D.I.Y.

6 Rules To Make A Band Website That Rocks

Bandzoogle GUEST POST: As the founder of music website generator and marketing platform Bandzoogle, Chris Vinson is no stranger to artist web sites. In the 90's, after his own band broke up, the record label they'd been signed to hired him as a web designer for their multi-platinum artists. As he became overloaded with requests to update their websites, he created a "control panel" to let managers make the changes themselves. Chris realized that the program could also help indie bands build and update their own websites, and Bandzoogle was born.

bandzoogle.com More than ever, a band's website has become the "hub" of their online activity. The idea is to use social networks to grab a fan's interest and then direct them back to your website to make deeper connections. (More on that in a previous Hypebot post). By using this "hub" model, you're in control of your fan's experience, and most importantly, your fan list.

So, lets say you've got a new fan interested enough to click on a link or offer from your MySpace page. Is your website functional and compelling enough to keep their interest, and to get them to return?

Over the past 10 years, I've built hundreds of band websites for artists big and small. Whether they had 100,000 fans or 100, there has been a distinct trend in what works, and more importantly what doesn't. I've summarized them below:

Rule #1: No flash!
I'll admit it, in the past I've made all-Flash band sites. Dozens of them. They looked great — and fans hated them.

The fact is, Flash just gets in the way of your content. Because of this, I've found that the use of Flash and the amount of return visits is inversely proportional. Fans don't care about swoopy animations, they want to learn about you and make a connection.

Rule #2: Make a strong front page.


New visitors will give you around 2 seconds in deciding to leave or explore more. This means that your front page needs to be clear, and present a compelling reason to stay.

I've found the best formula is a front page that combines these four elements:

  • a one paragraph bio
  • a music player
  • summarized news/upcoming gigs
  • a compelling offer to join the mailing list (like a free track)

Rule #3: Keep it simple.
Your site's navigation isn't a good place to be artsy. Name your "store" page "store", and your contact page "contact". Save the creativity for your blog posts.

On a related note, aside from the front page, try to limit pages to one concept per page. Don't put your photo gallery on your bio page for example, add a separate page to make it easier to find.

Rule #4: Keep it updated.
If a returning visitor doesn't find anything new on your website, the chances of them coming back is pretty slim. Add new content weekly, or more frequently if possible. Content can be as simple as recent gig pics, a blog post, an acoustic version of a track. If your site isn't easy to update, consider changing to a service that is. There are tons of options that make updating websites painless.

Rule #5: Make it personal.
Don't leave it up to your manager or label to create content for your site. Fans are there to hear from you. The more personal you can make it, the better. Get fans behind the scenes in the writing process by posting works in progress, or photos from the road on the tour. Spend time responding to posts in your guestbook or forum. If fans see you contributing, they will too.

Rule #6: Create a community
If you can, adding features like a forum can get fans talking, and build a community around your site. The results can be amazing. I've seen fans create friendships, organize to request songs on the radio, and even meetup and carpool to get to out of town gigs, all from connections made on a band forum.

Though "New" music business and technology landscape changes fast, these six rules have been constants. Did I miss any? Let me know what you've found works on your website.

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing those Daniel. I can see that they are mostly powered by Topspin. They are all clear and easy to navigate.
    I would say that some are more successful than others from a fan perspective. From my experience, the most effective sites balance the community aspect and the “conversion” aspect (selling, joining the fan list). Some of these sites could benefit from greater fan/artist interaction, rather than a heavy focus on sales/conversion of the visitor.
    Of your list, my favourite is Logan Lynn’s site. It has great frequently updated content, which he writes himself. That kind of personal touch is expected by fans, but is surprisingly rare for accomplished artists. Many larger artists leave the website for managers or labels to update, and they lose the fan connection that way.

  2. re: Point #1.
    Umm… No Flash = no content.
    Last I knew Flash is the virtual standard tech for audio and video on the web. I know Flash bashing is fashionable right now, but ultimately it’s the carpenter that builds the house, not the tools…

  3. JP: Flash music and video players are fine (and pretty much a requirement right now); what I meant was flash intros and animation which don’t add anything useful for the fan experience.

  4. I know you have a web design service/product to sell, but just saying “Flash = bad” doesn’t really provide the reader with any real info.
    There are just as many bad blog format sites which make content hard to find & or slow to load. Lumping them all under “Flash” is convenient but misguided.
    “Flash music and video players are fine ”
    But again… these are tools and can be abused. For ex., How many blog sites punch the browser in the gut because the front page is a mile long and stuffed full of YouTube and Vimeo embeds? It’s getting to the point where wordpress-style sites are taking longer to load than the old Flash intro sites!

  5. JP, see points 2 and 3 regarding making content hard to find. I agree, I’ve seen plain HTML sites just as hard to navigate if they don’t follow those points. Having a page a mile long will cause the page to load slowly, and isn’t a great first impression.
    In terms of flash, many artists came to me as a designer wanting something fully animated. The stats prove that fans much prefer static sites, and they are far easier to keep updated. I still see a ton of all-flash sites that I wouldn’t want to come back to.

  6. I understand what you’re saying. I just disagree with the blanket statement that “Flash is bad.” I would say maybe we can agree that many designers don’t know how to deliver proper UI via Flash and get carried away with gimmickry. But this too will happen with jQuery, canvas, etc. in the coming years.
    I think you can still use Flash and stay in line with your other points. You can dynamically import YouTube video, Flickr feeds, and twitter updates just as you can with a static site. It’s not as easy as posting simple embed code, but it’s possible.
    How about the cons of a static page:
    -No multi-tasking – often times listeners can’t stream audio while surfing without creating a pop-up (if available).
    -Content gets caught “below the fold”.
    -Inconsistent layout among browsers and platforms.
    Don’t forget, without Flash, users can’t listen to content on Facebook, mySpace, Soundcloud, etc., etc. If someone doesn’t have Flash, they obviously are not that interested in content in the first place.

  7. To clarify my point, I’d change it to “100% flash sites are bad”. Like you pointed out, flash is necessary to stream music and video now. But all-flash almost guarantees a site that is less user-friendly.
    Flash doesn’t scale to fit screens, so on netbooks, you’ll have content off the page. Also, flash doesn’t render on iPhones or iPads, so you have to maintain a whole other non-flash site. With sensible design, a static site will always render better across browsers compared to all flash.
    I think that the best compromise is a hybrid of flash and HTML/CSS. So a dynamic element like the page header is in flash to add some visual interest, but it doesn’t force the user to deal with flash based navigation and content.

  8. Good post. All great comments. Keep it simple, clean, easy to maneuver, and connect/build the relationship with your fans.
    Flash can be nice to have if used effectively. However, from a fan perspective I want to go to the site, quickly click to what I’m interested in without having to wait for a graphic to come across, then either click to another page on the site or move on.
    Some famous artists, whose music I love, have web pages that I hate to go to because of all the flash, moving graphics, etc.
    Also, please connect with your fans. Putting a site up and a place to engage in a community is great but if you don’t use it your fans will start to disappear from your site. You don’t have to connect every single minute or day but you need to 2-3 times per week. Relationships are key and fans love it !!!

  9. I have to say step six can be a bit of a double edged sword. When people see there’s a community/forum that’s incredibly inactive, people aren’t that into it & you are has-beens or never-wuzes.
    One big thing is to check in different browsers with different window widths. Sometimes things can get funky.

  10. Good article, now if only you had made it sooner 😉 KISS has been and will continue to be the weapon of choice when making the web interface, IMHO… the no flash rule is a good one (it might be slightly oversimplified, but still a valid point), it clutters the space, enlarges the webpage, overcomplicates navigation and disturbs visual balance, this has to be simple fact, not the discussion. The interesting part of flash isn’t websites, I have no real need to have animated buttons, “but I really really want to”… Believe me when I say tat I have tried alot of different solutions, both homemade anomated flash buttons, simple interact by click GIF/flash, video buttons and augmented sites.
    The result is almost always slower navigation/loading, less trafic, and like stated recuring traffic drops a good bit. If you make flash sites, it might be a good idea to make it as a secondary page, so its an option, and not the only way to view your site.
    Rule 1-3 is tied together, simplicity, relevance and easy update’s are the cornerstone of the front page i think, the personality should be a no-brainer, but looking at myface and spacebook it appears it isn’t.
    As to #6 it is a doozie, communities take alot of time, and slow communities slowly kill themselfes by lack of activity

  11. This is a very good article with good points. I have to agree with just say no to flash sites. The things that infuriate me about them are that the user has to usually navigate through the the site EVERY SINGLE TIME they visit to get to a subpage, and the wait time between pages due to animations. But enough about flash. There is one website all about web design stuff called http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com. It gives examples and pointers on what NOT to do when designing a website. It’s very informative and funny. I’d recommend looking and the worst pages of the year. They’re pretty bad.

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