A decade-old indie music DVD taught me the importance of having your own website

I suppose I should say “reminded me of” the importance of having your own website, because it’s something we’ve been championing for years! And if you’re a HostBaby user, you already know how important it is to have your own web address and a site YOU control.

When we talk about the benefits of your own musician website, we’re usually focused on the here and now, but staking your claim on your own little space on the web is also beneficial to the long-term health of your brand. Something I watched over the weekend reminded me of this.

I was checking out an old-ish (mid-to-late 2000s) DVD that an indie artist had put together himself, and it featured a bunch of groups and solo performers from his label, showcasing their music and giving each of them some camera time to describe who they were, where they were from, what their music was about, etc.

Every single one of them gave out their Myspace address.

Along with the unintentional side effect of immediately making this video (which was actually a really cool, DIY effort, especially for the time) seem painfully dated, it also shined a huge spotlight on the problems that come with putting all your eggs in a basket you’re not allowed to hold, let alone keep.

Remember how big Myspace was? Depending on your age, you may not, but it was HUGE, and lots of folks – musicians especially, it seemed – spent serious time souping up their Myspace pages. Heck, there were even services that would trick out your profile for a fee. And for a while there, it worked! There were bands and artists who gained serious exposure and huge followings via the now-tumbleweed-infested platform.

But when Myspace fell from favor, it fell hard. And all that work artists put into their pages? They couldn’t take it with them when everyone left. Why? Because somebody else had the keys to the house they built.

A dedicated site with your own, personalized URL? That’s yours. You control it. And it’s basically timeless. There are artists who have been using the same URL for their music for 20+ years now, and though the look of their site has undoubtedly morphed over the years, the home base has remained the same. The website address from the liner notes of their late-90’s CD is still active. Smart move.

And doesn’t “yourband.com” just have a better ring to it than “myspace.com/yourbandmusic4real503”?

Resizing images on your site

You’ve got options. Let’s make ’em quick and easy.

Resizing images to fit the needs of your site is something you’ll have to do occasionally, whether it’s a design choice, a file-size consideration, or maybe pushing a low-res image to its size limits. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to find a process that works for you. Once you’re comfortable with your resizing method of choice, it’ll become second nature.

But wait: Can’t I do all my image resizing from within my HostBaby account?

Absolutely, and instructions on how to do that are right here if you need them. Sometimes this will be your quickest option – just part of the flow of the work you’re putting in. And if that works for you, perfect!

But maybe you’re up against the size limits of your media library, or you plan on using this image in a number of different sizes, for promotional materials outside of your main site, and want to easily save those images to your computer. Or maybe you’re looking for a few more tools to play with. This is where the mighty PicResize comes in.

PicResize makes it easy to not only change the dimensions of your pics (by percentage or by custom size), but it also crops, rotates, flips, and can even add visual filters to your image a la Instagram or Photoshop. And once you get the hang of it, it’s real fast.

Need to resize multiple images? Check out their batch uploader. The cropping and special effects (filters, etc.) functions aren’t available in batch mode, but if you need to change up a bunch of pics real quick, this is the way to go.

Need it even faster? They’ve got a quick resize function, too.

Find the one that meets your needs and make sure to bookmark it for quick access down the road.

Got any other tips for image resizing? Let us know in the comments!

 

Your press photos: Variety is the key

We’ve talked before about having hi-res, quality photos on your site for use in the press, whether that be online or traditional. Now, let’s talk about variety in those photos, and how this can really help your chances of getting that pretty face of yours some media exposure.

This whole idea is something that didn’t occur to me until early in my own music career, when a local paper was doing a layout for their annual band directory, and wanted to feature my band in the photos section. Ideally, they were looking for a landscape-shot photo – wider than it is tall. (You know, like when you turn your phone sideways.) We didn’t have one. Never thought about it. We had a bunch of portrait-style photos and some square ones, but nothing more “widescreen.”

We knew somebody at the paper and they ended up patching a few photos together to serve their purpose, but if we hadn’t had that connection we would have been passed over, and even as it was, we ended up looking less professional than the artists surrounding us on those photo pages.

