We’ve all gotten frustrated with websites before. The information we’re looking for is hard to find, or there’s a huge video pop-up that we can’t figure out how to close. Your website is the main hub for your online presence. No matter how many social media platforms you’re on, your website will always be the central source for all your information in one place. A bad website makes it look like you don’t understand how to use the internet at all. So how do you make sure you’re not that guy with a website that looks like it was built on Geocities in 1999?
There are lots of incredible web designers who can help you build a beautiful and detailed site, and we can build a simple one for you here at LRM. But if you don’t have the budget or would just rather build your website on your own, we recommend a user-friendly platform like Squarespace or Wix that lets you design your own site visually and helps you through the back-end necessities, like purchasing a URL and optimizing SEO. Wordpress is also great if you have a bit of HTML and SEO knowledge and want more extensive add-ons and customization.
If those words sound a bit scary to you, don't worry. You don't need all the bells and whistles to start. It’s often better to have a simple and clean page rather than including a ton of detail that makes it difficult to navigate. However, make sure you include the essential information that your fans will be looking for. We have a few tips to make your website professional, useful, and effective.
1. The Homepage
Your homepage definitely should be simple. You want all your information to be easy to find from the homepage, but you don’t need to load the page itself with content. Feature your most important recent news (i.e. your latest album, tour announcement, or a major upcoming event), and put everything else on sub-pages in a clear top or side menu (we'll talk more about the menu next). This isn't an exact science; you can feature more than one thing on your homepage, as long as it doesn't become cluttered. Your homepage could have one image or several sections, but too many and people will stop scrolling before they see it all. Whatever platform you’re using will give you layout templates to choose from. When in doubt, follow the template to keep it clean. If you want to add some flash, here are a few options that can help you include more content without crowding your homepage.
Rotating Banners – Rather than one header image at the top of your page, you can have a banner that flips through several images, and each can link to another page. We recommend keeping it to around 3 images so that visitors will stick around to see them all, and if you can change the timing, make sure they don’t flick through so quickly that a visitor can’t read all the information.
Parallax Scrolling – Some templates offer parallax scrolling, which makes it look like the content on your page is sliding up rather than the whole page scrolling down. Take a look at Urban Walks, Anton & Irene, or this list for some examples. People tend to either love or hate this kind of design, but many websites recently have opted for a single page with parallax scrolling rather than multiple sub-pages.
If you're not using a single-page design, you’ll want to have a menu that links to your sub-pages. Again, keep it simple. Use one-word titles as much as possible, 2-6 pages, and stick to 1 or 2 drop-down menus. I like to map out my websites in a flow chart. Here's what the LRM navigation flow looks like:
Thinking of it this way, you want the chart to be wide rather than tall. This means that you won’t have very many drop-downs in the menu or pages within pages. Keep it mostly flat, one step removed from the homepage.
It might surprise you how many musicians don’t have a place on their websites where visitors can play their music, or if they do, it’s very hard to find. Your music is your product, so make it easy to hear! An embedded player is best so that people can listen directly on your site. You can embed songs from Spotify or Bandcamp, either on your homepage or on a "Music" sub-page. You should also include links to buy your music wherever you’re selling it.
Pet peeve: DON’T have your music automatically start playing when the site opens. There isn't much that's worse than having a song unexpectedly blast out from your computer in the office, or on your phone on the train, or anywhere, really. If you really want to have music or a video play automatically, at least include a very obvious pause button. If a website has automatic music that I can’t control, I’m getting off of it as quickly as possible.
Unless you have a Daft Punk or Sia-esque mystique going on, your fans are going to want to put a face to your music (and even they have pictures of themselves, just without their faces revealed). It’s always best to have some high-quality photos from a professional shoot, for your website, social media, and press outreach, but if you're early in your career and haven’t done a shoot yet, you could include a stream of your Instagram feed. It’s also nice to include some pictures from shows, photos of you with your fans, behind-the-scenes shots, etc.
5. Social Links
Your website is your information center, but once your fans have found the info they're looking for, they'll want to connect with you through social media. Whatever pages you have, make sure there’s a link to them on your website.
Your bio is important for two main reasons: 1 – Press, venues, and any manager, label, or other company you hope to work with will want to know your history and what you’ve done in your career. 2 – We strongly believe in the power of personal connections with your fans. Tell your whole story, and share things that others can relate to. Where did you grow up? What college did you go to? People love to support artists who are from where they're from. Do you have a pet? Are you a die-hard fan of a certain sports team? Do you do charity work? Your bio should focus primarily on your musical career, but mentioning a few non-musical details can make your audience feel closer to you and more invested.
7. Contact Info
Putting contact info on your site is always a bit of a risk: you could get overwhelmed with fan mail or stalked by an uber-fan. However, it’s pretty standard to have a contact page, especially if you’re hoping any press or music business partners might reach out to you. If you don’t want to publicly reveal your email, add a contact form that forwards to your email, like ours!
8. Tour Dates
Data shows that most visitors to major artist websites go straight to their tour page. You can get music on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else, but the most reliable source for tour info and tickets is still the artist’s website. If you’re not touring, you should still include information on your next show or any regular nights that you play, but you might not need a whole separate page; if you don’t have a long list of dates, you could make this a small section on your homepage.
In our work at LRM, we’ve found that video is the best content for fan interaction. Think about it: a few seconds of a great video on Twitter pulls you in, and soon you’ve watched 2 minutes, whereas you would quickly scroll by a photo. If you have any music videos, feature them. If you have live performance videos, definitely put those on your website, too. If not, take some behind-the-scenes videos in the studio or backstage. Show a little bit of your life, making that personal connection again.
You might not think of a blog as essential to your website, and there’s a reason we have it at number 10 and not number 1. However, search engines prioritize sites that are updated frequently, and a blog is an easy way to do that. You can use your blog like a diary, sharing stories from the road or your inspiration for a song. Or you can call it “News” and share announcements: a new album, tour dates as they're revealed, a major interview, new merchandise, etc. Some web pros recommend blogging twice a week. While it might not be necessary to post quite that often–we can’t even keep up that pace on our site–you should update your site every chance you get to keep it relevant and at the front of Google’s radar.
What else do you have on your website? What do you like about your favorite artists' sites? Share your thoughts and insight in the comments!