[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Ross Barber-Smith, found of Electric Kiwi, which specializes in web design for the music industry. He is also the co-host of entertainment industry webshow and podcast, Bridge The Atlantic.]
Even in today’s social media age, artist websites are still important. There’s nowhere else you can brand yourself more clearly and personally than your website. It should be your hub online – the centre of your virtual universe.
However, it can be a daunting process, especially if you’ve never built a website before, or don’t know where to start. As with any project, it’s important to plan ahead. When it comes to building your website, you have plenty of options whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a designer to bring your vision to life.
Either way, there are some things you can do to make the process easier.
1. Know the purpose of your website.
Now, you might think “It’s just a place for my music… what else does it need to be?” but that’s the wrong answer. Yes, it IS a place for your music, but what do you want to achieve with it? What is the main reason you want people to visit, and what do you want them to do when they get there?
The main purpose may be to grow your mailing list. It might be to book more shows. It could be to promote your latest album.
In many cases, there will be multiple purposes; and for many visitors, their reason for visiting will be different – but think about what the main thing YOU want to achieve is, and make that the main focus of the homepage. Everything else should still be easy to find, but you need to be the guide here.
For example, if you’re going on tour, and you’re sending people to your website for your tour dates, make sure they are up front and center. Don’t make people hunt around for things, especially when it’s the main thing you want them to see. If you’ve got a new album out, shout it from the rooftops! Make that the feature of the homepage.
When people are given too many options right away, it becomes overwhelming. So honing in on the one thing you want people to do can help to strip it all back, and make sure they aren’t given too much all at once.
The purpose of your site will change over time – and that’s perfectly ok! In fact, it’s a GOOD thing. It means you’re progressing and different things are taking priority at different stages. Don’t be afraid to shake up what is featured depending on what it is you want to draw attention to at the time.
2. Decide on a visual theme.
Ultimately, your website is a visual reflection of your music, and your brand online. For most artists, photography is one of the most important elements of their website as it instantly shows the visitor WHO they are, and hopefully hints at the musical style, which should draw them in further.
I always recommend getting a professional photoshoot done for your website (tie this in with a shoot for your album artwork, or other promotional materials) and get photos in both landscape and portrait format, so that you or your designer have a few options to work with.
3. Your content should serve your audience.
A mistake some artists make is not thinking about what people actually want to see on their websites. Thinking back to the question of purpose, you need to ensure that the content you include on your site fits in with what you want to achieve, and what your audience wants/needs to find when they get there.
- If your purpose is to book more shows, you’re going to need to give people a way of getting in touch with booking inquiries.
- If your purpose is to attract new fans and sell more music, you need a way for people to hear your tracks, and a way to purchase.
- If you want to grow your mailing list, it’s important that people have a way to sign up (and ideally an INCENTIVE to sign up) without having to look for it.
Knowing what content you’re going to include in advance helps for many reasons. Creating a list of these sections can really help you hone in on the materials you need to gather (i.e. album artwork, MP3s, bio, press photos, etc.) without becoming overwhelmed.
When it comes to gathering the content, take it a section at a time. What do you need on the HOME page? What do you need for your ABOUT page? Lists can really help you see the bigger picture, but also break that down into manageable chunks at the same time.
Refer to other artist websites to see what successful artists in your space are doing. Ask other industry professionals for their suggestions, too. For example, if you’re targeting venues or promoters, speak to a booking agent or someone who works in booking at a venue what they look for in an artist’s website. When you’re too involved in your own website, it’s easy to lose sight of what other people actually want or need from it, so getting an outside perspective can really help.