Musician Sites

ARTICLES: How to make your band website work for you – Part 2: Turn your band website into your Online Communication Center

Turn your band website into your Online Communication Center

Many bands/artists look on their website as a sort of glossy online brochure that the web surfer will come and look at, read and listen to and go away fully satisfied. But this ‘brochure-ware’ view is missing out on the full potential and power of the web, your website has the potential to be much more than a glossy online brochure and more than one-way communication. A well designed and richly featured website can serve as a very powerful communication tool for any musician, band or artist and be a key part of a bands strategy for world domination. In the first part of this series, First Impressions, we looked at the brochure-like aspects of a band website – the look/design of the site and the ‘static’ content and how these shape the new visitor’s initial impressions and whether they linger on your site or abandon you before the first page even loads. Now let’s take a look at some other ways a website can be used to communicate with the visitor and give that fan or potential fan a reason to keep coming back and keep up-to-date with your latest developments, develop a deeper connection with you or your band and become more active in supporting you (buy your music, attend your shows and spread the word to friends).

Message board / Guest-book

A message board or guestbook is a good first step in getting your fans and site visitors to interact with your site and add a new dimension of communication. It also adds some good content to your site as people like to read what others have to say about or to you. You can also post replies to comments to get a bit of a two-way dialog going. One thing you will need to watch out for and keep under control is for abuse and spam as this can choke and kill your guestbook. So you will need to monitor it fairly regularly and delete any spam or abusive messages. If spam becomes a problem that’s hard to keep on top of, an option it to have it set up as a moderated guestbook so that comments only appear in the guestbook once you have approved them.

Forum

Although it is possible to have a back and forth conversation using a guestbook, a forum allows for organisation of these conversations. This can work well once you have a decent number of visitors to your site. As well as having dialog with your or the band, your fans can also chat among themselves. For larger forums you can organise the conversations into sub-forums based on particular topics. Usually forums require the user to register whereas guestbooks generally don’t so the casual visitor to the site may be more likely to post a message in a guestbook whereas those who register for a forum will tend to be more serious fans or repeat visitors to the site. A forum can be a bit of a chicken and egg game because a site visitor will generally be more interested in posting to a forum if it already has a good deal of interesting conversations going on. So if you want a forum that is a worthwhile feature on your website you need to get active in encouraging people to use it, especially at the beginning to get it kick-started. It may be a good idea to wait until your site is getting a fair bit of traffic and you have a significant number of fans signed up to your message list that you can invite along to get it started.

Mailing list signup / Newsletter

Once music fans have visited your website and expressed interest in your music, the next trick is to get them to keep coming back. A regular email update or newsletter is a great way to keep you on your fans radar. If you offer some incentive for signing up, e.g. free music download, you will have more success at getting people to sign up. You can send out your email update regularly such as every month or just whenever you have special announcements such as a new album, upcoming tour etc. It is a good idea to include plenty of links back to the website in your email.

Blog/News

Regular updates to your website are key to making your website a success and one great way to provide a continuous stream of fresh content on your site is to maintain a blog (online diary or news section). Once you have a blog set up on your website you simply log in and write a message like the way you would write an email and it appears at the top of your blog page (or news page or whatever you call it). The great thing about a regularly updated blog is that it lets visitors to the site know that the site is that you or your band are active, your site is alive and not something that’s out of date and long forgotten about (as many band websites are). It also gives the fan a reason to bookmark your site and come back to it later since they know there will be something new to read about. For these very same reasons, search engines like Google and Yahoo are programmed to like blogs too so a blog will do wonders for your search engine rankings. It doesn’t even have to be very much, just a regular posting about what’s going on with you band or whatever rantings you have that you think people might be interested in. The important thing is to just do it, have fun with it and do it as regularly as you can.

Web forms

Web forms allow a visitor to your site to send you a message, which usually goes to your email, directly from your website without having to go into their email application. If you provide a web form on a contact page you will be likely to get more messages sent to you than if you simply provide an email address. This is because the box to type in the message is there staring the visitor in the face and they don’t have to open their email application and copy in your email address so it encourages more spontaneity.

Gig Listings / Tour dates

Gig listings or tour dates are an essential component of any band website and a prime reason why an interested fan would bookmark your web site and return to it later. So it goes without saying that it is important to get the information about your gigs up on your website as soon as it becomes available. One aspect of gig listings that sometimes gets ignored is removing the listings once the event has passed. This is important because old listings in your gigs section right away make your site look unmaintained, ignored and irrelevant. A very easy way to prevent this from ever happening is to use a purpose built event listing manager that automatically removes the listing once the date has passed. Of course a record of your past gigs is interesting information to have on your website so it’s a good idea to not delete the listing entirely once the date has passed but instead move it from upcoming gigs into an archive listing of past shows.

Comments (blog postings, photos, etc.)

It can be a great addition to your site to have a way for visitors to have multiple opportunities to leave comments on your website. Firstly it allows the visitor to interact with your site and secondly the comments left provide a source of fresh content for your site that others will linger to read. Pretty much all blogging systems come with a comments feature built in. Another area that’s ideal for adding a comments feature to is your photo section as often people will have comments to make on your pictures and the comments added can provide good content to go along with the pictures.

Audio/Video

Pretty much every band or artist will want to put a sample of their music on their website, the music is what it’s all about after all. You can choose to put short samples, full tracks for streaming or full tracks for free download for free or for a cost (we’ll have a whole article on selling your music from your website coming soon). As with the written content on your site, it’s important to keep providing fresh audio and video content. Good sources of fresh audio or video content are live recordings, remixes, demos and interviews.

Stay tuned for Part 3 (Profit by selling your music on your website)


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