Musicians' websites, despite the relative ease in coming up with a list of what they should have and what they should do, are a weird hybrid when you step back and look at who's being served. Musicians and the folks working with them on websites really need to create something that serves the musician, the fans, the press, booking agents, sponsors and maybe even your enemies. For this post I want to look only at the needs of the press as broadly defined from big brand journalists to tiny unknown bloggers and all points in between.
When a story breaks, journalists get on the phone, bloggers go to the web.
At least that's the way it was for a minute back when blogging was shiny and new. Now all bets are off on how anybody is working because labels like journalist and blogger overlap in so many areas, especially with journalists blogging and mainstream media hiring bloggers, that you have to look at the individual to know how they operate and what they need.
And the reality is, except for the handful of media people with which you're going to build some sort of relationship, there are just too many writers with too many individual and usually unstated rules about what they want and how they want it to sort things out. Until somebody comes up with a service that effectively addresses that issue (getting closer but we're not there yet) you have to find general operating rules in order to optimize your chances of coverage.
Make Great Content Easily Available Without Roadblocks
By content I mean all the things that a writer might need or want or use besides your music. It's typically a good idea to have embeddable video or audio available for writers to use that relates directly to wherever you are in your musical journey but that gets into more complex decisions involving what you're giving away.
All the other stuff includes everything from photos to press releases to links to coverage on other sites. Except for music that you don't want to make freely available on your site, everything I'm discussing should be accessible through a clearly marked section for the press that explicity states that this content can be freely used by writers in their coverage.
While it's true that some of us act fairly entitled these days, gunning and grabbing whatever we want from the sites of musicians we write about, all writers tend to have unique and quirky guidelines about what they take that sometimes involve the policies of the publications they write for.
Old school types tend to deal with this by putting all material for the press behind a firewall and conducting some sort of screening, even if fairly basic, before providing access. But writers on deadlines and those who just like to move fast are going to go with what they have. So you might have a beautiful pic behind that firewall but the guy or gal that's never written about you before and has a deadline to meet is going with that grainy picture from 5 years back they got off Wikimedia because it's ready to go.
Basic To Make Available
Graphics - Whatever logo or image symbolizes your band should be available in multiple sizes from a thumbnail image to an image ready for print publication. If there are multiple versions, make those available as well. Sometimes writers prefer to choose an image that isn't the one that's currently on everybody's site.
Photos - Same as above but also remember to have an updated image of your band available and, ideally, pics related to your current project. These can include anything from a pic of the cafe at which you wrote all the songs to a photo symbolizing what a song is about. Be sure to include who took the photograph.
Stories - Bios, origin tales, funny things that happened while you were playing on the street, it's all potential material for writers. So have this stuff readily available. If you're writing about it on your blog, a quick guide to blog posts linked from the press section of your site will do as well.
Facts - Whatever those are these days, be sure to include some dry, boring info that is critical for those making sense of your story. Facts might include who's in the band, what names they go by, what year the band was formed and where, your discograpy (or a link to it) and who you're signed with these days since your Wikipedia entry may or may not make that clear.
Links - Be sure to include a section with links to media coverage that makes you look good. That can include things like a hardcore fan's essay on Facebook about why your band is the best f*cking band that ever lived. Sometimes it's the perfect thing to add a little flavor to a piece.
If In Doubt About What To Make Available
Not sure what to include? Second guessing yourself?
Assume you're creating a resource for somebody who's never heard of you, has never heard of what you do, is only writing about you because somebody told them to and refuses all direct communication.
It's usually not that bad but sometimes it actually is. So give writers easy access to what they need to write about you so they don't go to less friendly sources, start doubting your credibility or get grumpy because they'd like to do a better job but just don't have time to do further research.
Note: If you know of great resources that may help musicians with this issue, from Wordpress plugins to services like Brandfolder, please add in the comments.
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