Breaking Bands: 7 Steps To Creating The Perfect Artist Website

Conferences (especially entertainment conferences) can be pretty overwhelming when it comes to deciding between two really good choices, so I like to crowdsource which panel session or show to see at least once per conference. This time around, I was advised to go to “Gaining Online Traction: The Art of Creating The Perfect Artist Website” and, once again, my followers steered me in the right direction.

Moderator: Liz Leahy, founder and CEO of website platform Section 101

Panelists: Dave Cool, Director of Artist Relations for Bandzoogle; Michael Stroup, founder of creative development/artist consultation firm 12South; Hadaya Turner, founder of video production and branding company Hadayalive Entertainment Inc; and Jessica West, partner in philantrophy-centered marketing firm UNIPHI GOOD.

1. Develop Brand Guidelines First

West stressed that the first thing she does when she meets with an artist is develop their brand guideline. What is your logo going to look like? What color is it going to be? Look at similar artists’ websites, album covers, and press pictures– not to copy their exact style, but to have a reference point. Your website should give people cues about how to talk to you; before it can do that, you have to know who you are. Have a clear vision and aesthetic before doing anything else. Then be consistent.

2. Have a Website

The first question Leahy asked is if artists still need a website in this age of social media. No surprise here: everyone said yes. The panelists pointed out that the first thing that a fan does when he or she discovers a band is Google them. Fans are looking for your online presence; that top link on Google should be a space that you control, not the social network of the week.

3. Make Mobile A Priority

Stroup stated that his team designs an artists’ mobile site before designing the full website. The reason for this is two-fold. First, we’re rapidly moving towards a two-screen society in which people are constantly on their phones. Second, the limitations of a mobile site force you to focus on supporting the most pertinent information. For artists, this means figuring out how to handle your media, tour dates, and a store. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

4. Consider Content; Be Intentional

Once you’ve moved on to designing your full website, the amount of content and art that it’s possible to add is staggering. Turner, however, warned that it’s “worthless to build a beautiful website that takes 30 seconds to load” because no one will see it. From the second that your ADHD-generation fans get to your site, they’re looking to for somewhere else to go. Your job is to give them a reason to stay.

First, consider what kind of content you already have and what kind of content you’re willing to spend time on creating. In other words, don’t make a photo album if you don’t have any pictures and don’t create a video blog if you’re not willing to record and edit videos. Second, have one Call to Action at a time. Having a Call to Action like downloading your new single, joining the mailing list, or buying your new album gives your fans something to do. Having more than one Call to Action gives them something to be annoyed by. Remember, your website is actively building your relationship with your fans. Don’t be that friend.

5. Splash Page (If You Must)

Overall, the panelists were not into splash pages because if your Call to Action is clear on the homepage, then splash pages are redundant. Regardless, they did have some advice for artists who really want to use them: keep it simple and keep it temporary. Limit yourself to one Call to Action and add a cookie so that people don’t see the splash page more than once a day. (Of course, there are some aesthetic exceptions to the ban against splash pages…)

6. Don’t Autostart Your Music Player

“If they’re coming to your website, they’ll click play.” – Dave Cool. And then the clouds parted and a choir of angels sang.

7. Analyze, Spring Clean

It’s easy (theoretically) to keep your tour dates, photots, etc updated. It’s much harder to realize that not all content is good content. Use Google analytics to see how your fans are interacting with your website and then get rid of the content that your fans don’t care about. Similarly, the panelists seemed to dig Topspin-integrated shops, mostly because of the analytics that come with your account.

For some examples of panelist-approved artist websites, you can check out Allison Weiss, Miguel, Dierks Bentley, and Aimee Mann.

What are some of your favorite artist websites? What do you think makes them work?

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