MAT MARTIN | Using Third Party Platforms Alongside a Basic Music Website

12 February, 2012, 15:57

Blog · Industry

The Conversation Prism
The Conversation Prism

[ EDIT @ 18/06/2016: This post was written for clients of mine managing simple one-page html sites designed for musicians at a time when the dominance of MySpace in that field was undergoing a significant downturn. The streamlining of these low-budget projects was based on the alternative platforms available to musicians and experimentation with their parallel use and integration. The post doesn’t represent my current working methods or content handling preferences, as my remit and choice of platforms have changed considerably, as has the landscape of web use and development. There are, however some more general points of interest here and there still. ]

The following is extracted from a document I wrote this week for clients having one-page websites built. I hope it can be of wider use, or can generate some responses that will tighten all of this thinking up.

In order to keep your one-page website up to date and maximise its ability to allow people to connect with you in whichever way they prefer, it can be useful to create accounts with and use certain social networks and media hosting services. I also recommend the use of some of these as a way of avoiding having to pay for updates to your site where often-changing items like news feeds or tour dates are concerned.

There’s nothing worse than arriving at someone’s site to see that it clearly hasn’t been updated for months, showing old tour dates and news items that now bear little relevance to the activity of a band. Relying on expensive back-end updates or creating a web presence which needs updating in several places can result in this situation very quickly.

People use social media as a way to organise their lives, share with friends and discover new interests. If you are not present on your audiences preferred network, they could be less likely come looking for you elsewhere. If they love Facebook and they find you there, they will probably click ‘like’, if Tumblr or Twitter is their thing and they are able to follow you there, they will be excited to do so.

Being present in people’s social media feeds means that, provided you follow up with good content, you will never be far from their minds where music is concerned, and they are unlikely to forget that you exist. They won’t have to come looking for you, they have given you permission to come to them.

Your site is where Google searches for your band name will take people. It’s the place you can control and organise to be exactly what you want, and to which all your other web presences refer in content and design. Ideally it would say something clear and unique about your product with its style and design. It can offer select video and audio examples, but these should always link back to a place where the rest of your media lives, can be paid for, shared, connected to or somehow interacted with. Your site is at once a hub at which your diverse networks and presences feed into one another and a springboard from which people can discover you in whichever way they like.

Go to meet your audience. Don’t wait for them to find you.

These are the services I suggest using within a basic artist one-page site:

Artistdata: A fantastic free tool for touring musicians. Enter your tour dates into their very precise system (and it takes some attention to detail, but it’s worth it), and Artistdata will feed out info about your shows to all the places you ask it to, including Twitter (“5 new shows announced!” / “Playing a show tonight at La Scala in Milan 8pm”), Facebook, Songkick, etc etc. Their list of tools is extensive and getting better all the time. They can also provide a calendar widget which sits in your site and pulls your dates in without needing updates.

NB. Artistdata was recently acquired by SonicBids, so if you already have an account with the latter you could look into how to get your shows to feed through to Artistdata from there (sadly at the time of writing this can’t be done the other way around).

NNB. (sic.) see the addendum posted on 04th March for a development to the way in which I’m suggesting using Artistdata, especially in relation to Facebook.

Mailchimp: A mailing list client with a generous free account and options for upgrades if your list gets huge. These guys manage your list(s) (if you are in more than one band, or run a label etc, a single account will allow you several lists), offer you fully editable WYSIWYG html email functionality, mail client optimisation features, sound advice on how to write great updates, customisable signup forms, etc… The statistics and analytical data you can get from them on your campaigns is not only really useful but also very easy to understand. They are a real asset to the independent musician.

Bandcamp: It is impossible to stress how important what these people are doing is. Bandcamp offer a PayPal-powered audio interface from which bands can sell, promote, give away and stream their audio. A clean interface, impeccable metadata management, high quality output (your customers can choose from an enormous number of audio options to download from your single upload), digital packages, physical sales, combination deals, cross-band promotion, and a wealth of tiny details that you never knew you needed make Bandcamp an excellent and fair way to sell music online. Their share options allow for Facebook integration and their embed codes work almost anywhere. Their back-end stats pages are fantastic. They will also provide download codes and allow you to set secret ‘discount codes’ as rewards for fans. They also have no exclusivity deal so selling through them doesn’t preclude you selling in any other way. And they’re the friendliest bunch of people, too. They take 15% of sales, which feels fine for me, given what they do for us all.

