So you’ve decided to ‘go online’. How do you manage such a process?
You’ll need the following things:
A piece of paper
A computer connected to the internet
A credit card or Paypal account with about Ã‚Â£50/$100 on it
And you’ll need a bit of time and patience. Having a teenager on hand for when things get a bit technically tricky can also be helpful. Okay. Are we ready? Then let’s get started…
Abandon the idea that you’re going to make a website for your band that has all the usual stuff in it like a contact page and a music page and a buy it now button. That may be the end result, but if you use it as your starting point, you’ll miss all of the great possibilities that starting with no presuppositions offers.
Take the piece of paper and pen, and begin to write down all of the things that you do with your music currently. Describe your audience. Think about the ways in which people currently connect with you and your music. Do you have a particular kind of crowd? What are they like? What do they do? What are they doing when they listen to your music? Dancing? Driving? The dishes?
Make a note of all the things you want to do, or that you’re aware of as possibilities, but don’t yet make use of. Film soundtrack work? Compilations? Collaborations?
Register your domain name. Choose a name you like (eg: thisisthewebsiteofmyband.com) and go see if it’s available. I’m not going to recommend a particular domain provider over any other. Just search for domain name registration on Google, and you’ll find some options to suit you. You need to have your own domain. http://myband.freebiewebsites.com just screams ‘not serious about this stuff’ and therefore a musical act not worth giving money to. Professionalism comes very cheap – but not completely free.
Get some webhosting. It’s possible that the people who sold you the domain will also sell you the hosting. The people I use do that. I can get two years of hosting and domain registration for under Ã‚Â£40, usually. That doesn’t seem exorbitant for building a business online.
Install WordPress. Now, generally speaking, I’m reluctant to recommend specific products and brands in the context of these sorts of general advice sessions (especially since they lead you towards that kind of template mentality I warned you against in step 1), but you can’t really top it for a general purpose starter-pack online music website. Especially considering a) it’s free and b) there are people who will install it for you for free too. Go to Install For Free and give them your host and domain details.
Log in to your brand new WordPress site, choose a template, add some pages, upload some pictures – and whatever else you do, just start blogging. Once you get up a bit of confidence, you might want to add plugins. There are some really good guides to doing all that stuff online, so I won’t repeat that here, but you’ll be able to add music to your site, involve your readers and fans – and start to implement some of those ideas you had on paper in steps 1-3.
Start telling people. Put your website address (URL) on your flyers. Add it to your email signature. Get it out to your mailing list. Put it on your MySpace page (you have one of those, right? If not… there’s a post coming just for you soon).
Mess with the site. Have ideas. Change stuff. Get feedback and do course correction. Your concern shouldn’t be that your site is perfect before you launch it. It will never be perfect. But what it must do is continually improve. The appropriate phrase to bear in mind when you’re launching stuff online is ‘Ready, Fire, Aim!’ It doesn’t have to be on target right from the outset. What you want most is momentum.
Learn whatever you can. Talk to people about this stuff. Read some of those websites I link to on New Music Strategies. Get ideas and implement them. The best way to just get started online is to just get started.
Now, it has to be said that there are some superb alternatives to WordPress. Squarespace is great, and very stylish. Newcomer Webnode is amazingly user-friendly and packed with really cool stuff. I’m using them both on different projects.
But to me, WordPress is the standard default. It’s no-nonsense blogging software designed to get you communicating and keep you communicating. Quick results and ongoing updates with about a ten-minute learning curve. And yes – you want a blog, rather than a static website. This is a conversational medium. You’re not designing a brochure.
So – why are you still here? Go get started online. And if you’re already up and running, go help someone else get started. We can’t take over the world until everyone’s on board.