This Is Islet: The making of a fan site

Islet live. Photo by @edhombre

I’m at Un-Convention in Swansea this weekend. Lots of talk with lots of interesting people about the independent and grassroots DIY music sector. It’s held in a cafe/bar called Monkey in the central city, and in the evening, bands play.

I’m here with a bunch of people I know from these sorts of things – and I’ve been spending a fair bit of time hanging with the very clever Ben Walker (@ihatemornings), who you know as the guy who wrote the Twitter song.

One band played last night that blew me away. And I don’t just mean I liked them, or really loved their gig. They BLEW. ME. AWAY. I can’t remember being this excited by a band in years. Possibly decades.

Ben was excited too. We came back downstairs, had a beer, and raved about how amazing they are. We were instant fans. So we went straight online and looked them up.

We Googled: “Islet band Cardiff” and various other combinations of the band name and their city of origin. Nothing. They’d played one support gig for Shonen Knife (how cool is that?!) – but no website, no MySpace, no nothing.

And we were stuck. They had no CDs for sale. Nothing we could do. We just didn’t know how to be Islet fans.

So we made them a fan site


What do you mean by web-presence?

Personal blog

I should have written this post ages ago. I kind of take it for granted, but forget that not everyone is fully conversant with things that I just make assumptions about. I often talk about a musician’s or music business’s web presence when public speaking or consulting. By that, I don’t mean your website, although in my opinion, that should be central to the ‘presence’.

I mean the range of services, platforms and conversation going on around the internet about you and what you do. What’s online, and how it connects together. Your web.

It’s an ecology, not a destination
If you have a MySpace page, a Bandcamp page, a Facebook page or any profile on any of the kind of sites we talk about on New Music Ideas, these make up part of your web presence. So too does the conversation that takes place (with or without your involvement) on forums and discussion groups.

This is an interconnected network of related and symbiotic activities.


Ten quid website upgrade

Frustrated computer user

Changing or upgrading your website can be a bit challenging and frustrating — especially if you’re trying to do it on your own, or on a laughably tight budget.

I’ve managed to get the site at least looking presentable, and I thought I’d tell you how I’ve done it, what it cost me and what I’ve used, in case there was anything here that you thought might be useful to steal and go and put on your site.


You don't exist

I don’t check my web stats very often, but I was surprised to learn that nobody has visited New Music Strategies in over a week. Not one person.


When I do look at the statistics on my website, which isn’t very often, I’m always surprised to learn that anywhere between 700 and 1200 individual visitors turn up each day. Feedburner says I have 860-odd subscribers. It’s hardly broadcasting, but it’s a little bit humbling all the same.

But if I was ever to get an inflated ego about the number of people who read this blog, the bubble has been well and truly burst. I just checked, and not a single soul has read New Music Strategies since the 18th of this month. Even now, though you think you’re reading this, you’re clearly not.

I’ve checked. I have the Reports plugin for WordPress, and I’ve looked using AW Stats and Webalizer. All of them say that the site has died a death.

Either nobody reads this site anymore, or those that do don’t actually exist.


It's a bit like Lego

Setting up a website is easy. There are templates, models and standard practices that are tried and tested — so why would you want to do anything different? And what could you do that would be different anyway?

Most small business websites have a standard model. There’s a front page with a logo and maybe a quick paragraph about what the company is for. There’s an ‘About’ page for more details, a ‘News’ page with the latest press releases, a ‘Contact’ page so you can send them things or use their services, a ‘Products’ page with a bit of a catalogue or brochure — and, if it’s a music business, there’ll be a page with ‘Audio’, perhaps a ‘Gallery’ with photographs or even video.

More engaged music industry SMEs might operate a blog alongside this, and most will want some sort of shopping cart system so people can give their money in exchange for tunage.

And that’s what you do online. There’s a reason things become classics.

However, there’s a difference between a classic and a cliche. While you don’t want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to site navigation, falling into the trap of simply throwing together a site that has that standard structure, and something called ‘content’ assembled under the various subheadings, it would be a mistake to do that uncritically.

The internet is not a printing press for brochures and mail order catalogues. It’s a modelling tool. Like plasticine. Or, better still, like Lego.


It's that time of year

It’s the end of the year, give or take a week or two. You’re going to need to start formulating New Year’s Resolutions. Probably best if you do a quick inventory to see what needs to be resolved.

XmasIf you live somewhere in which the dominant culture celebrates the first few days of the main protagonist of the second half of the Bible by going shopping, eating and drinking in excess, anticipating the serial breaking and entering of family homes by a generous and largely fictional bearded man whose name does not appear in the original text, and spending time in the company of people you normally don’t go out of your way to socialise with — then this is a very special time of the year.

Everything’s starting to wind up. Everyone’s starting to throw Christmas parties. Nobody’s going to get any real work done till mid January. Anything you haven’t done to ensure those pre-Christmas sales by now is probably not worth the effort. Might even be time to start thinking about what those New Years’ Resolutions are likely to consist of.

And if you’re going to make resolutions, it would pay to know what needs resolving.