7 Key Reasons Musicians Need a Self-Hosted Website
I am a firm believer that musicians need their own website.
Not just any kind of website either. A Wix site, Blogger blog or ReverbNation profile just won’t cut it. I’m talking about a self-hosted website, preferably at a dot-com address.
This means investing in a domain name and hosting. This means setting up a quality website where event planners, venue owners, and fans can go to learn more about you.
This could cost you a lot of money, especially if you end up hiring a designer. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. The right way to look at it is that it’s an investment in your career. This is something Ross Barber shared with me, and I think it’s a valuable perspective.
And like any investment, it may take some time for you to see a return. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. There are very few investments that will ever give you quick, short-term returns, and if they do, you should run the other way before you get scammed.
So here are seven key reasons musicians need a self-hosted website.
1. You Have Complete Control Over It
Whether it’s Facebook or Bandcamp, you have limited control over the content, layout and branding of sites you do not own.
Plus, the terms of service could change. Your account could be banned. The site could shut down. Your precious “likes” or followers could be lost in a moment!
If you want to have ads on your own site, you get to make that decision. You get to decide where they go, and you get to keep the ad revenue. If you’re using Facebook, they keep all the revenue, even though you’re driving traffic and helping them promote their site!
With your website, you get to choose how the site will be laid out and what content you want to put a spotlight on. You can create a brand and promote yourself and your art the way it deserves to be promoted.
2. It Makes You Look Professional
Are you committed to your music career? I ask, because if you’re still using a ReverbNation page as your home on the web, it could be that you aren’t committed to the future of your music.
I understand the value of social media. I think it’s a good place to build a following. I know how convenient it seems.
But it won’t feel very convenient if or when they pull the plug on your profile or their website. Remember MySpace? GeoCities? Friendster? If not, it might be worth doing some research.
Sure, Myspace exists in a new form today, but many of the legacy profiles that bands and artists put in so much time and effort into are gone, and the site hasn’t exactly reclaimed its 15 minutes in the spotlight.
Are you committed to your career? Are you serious about what you do? Then get a website.
3. It Helps You Build Your Mailing List
Building a mailing list should be one of your top priorities as an artist. There is money in the list!
And while you can use your social media profiles to build your list, and I would encourage you to do so, the most effective way to build your list online is with the leverage of your own website.
Why? Because you can place your signup forms at strategic locations, in the sidebar, at the bottom of posts, in the footer, and so on. You can entice visitors with a free track or a giveaway and capture more subscribers.
Plus, you get to keep your list. It doesn’t matter what email service you use (i.e. MailChimp, AWeber, etc.), your list is your own. It’s your owned list!
Besides your own website, the best way to build your list is at shows. But online, your self-hosted website is the best place to achieve this end.
4. You Can Drive Search Traffic To Your Site
You have two choices:
You can send all of your traffic to Facebook, Blogger, Twitter and other third-party sites, or you can claim it as your own. I know which I’d prefer.
The thing about search traffic is that it tends to take a long time to build. Facebook, Pinterest and other networks have the advantage of being established sites, and when new content gets published there, it gets indexed by search engines almost instantaneously.
So when people search for you band or artist name, and you don’t have a website, you end up directing all of the traffic to your social media profiles.
You might have heard of search engine optimization (SEO) before. SEO is the practice of getting your site and content ranked in search results. So when you first launch your website, it isn’t necessarily going to be indexed or ranked. But with some work, you can make your website the top result for your artist or band name.
Plus, if you do any kind of blogging, you can also rank your posts and drive some traffic to your site that way. Just remember – it won’t happen overnight.
5. It Makes It Easy For People To Learn About You
Again, this is an issue of layout. Social networks sometimes provide you with the ability to provide information about your music or band, but it is often hidden from plain sight. Users have to click on the right links or tabs to be able to view it, if they aren't drawn away or distracted from it first.
On your own website, it’s simply a matter of creating a “Bio” or “About” page and liking it up in your navigation menu. That way, people immediately know where they can click to find out more about you. Sadly, because of how social networks are laid out, it usually isn’t that easy.
Maybe it’s not that big of a deal for your fans. Feel free to ask them. But it is a big deal in terms of opportunity. If journalists, media people, event planners or venue owners want to find out more about you and book a show or an interview, they’re not going to wade around in a sea of mess just to figure out who you are or how to contact you.
You’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table if people can’t find the information they’re looking for.
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6. It Makes It Easy For People To Contact You
This goes hand-in-hand with my last point. Sure, people can connect with you on Facebook or Twitter. That doesn’t mean they will.
Think of every business transaction you’ve ever completed. Was it done via social media, or was it done via email, phone, or in-person? One of the latter, right?
It’s not that transactions can’t take place on social media. It’s not that people don’t click to read blog posts or subscribe to email lists. But social networks are where people go to have conversations and interact with each other.
This is actually a good thing, because to me a personal connection is the foundation for a solid business relationship. I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me – interested in forming a business relationship – that never even took the time to introduce themselves or establish context for the communication. I’m sorry, this is not a board game – you can’t jump over to square 20. The lineup is forming at square one. Try starting there.
If you want to sell your merch and be booked more often, you should set up a “contact” page on your website. At minimum, it should include your email, and if possible, a phone number and a mailing address too.
7. You’ll Increase Your Chances Of Getting Booked
Every artist wants more opportunities. But here’s the thing – the best online booking tool you will ever have is your own website.
Think about it. A website makes your contact information easy to find. Plus, if your site looks professional, the people interested in booking you will take you more seriously.
If you set it up correctly, all the information they could ever want is right there – your music, high quality photography, your bio, video, tour dates, and contact information. In essence, it’s like a living, breathing press kit.
When someone asks you where they can find out more about you online, what do you tell them? If you answer “my website”, then you’ll increase your chances of being taken seriously and create more opportunities to get booked.
Overview of Why You Need a Self-Hosted Website
You have complete control over your website.
You get to choose your layout, content, and branding.
A website makes you look professional.
It shows that you're serious and committed to your career as a musician.
A website helps you build your email list.
You can place signup forms anywhere you like.
You can drive traffic to your website through search engines.
In the long run, you'll be able to drive more traffic to your own site than your social profiles.
It makes it easy for peopel to learn about you.
It gives journalists, media people, event planners and venue owners the information they need to contact and book you.
It makes it easy for people to contact you.
You can create a simple contact page where people can go to get in touch painlessly.
You'll get booked more.
Musicians with websites are seen as professionals, and get booked more for worthwhile gigs.
Final Thoughts on Owning & Maintaining a Self-Hosted Website
A website takes some work to set up and maintain. Plus, like anything else, it needs to be promoted. It doesn’t offer a free ride to superstardom.
What it does offer is an opportunity to brand yourself, to craft a professional image, and it can also act like a placeholder for all of your musical activity – like a press kit or portfolio.
It’s also a safeguard against possible changes in the online world. Even if your favorite social network goes down, if you’ve built your website, and you’ve captured email addresses, you’re safe and secure in the knowledge that you did everything in your power to ensure your future success. And that’s just smart.