The Key is in the Marketing
August 7, 2009 in Marketing & Promotion
In today's world, it seems that the first place anyone will try to track you down is through a website. Just a few years ago, it was a novelty to have a really good website. Now, there is an expectation that an artist have a functional, current website that engages fans and provides the industry with what it needs.
Of course, there are the basics: a website that loads within 10 seconds (we no longer have the attention span or time to wait!), a site that is easy to navigate with all of the needed information, and well thought-out graphics that represent the band's image.
As far as content goes, there are several things that make a great website. First, the news page needs to be current. I was visiting a band's webpage that hadn't been updated for three months, and all I thought was, "I guess these guys haven't been doing anything." I don't go to that website any more. On the other hand, there are websites that are updated at least once a week, and I keep going back to find out what is happening next. A website needs to be regularly updated to keep people engaged.
Your press kit should be on the website in some form. This allows any industry professional to get the information that they need in a timely matter. This should include, at least, a bio, high-resolution photo, and music samples. Of course, like any press kit, I have seen some great "kits" that include performance video footage, a list of key gigs and industry quotes, downloadable posters (to promote upcoming shows), and media coverage.
Of course, if you have any merchandise for sale, you should have that information on your website with links to any online retailers. And, the contact page is pretty self-explanatory.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this can be a great tool to engage fans and build your network. Blogging or posting a journal has been a really effective tool for a lot of artists. Fans want to know what you are up to, even if it seems mundane to you. The key with this tool is to do it regularly. People get frustrated if the last entry they saw was from April 2005. Tegan and Sara took an interesting spin on this by getting key members of their team to post as well. Funny stories, thoughts, personal messages to fans, upcoming news, and what the band is currently doing are all great topics. Bulletin boards can be more challenging, especially if a band is in the early stages of its fanbase development. It could look really pathetic if there are only 10 people posting on your bulletin board. So, you may want to wait until you have a really solid fanbase that is engaging with you on your web site before you consider this option.
Lisa Marie Presley took an interesting approach with her latest release. They released full (streaming) tracks from the previous album, and eventually the entire new album on the website. It was the sole reason I ended up buying the album. What's my point? People want to be able to sample your music, and if they like it, they will support you by coming out to live shows, telling friends, and buying merchandise. You don't need to give the entire recording away, but you could stream 2 or 3 full songs and maybe also offer some rare live performances as well. The String Cheese Incident has really empowered their fans through their website and their marketing strategy. And as a result, they can sell 100,000 units straight to their fans. I checked out Easily Amused's site a few months ago, and they had streaming radio that automatically loaded in their songs while people where surfing their site. More and more, this is becoming the industry standard in both the major and independent music scenes. An interesting explanation on this may be a group of artists, who have a similar fanbase, all promoting each other's music on their sites through the streaming radio concept. Providing reciprocal links on each other's sites could support this and work to extend the networks of each individual artist.
Online contests can be an interesting way to engage your fanbase, and find out more about them and their needs. For example, let's say you wanted to increase the number of people subscribing to your mailing list. Why not set up a contest whereby if someone gets one of their friends to sign up for your mailing list, their name is entered into a draw for tickets to your next live performance, a private concert, or dinner with the band? Other options to get people signed up to your mailing list include a free downloadable song that they can't get anywhere else, or access to a protected part of the website with "extras". The ideas are endless and it all depends on your budget and how much you want to motivate them. Additionally, surveys and polls about your fans' tastes, thoughts, and preferences can be engaging to them and provide you with some key information about them.
Ultimately, your website is a key piece in marketing and developing your fanbase. And of course, the industry will become engaged with you once they see that you have a buzz going and a solid community built. MySpace.com has been a testament to that.
I know that I haven't covered everything, but this should give you a good start in thinking about your website as a strategic tool. Look for upcoming articles on MySpace.com, Podcasting, Using Street Teams, Live Show Marketing and Promotion, and Data Capture.