So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Then listen now to what I say. Just get an electric guitar. And take some time and learn how to play. And when your hair’s combed right and your pants fit tight. It’s gonna be all right. So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Then listen now to what I say. Just get an electric guitar. And take some time and learn how to play. And when your hair’s combed right and your pants fit tight, it’s gonna be all right. -The Byrds
By Jack Varnell
I’m not sure The Byrds’ advice transfers well to the pre-packaged and formulaic world of music we live in today, but the artist or musician’s job is to pay attention to making good art. Anything fostering that goal is a good thing.
Does your band need a website?
In the music world, like every other aspect of modern life, big corporation residue has left its mark. Music business is all about the “branding.” When you consider the importance and impact of social media, the availability of specialized “profile” and showcase sites like Bandcamp and SoundCloud, video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo and the ability to self-distribute your music via the web, does a band today even need a website?
Truth be told, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if there is a definitive answer. I do know what I like. I listen to a lot of music, new and old from virtually any genre, and none of it was discovered on MTV (in this decade), a friend’s borrowed CD, or ClearChannel. I know when something strikes me, I like to be able to go to the source, and learn all I need to know about the band, the members, shows, tunes, videos, merch, and freebies. I want to have a one-stop shop for the social pieces of the puzzle, so I don’t have to wade through three pages of a Google search to find what I need to know to become the thing the band wants most… a loyal follower. I am a bona fide member of the First Church of the Church Before Church to prove it, and as a result I listen to Appalachian hillbilly swing, Gypsy jazz, freak preachery, murder ballad-esque folk punk. My early Zeppelin, and later Pistols-Clash worship would never have predicted that. What would Morrissey say? More about that in a minute.
There are many moving parts to promoting music these days unlike when the prophetic lines from The Byrds were written, so let’s assume the answer to the question of the day is a resounding “Yes.” Of course a band needs its own web presence, but why and how?
Consolidation is the key
Consolidation: WordPress launched a platform for bands and musicians in 2012. Juggling Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, touring, news, Instagram and a custom-built website can be costly, and a headache for fans to track. It seems WordPress is trying to fill this void. You can see some examples in this post from Premium WordPress.
Artists and audience agree on a desire for one place for all the functions of the various platforms being used. User-friendliness is something that bands and fans are crying out for — bands want a back-end that’s easy to use and isn’t a time-suck. Fans want easy access to info and music. WordPress’ interface has always been fairly straightforward, and customizable. Features like mobile viewing (a must), the ability to easily update, and the wide range of plugins that meet most of the requirements for bands and fans almost make WordPress a no-brainer.
Bandcamp, Shopify, Selz, Soundcloud and BigCartel all have plugins available now. Integrating Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and others is as simple as adding a new page to the site. Contests and giveaways normally handled through FaceBook can still be, but why not drive the traffic, and potential revenue through one portal? AND vice-versa. Put some Instagrams on Facebook. Post links to videos, news, or a sample mp3 on Facebook to drive folks back to the site. For all its debatable good and bad, a well-managed Facebook page can fill in the community gap, and social sharing a website may lack.
Plugins are developed every day, and community – social tools, along with much needed ticketing will eventually be fully addressed in an evolving and user focused system like WordPress. It is a matter of time. But for now, it can mimic the good old days of walking through the brick and mortar record store to buy tickets for the big show. You never know who may walk out with merch or the latest music.
A quick note on email list management:
iContact, Mailchimp, Constant Contact and A Weber all are easy to integrate and can maintain email marketing tasks for a reasonable size database, through plugins, widgets and even popover interstitials. Be thoughtful about what your audience will respond to, and what you need. If used properly your list could be the equivalent of old school “fan clubs” or virtual “street teams.” So if it is community or exclusivity you are looking to build, a “membership” or “subscription” is ideal. “Membership has its privileges” …for all.
So, here’s the case study: The story of Jesus Angel Garcia, who worked by day as the humble, God-fearing webmaster for First Church of the Church Before Church, a transmedia experience called BadBadBad, and the formation of a band, THREE TIMES BAD. A vision, well executed and giving the people what they want. While their site doesn’t encompass all the features discussed here, not many do unless you have a record company contract, and budget to front the money. Of course, to be taken out of revenue, or paid back in lieu of…. Three Times Bad gives me the history, the news, and a taste of the music via Soundcloud and Youtube. From this one place I can tweet with the band or fans or be friends on Facebook or ReverbNation.
How many people can say they get an email from Jesus, once or twice a month about Hell-fire, Appalachian Punk? I’m sure Jesus himself, (the web maintenance guy) could tell us EXACTLY how many people get that email, how many read it and the conversion rate to sales. That’s why a band today needs a website.
So while The Byrds’ song had great meaning in its time, I’m pretty sure it’s not the same today.
The song did help lead me to the incredible Patti Smith who, because of an email I got one day from visiting her site, converted that email into a pre-sale of the last album, Banga, two months before it was released. I opted for the deluxe CD/mp3 version with the book of poems and Smith’s photos to go with it. See how integration of web and social works?
This article originally appears in May 2014 issue of Target Audience Magazine: