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.
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.