5 Reasons Why Bluegrass Artists Need (Better) Websites

David Dufresne is the CEO of Bandzoogle, a website platform for independent musicians. Bandzoogle was founded in 2003, and tens of thousands of musicians have built their website and host it using Bandzoogle’s easy-to-use tools.

The Internet is a big and scary place. When you’re a musician and your focus is to practice, write and perform, figuring out where to spend the little time and money you have left for an “online strategy” can be confusing. Many bluegrass artists we’ve met tell us that they see it as a real challenge.

In a new series of blog posts and collaborations between Bluegrass Today and Bandzoogle, we’ll contribute part of our knowledge and experience that comes from 9 years of helping tens of thousands of musicians build a strong website, use it to engage their fans, and to drive exposure and sales.

I thought we’d start today with our favorite topic: the importance of band websites. (Heh. We’re biased !)

Do you really need a website for your music? With Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs (and Bluegrass Today) and all the musician-specific social networks out there, you might think that owning your own .COM website isn’t necessary. Here are some reasons why I think it is.

1) You own the address

First and foremost, you own your .COM address. As long as you renew it, it will always point to your website. This is powerful — you are guaranteed to own that little slice of the Internet. Even if you switch companies that host your website, your .COM can be transferred, so your fans will always be able to find you.

This is not the case with social networking profiles. Tech companies can get bought out, lose out to competition, or simply become un-cool, rendering your efforts and content there obsolete. For a few years, hundreds of thousands of bands relied on their Myspace page as their home base, then switched over to Facebook (after printing their Myspace URL on their merch… ouch!).

This isn’t limited to Myspace. Those of you who’ve been online for 10+ years might remember sites like Garageband and MP3.com. Who knows what will happen in 5 years? Will Facebook still be around? Twitter? Google+? I think Facebook will remain dominant for a while, but it is becoming very cluttered and noisy. Or, it might be an entirely new social networking site that will be “THE” place to have a profile and engage with fans. Who knows ? Your best bet is to be active on the social networks “du jour”, but always make sure that you have a place where fans can go to find out about your career.

I like to describe the ideal online strategy as a “hub and spokes”. Your website is your hub. You’ll be active on one or many “spokes”, but as often as you can you’ll get your fans to come visit your site. In future posts we’ll expand on this strategy.

2) You Own the Experience

With your website you also own the experience. You can control what your fans see, when they see it, and the messaging that you send to them. This means:

Your Music, Your Story

On your website you 100% control how you wants fans to discover and engage with your music, but also with you as a band. You have a chance to immerse them in your music, visuals, information, thoughts, blog, etc. Fans love this, and it makes them value your music even more.

No Sudden Changes

Your website changes only when you want it to change. As we’ve seen with Facebook several times now, they dictate how pages on their site appear. The recent changes to Facebook Pages have left many people confused about how to organize their content and redesign their profiles. Good chance once you get comfortable with it, it will change again.

No Distractions

Unlike with social networking sites, on your website there are no ads to distract your fans (wanna meet sexy singles in your area ? Wanna see this Youtube video by another totally unrelated artist ?), and there also aren’t dozens of other links vying for their attention. You’re able to really focus on your music and your brand. And since you have your fan’s full attention, you can then direct them to a strong call-to- action: join the mailing list, buy the new album, check out the tour dates, etc.

No Design Limits

With your own website, you don’t have any design limits or restrictions. If you want to add a blog, or put a hi-res press kit for download, or even a special “fan-only” page, you can. Your website gives you the opportunity to make a deeper connection with your fans, without the limits of the one-size-fits-all social networks.

3) You Can Sell Direct-to-Fan

If you sell music or merch, your own website is even more critical. Having your own store on your own site allows you to give your fans a seamless buying experience, and full control over what that experience is. Plus, most direct-to-fan tools take no commission (like Bandzoogle) or a smaller commission (10-20%) than stores like iTunes or Amazon can give you. So, better margins for you, plus you get the chance to let your buyer join your mailing list and keep in touch.

4) Fans and pros expect to find you there

If you’re serious about your music, having a well designed website with great content will make you appear professional and dedicated. When folks hear about your band and go searching for it, they’ll expect to find you at name-of-my-band.com.

These folks include:

  •  New fans, who want to sample your music, find out more about you as an artist
  •  Old fans, looking for the latest news and goings-on
  •  Journalists, bloggers, critics, who need to find your bio, hi-res picture and samples of your music super quick.
  •  Label people, promoters, bookers, etc. People you want to have a good first impression with.

5) You Own your Data

On your .COM site, you can get far more detail on your fans than what you can get on a social networking site.

Stuff like:

  •  How many people previewed my track last week?
  •  Which ones downloaded it?
  •  Did they skip ahead to a specific track?
  •  Where do those fans live?
  •  What site brought them here?

More than stats, you also own your fan list. You probably noticed that you can’t move your old Myspace fans to Facebook. That’s because you don’t own that fan list, Myspace does. Same thing could happen whenever the next hot social network appears. There is no easy “export from Facebook” option! Remember, your list of fan emails is gold. It allows you to always maintain contact with your fans, regardless which social networks they might be on.

Building A Website is Easier Than You Think

Stay tuned. Today we covered the “why.” We’ll have more posts coming soon that will dig deeper into the “how.”

If you want to get started today, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at info@bandzoogle.com. Check out our own website (we worked hard on it !) to see what our platform has to offer and many examples of websites that our members have built. Click this link to get a 3 month FREE trial of Bandzoogle, exclusive to Bluegrass Today readers.