Facebook: Everyone knows about Facebook. At least half of the UK population is signed up at time of writing this. It is the one way in which people can connect to you with a single click and stay connected to you with minimal effort on all sides. The biggest mistake for bands seems to be differentiating between personal and public profiles though. Make sure that you have a public profile (you need a personal account to run this from) – you should be encouraging people to ‘like’ what you do rather than ‘friend’ you personally. The public profile means that your personal FBing doesn’t get mixed up with the message you are trying to put out there, it offers plenty of tools (for example it connects with Mailchimp and Bandcamp very well) and loads of really easy sharing options for your fans to tell their friends about you. You can also put a ‘like’ button on your site, linked to your public profile.

Tumblr: Arguably the most elegant and simple of the three main stand-alone blogging platforms (Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger), Tumblr is a simple news feed, designed to be more like an online scrapbook than a straightforward blog. It is like an older brother to Twitter – you can follow users who will end up in your timeline, re-blog others’ posts, and are invited to put up not only text but photos, links, audio, etc. Tumblr will create an RSS feed for you which people can subscribe to in their chosen reader and which a web developer can pull into a feed for your home page, again removing the need for regular updates to the back-end of your site. If you’ll be doing this it is important to update your blog in a consistent way so that the formatting looks good at its destination (since that’s where most people will see it first) and to update regularly.

A note about blogs and news feeds: These can be problematic for bands, and no matter which platform you pick if the content you’re generating isn’t engaging people then you’ll be missing out on enthusiasm and engagement from fans. What it is best to post will vary depending on your own style and the preferences of your audience (most blogs will offer you stats of some kind – take a look and learn something about how engaging different posts have been to people), but as a rule I like to try and get a balance of serious, professional fact (“We’re going to SXSW – here’s the fundraiser link” / “Album launch party this Saturday”) and personal opinion / openness (“We had such a great time on tour, thanks for coming out. Here’s a fun story from the road…”). As seems to be true of Twitter, people engage much more if as well as getting what you’re trying to sell them they get the sense that they are getting to know you as a person.

Here are some services I suggest using alongside your site, with ideas of how they can be integrated:

Soundcloud: Even if your audio is hosted on Bandcamp you can put it up on Soundcloud too. Their SEO is great, helping searches for your tracks and band name show up useful links on Google, and their platform will let people share your music with each other. People can follow you here and receive updates when you post a track – they have a great commenting system too. You’ll be able to manage any podcasts very easily from here, and their embeddable players are getting better and better.

YouTube: Love or hate YouTube it is apparently now the second biggest search engine on the Internet. Not only for music and video, but for everything, so it is important to make sure your YouTube content is representing you well. It’s a good idea to upload content yourself  to your own channel (even if it’s already there on someone else’s account) – it’s important to keep hold of your assets, and video is one of the most valuable. Make sure that your catalogue is represented and that your music is available, even if it is just with a still image or slideshow. Think about making interviews and organise some live performances in controlled environments which can be done cheaply and give great results.

Vimeo: As with YouTube, create an account and upload your content yourself. Make a channel, too. If you are embedding video anywhere else online Vimeo players are beautiful and work very well. They are also ad-free. I try to use Vimeo as much as I can but make sure everything is doubled on YouTube for those people who go to it automatically.

Twitter: Twitter takes time to get to know. Strange, perhaps, since it is probably the network with the simplest premise. As with your news feed, make sure that you balance your updates between the professional, the personal and the trivial and pay attention to which tweets engender most replies, retweets, follows and unfollows, and adjust accordingly. follow plenty of people and interact with them. It soon goes from being an effort to make to being a fulfilling conversation, so persevere. Don’t forget to link your Artistdata and Mailchimp accounts and your Tumblr blog to your Twitter, too, so that those updates are announced to your followers there.

And finally, here’s why MySpace does not feature in either of the above lists (courtesy of @dubber):

I’ve tried to explain this, but I have never done a better job than is done in the following articles. Please read them. Please quit MySpace.