Tell a friendIf you want to make money from music, and you want to use the internet to help you out with that, then building a website that promotes what you do is a good start — but it’s hardly the end of the story.

It’s one thing to write the greatest book in the world, but if all you’re going to do is put it in a library and hope people check it out, you may as well not have bothered. If you want it to have been worth your while, you have to tell people about it. While you’re at it, why not see if you can get other people to tell their people about it?

Online, we call that viral marketing. In the real world, they call it ‘word of mouth’.

Sometimes it’s spontaneous. If your band is amazing, if you’re the hottest new thing in the indie circuit, you’re having a good 50%-off sale or you happen to provide an especially good service, then people may spread the word of their own accord. But, generally speaking, you’ll only hear about a company from your friends under two sets of circumstances:

1) They were unbelievably bad at something (customer service, usually); or…
2) There’s been some sort of inducement.

That inducement need not be in the form of cash incentives or free swag. It can just be a polite request. The simple fact is that nobody will think to tell people about your website unless you say ‘By the way, would you mind telling somebody about my website?’.

So — don’t be afraid to ask. If you want people to tell their friends about your online presence, mention it. Nobody’s going to think you’re being too forward or pushy. You can tell the people who read your website to tell other people. When those other people start telling more other people, you’ve gone viral, and you’re onto a winner.

But even more important than visitors to your website are the subscribers.

You want to have an ongoing conversation with your online constituency — even when they don’t remember to come back to your website. RSS feeds are very useful for this – and so is the email subscription thing. It’s free, of course — but again, you actually have to mention it.

My advice? Have regularly updated content that is actually of use or interest to some people. Tell them when the next gig is on. Let them know what records you’re releasing to the shops as you release them. Run a profile on the band you had into the studio this week. Tell them what music you’re listening to in the office (and where they can track it down). Talk about the dumb thing your drummer’s cat did yesterday. Anything, really – but make it worth a repeat visit. If you simply have a static page, nobody will ever come back.

Nobody gets the same book out of the library twice — but people always go back to have a look at the latest issue of the periodicals.

So — with that in mind, naturally I’m tempted to absolutely encourage you to tell everyone you know to come to this webpage and — even better — get it delivered for free using the handy Subscribe page.

But please only do so if you think it meets the following criteria:

1) It will be of some genuine use to them;
2) It will most likely continue to be of some genuine use to them; and…
3) They’re not going to think you’re that guy that keeps sending them stupid internet links (everyone’s got one of those guys, right?)

Otherwise, let’s just keep this our little secret. You go subscribe, and we’ll say no more about it.