chapters.

Here's yet a completely different product to compare music with just to show how online music is radically different from other online products. Compare a music website with a sports website that provides sports commentary and sells sporting goods. While the music site can provide the actual musical experience, the best a site about sports can do, unless it's delivering a live stream of a sporting event, is to reflect on games that have already happened or predict what may happen in future games. If the products are physical items such as baseball bats, caps and clothing, then the actual products cannot really be experienced until they arrive in the mail. Music, on the other hand, can be enjoyed instantly either as free on-demand streams or downlaods for free.

In other words, the music website has more diversity than most other sites in the sense that the site has the option of presenting music as a free experience or selling it as a digital or physical product. Books and movies are similar but less likely to be given away free online in their entire forms. Software and video games are usually closer to the book model than the music model while a site full of free information like Wikipedia is closer to the music model in the sense that the reason for visiting the site can be fulfilled instantly instead of waiting to purchase something.

That's the basic major difference between a music site and most other kinds of websites. Music is art that you can enjoy while reading something else, even on other websites. The same can be said about spoken word audio streams. But there aren't many other types of websites that allow you to listen to something as entertainment while doing other things either online or offline. That's what makes a music website special. But if you don't make any music available for free listening and you just sell mail order CDs, your business model starts to resemble the thousands of other products online that don't command as much attention as an instant experience.

Keeping this concept about immediacy in mind, here is a list of tips that will help you point a music website in the right direction instead of imitating the millions of band websites going nowhere fast that completely miss the point of the internet. If a band plans to get rich quick selling CDs online, they are probably in for a huge disappointment unless they do a lot of live shows and promote their website at the shows. You can build a much more loyal following by crafting a website full of content beyond musical products.

Practical Pages and Sections for a Band Website

About Us
Band Members
Music for Sale
Upcoming Shows
Contact Information
Internet Radio Shows

Web Design Guidelines

- Make the site fast loading as a top priority since slow loading sites can lose visitors quickly
- Don't use too much fancy design on the home page, since it can slow down your site
- Give your home page an attractive look, but remember obvious easy natigation is more important
- Make sure the site's purpose and main themes are obivous on the home page
- Don't make the home page too busy looking ... use whitespace to let content breathe
- Avoid huge graphics on the home page so that your page loads as quickly as possible
- Use obvious "call to action" statements or buttons that direct your users to products or deeper content
- Include links or buttons to social media pages where you can interact with fans
- Provide easy ways for fans to listen to your music, such as links to ReverbNation and SoundCloud
- Add plenty of creative content to your site such as a blog series that chonicles the band's experiences

Developing Traffic

In order to attract traffic to your website, you need content that web surfers are already searching for in search engines. You probably won't get much traffic if you're just a local act with a small following and you only upload content about your music. You can do better by uploading content about your city and its neighborhoods and topics that your niche of music intersects with. Remember that a five page website with limited content will likely not get search rankings as high as 1,000 page websites with rich content. Search engines simply pay more attention to sites with deeper content.

There are zillions of websites that give advice about how to build web traffic through "search engine optimization" (SEO). Be careful of reading too much about SEO because a lot of it can be a waste of time. Search engines do not make their methodologies for indexing sites public, but they usually have general guidelines known as "white hat" practices, in which the focus is creating original quality content. Concentrate more on developing useful content that reflects your niche. Forget about all the secret techniques for boosting search rankings since some of them might be considered "black hat" by search engines, which punish sites for web spam. Avoid overusing keywords and any type of scheme that is designed to fool search engines.

"Call to action" is one of the most important techniques in developing successful online lead generation. Direct your visitors with easy to read buttons or phrases like "contact us" on your home page. Don't hide the information fans are looking for, which includes your bio. Make sure the bio is several paragraphs of interesting information and not just a few generic sentences. Many local acts forget to include their city, which becomes confusing to fans trying to find out if you do shows in your hometown. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and is simple enough for new visitors to understand when they land on your site for the first time.

Simplified Web Design

Building a website can involve learning coding (HTML and CSS) but it doesn't have to. You can create a website using user-friendly platforms known as content management systems (CMS) or a web editing program such as Apple's Freeway or Adobe's Dreamweaver. The advantage to writing your own code is you will have more control over how your site looks and you will understand it better, kind of like a mechanic. But it definitely takes more time to write HTML than it does using platforms in which the coding is already done for you. If you want to concentrate on the writing and art of your site instead of the tech, then CMS or WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web editors are the way to go.

Since mobile internet has become so popular it's important that your website can be viewed properly on smartphones. You can either learn "responsive web design," which is coding that makes your site compatible with all devices, or you can choose a simplified CMS such as Squarespace or Ipage, which takes care of the technology for you so that your site has cross-platform capability. You can also use lean HTML and keep your site simple with minimal coding and small graphics. Remember that it's the user experience that matters most, not so much how fancy your site looks. Most people surfing the internet are looking for specific content, not designs.

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