For DIY musicians, the Internet can be one of the most exciting prospects for sharing music—and also one of the most intimidating. There’s no disputing that having a web presence for your music is a good idea, but the sheer number of websites, applications and social networks promising to help DIY artists connect with their audience is overwhelming, to say the least. If you’re not careful and selective with your time, it can be very easy to get so wrapped up in all of it that you’re spending all your time on the Interwebs, and little or no time actually creating.
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy into the idea that more is better. If you’re smart about it, you can create a web presence that helps you connect with your audience without having to spend all your waking hours maintaining that web presence. With a bit of planning and some time investment up front, it’s possible to streamline your web presence so it serves your purposes without eating up all your time and energy.
BOILING IT DOWN TO THE BASICS
The key to creating a smart web presence for your music is not necessarily in having dozens of web pages and social networking accounts, but rather in using a few different tools to your best advantage. Really, it boils down to three basic elements:
- A website;
- A social network presence; and
- A place to share your music.
Let’s go over these three elements in detail, and then we’ll talk about how to make the best use of them.
Your website is essentially your “home base”—your i.d. card for the web, if you will. Websites do not have to be elaborate or expensive—in fact, it’s better to have something that is simple and uncluttered, while visually appealing. If you don’t have the know-how to design your own website, you can hire someone to do it for you. You can also utilize a user friendly website design/hosting service for a low monthly cost (bandzoogle.com is a site that is geared toward band/artist websites, for example).
It used to be assumed that the key to having an Internet presence was just to set up a great website; many people still have this mentality that setting up a website will automatically get them exposure. However, setting up a website and leaving it alone won’t help you much, because the search engines favor dynamic content over static content. In other words, frequently updating your web content helps more people find your web page, while a page that just sits there does not. One way to draw more traffic to your site is to set up a blog on it where you post regular, short updates with news about what you’re doing, because this is content that is regularly updated. But these days, the primary goal of your website is just to have a home base—a place to refer people to find out more about you or your band.
Besides having dynamic content on your website, social networking is another very important way to get exposure for your band. While there are many social networks out there, including some that focus on band/artist exposure, the two biggest ones right now are obviously Facebook and Twitter. If you have video capabilities, YouTube is also becoming quite popular as a way for musicians to connect with fans. Fortunately, these accounts are pretty easy to set up and maintain. You should set them up, and post regular, short, fun updates, encouraging your fans to follow you on Twitter and “like” your Facebook page. (You should obviously also include a link to your website on these accounts.) As to other networks, a good rule of thumb is to focus on those sites where your fans hang out. If you discover, for example, while talking to friends and fans, that lots of people are visiting ReverbNation (or if you feel the other tools they offer are useful to you), go ahead and set up an account there. You don’t have to set up accounts at every DIY musician site out there—just focus on the one or two that make the most sense.
MUSIC SHARING SITES
Simply put, a music sharing site is a place where you can upload your music so people can stream it online and/or download it. The cool thing about these sites is that is possible to upload your music once and then share it on all your other sites through links and embed codes. Soundcloud.com is a good resource for this, and bandcamp.com also includes options for people to buy your music. There are others, too; the key is to pick one or two places to upload your music, then include links and embed codes for your website, blog or other places, as opposed to trying to upload your tunes on every site where you have a presence.
Now that you understand the three basic elements of a smart web presence, in the next post we’ll go over a few tips on how to make these things work together to your best advantage.