As someone who has to trawl through seas of benign websites and whose inbox is chock full of links to less than user/reviewer/fan friendly websites, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to impart a few wise words on the topic of online plugging and the art of creating a snazzy website with on-point, well laid out, engaging content. In this part 1 of 2, I’ll outline the five most common mistakes musicians make with regard to their website.

Now some of you might point out that my own DervSwerve site isn’t exactly bells and whistles – but guys,  it doesn’t need to be. I am selling nothing but YOUR music. I’m not in this to earn a crust or flog any wares other than the musical ones submitted to me.

While many of you have built your own professional websites – some via home-DIY with the aid of YT videos, others with the help of web ninjas – having tech design tools, dev savvy and a relatively blank canvas are only the first step in creating a cracking website.

Design, lay-out, flow and content are key to building a website that will not just attract but win over potential fans, engage current fans, and impress industry gatekeepers.

Having had to cruise thousands of websites over the past two+ years, I’ve noticed the same issues time and time again. Here are some of the biggest web-related mistakes musicians make – mistakes that should be avoided at all costs.

NOT USING PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS

Cardinal sin number 1. When it comes to PR, online plugging and your website, we cannot over-emphasise the importance of using professional photos.

Professionally taken, clear, high-res images are your calling cards. They help create good first impressions on fans, as well as industry and media.

Badly cropped, low res, poorly lit or unfocussed images will hinder rather than help, creating negative rather than the desired positive brand awareness.

If you don’t believe us, just hop over to IG and see the difference in follows and likes on profiles that churn out high res, colour-pop, or imaginative high quality shots vs those that limply flick out uncentered, fuzzy, grainy shots, taken by the bessie on a S5 without any thought being put into them.

If you don’t take your image seriously, people won’t take your music seriously, fact.

Think we’re joking? When landing on any website for the first time, it’s the photos that are the headliners. Attention grabbers, images are what will give potential fans their first impression of you and your music.

Ensure your header and background images act the part and fit the bill. Always ensure your press pack or digital press kit if you prefer, contain variations of high-res images (at least one landscape image and nothing below 250 pixels or they won’t pull onto social media!).

NOT HAVING A MOBILE FRIENDLY SITE

Er? If not using professional photos is a cardinal sin, not having a site that’s mobile friendly is a mortal one. In today’s world of mobile and zing zing tech, musicians need a mobile-friendly website. It’s all about mobile digital media – if it don’t fit, the kids will swipe left!

Your mobile-centric site must:-

Load instantly, be easily navigated, and have clear content, accessible samples of your music and ‘buy now’ tools that are in perfect working order.

Fun Fact! Google-search punishes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. So, if you want your band to achieve higher SEO search results than a similarly named brand of stain remover, get your mobile act together asap.

NOT KEEPING THE SITE REGULARLY UPDATED

If you go into a newsagents to score the latest editions of your favourite music mags only to find half-stocked shelves containing last month’s issues, there’s a strong chance you’ll leave, right?

Okay, so ditto when someone parachutes onto your site only to find a track released three years ago, a photo of the band aged 18 (you’re now 22) taken at a now defunct festival, and that the last ‘latest news’ is dated Jan 2016. What would you think? That the band has jacked it in? That they’re too lazy to be bothered to do some ‘social’ housekeeping?

The potential for negative impact here is greater when it comes to media and industry. It is a time-wasting pain in the ass for any reviewer, DJ or a.n.o industry professional to arrive at an artist’s website expecting to find bios, tour & ticket info, release dates etc, only to find dust-coated, stale news.

Always have your latest news clearly visible on the Homepage, via Blog, newsfeeds or otherwise.

Other features that should be updated regularly are events calendar, photos, videos, and your music, natch. Embedding social media feeds onto your website takes a lot of the pain out of site maintenance.

Even though other elements of the website may not be always totally up to date, at least people checking out your site will see that you’re still alive and kicking!

NOT ENOUGH MUSIC / NO DIRECT-TO-FAN PURCHASE OPTIONS

At the end of the day, the bottom line is that you are trying to sell your wares.

It’s all well and good having an “I want millions of people to hear my music” mission statement but bills have to be paid, the dog fed and guitar strings replaced. That takes money, so be practical.

The first place a discography of YOUR music should be found is on your OWN website. And a full one at that.

Fans should be able to land on your full music catalogue at the press of a tab. Offering up samples and then ushering them off to iTunes or Deezer is the commercial equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

Have all your music available to stream. Offer ‘a free download when you sign up’ deal to bag email addresses that will help build your mailing list.

Vitally important for healthy coffers is the inclusion of direct-to-fan purchase options. These will ensure you retain most of the money (85% with Bandcamp), and again, allow you to gather valuable contact information that can be later used in marketing drives.

Once those elements are in place, you can then provide links to external online shopping options and streaming services.

Always bear in mind that despite the fact that they are selling your music, these 3rd party services will, for reasons of Data Protection, never share their customer details with you.

Invaluable opportunities to follow up directly with those fans about future albums, tours, or merch offerings will be lost at the click of a link.

NO MAILING LIST SIGN UP

Too often bands don’t have a mailing list sign up, or if they do, it’s lost in a jungle of content.

It’s imperative that your website has a sign up link (usually placed at the top right hand corner of the landing/homepage). Add in a short blurb or giveaway … “be sure to sign up for new of our upcoming tour/album etc” … “sign up now to get a free download link to our cover of XYZ” …

Why is it imperative?

Your mailing list is YOURS. It is your contact database, one you don’t have to share with anyone else.

Email marketing is 40 times more effective than the power of Facebook and Twitter combined (Mc Kinsey). So, if you want to sell your music, that merch, those gig tickets, you’ll reap more rewards with direct mail blasts than with endless repeat posts on social media.

“If email is not the biggest part of your social strategy, then you are giving the power of communication with your fans to companies who will gladly take them and whose advertisers will thank you to no end for providing them with eyeballs.”

In part two, we’ll bring you the Online Plugging Bible. Tune in next time! DervSwerve

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