So, when you’re planning your photo shoot, make variety a priority! If your photographer doesn’t suggest it from the get-go, let them know that you’re looking to cover your bases, and want both portrait and landscape shots to use on your site, with some location/outfits/color-scheme variances worked in, as well.

Then, upload your sweet mix of hi-res photos to your site, knowing that you’re ready for any press coming your way.

Featuring your instruments on your site

Does your instrument tell a story? Well, really, they all do – but for our purposes, it’s a matter of whether that story is interesting or not.

I think we can agree that “It’s blue and I just bought it on sale at Guitar Center last week” is not very compelling.

However, how about: “It was my grandfather’s. He was a luthier and built it himself from a tree split by lightning in his boyhood backyard. He played it, my mother played it, and now it’s been passed down to me.” You might be onto something there.

It’s this kind of story that, for the right audience, can help you connect with fans on a musical level that’s not just about your songs – it’s about the tools you use to create them.

The provenance of an instrument, especially old ones, can be fascinating, even if you don’t know the whole story. Maybe there are some chunks missing in the narrative that you’re hoping to help fill with some assistance from fans, friends, and the internet. Maybe now, since the web is so dense with info, you were able to determine exactly how old your instrument is and it’s way older – or way newer – than you thought. Tell the story of your journey to finding out exactly where your instrument was born!

Maybe the instruments you and your band play are non-traditional: handmade, obscure, something you frankensteined together yourself – a piece of gear you wouldn’t normally see at a shop or a live gig. Describe how it is played, how it was built, or what inspired you to pick up an instrument that isn’t usually featured in “traditional” music.

Or, maybe you’re just a good-old-fashioned gearhead, and it’s not the instruments themselves that are especially rare or noteworthy, it’s the way in which you combine them that makes it interesting. Talk about your guitar, pre-amp, and speaker, but also tell us how many pedals are on your board, how you keep track of them, and how they work together to produce your signature sound. Not every reader is going to be all-on on some high-level gear talk, but the ones who are will love it.

Got other ideas about how you can feature your instruments on your site? Let us know in the comments. Already got an interesting story about your gear up on your HostBaby site? Add a link!

 

Adjust your site’s colors to match your latest release

If you’ve got a new album or single ready to release, you’re gonna want your site to look its best in anticipation of more visitors – especially those who have never been there before. Need some inspiration? Look no further than the artwork accompanying your project.

HostBaby makes it simple to change the overall look of your site, so adjusting your main colors to complement your new cover art can be a simple and fun way to give your site a fresh look, while also drawing big-time attention to your new music.

Some cover images or graphics might not be conducive to a simple matchy-matchy color scheme, but most will. Take the main color elements from your art, match ’em to the colors in your Site Builder, and find a great place front-and-center to feature your cover image. It’ll look great, frequent visitors will definitely take notice, and new visitors will see that you put time into thinking about this and are serious about your music.

If you plan to do a cover-art reveal for your new music, this can act as an aspect of it. Even if you reveal your imagery on one or more of your social networks, use it as an opportunity to direct followers to your site, where you’ve got a new look based on your new release, along with a song preview, show dates – whatever you’ve got!

Have you redesigned your site with your latest release in mind? Let us know how you did it, how it worked, and if it’s still live, share a link!

Use a HearNow page to promote your new release

HearNow is a beautiful, clean, one-page website featuring your CD Baby release. You can link to this page on all the places you’d normally use to promote your music: It’s great for Facebook, Twitter, your mailing list – anywhere, really! It’s responsive, so it’ll look good on any screen it’s accessed on, from the biggest desktop to the smallest mobile phone.

HearNow imports your information directly from CD Baby, so you don’t have to have any technical knowledge to create your page. You’ll automatically see your cover art, along with clips or full-length streams (your choice) of your songs.

Within minutes of signing up, you’ll also have links to the major digital partners that CD Baby distributes to: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more.

HearNow also provides some basic stats on page views and buy-button clicks, so you can see how your page is performing.

Creating your HearNow page is super easy: simply log into your CD Baby Members account and in your dashboard, under “FEATURED TOOLS,” choose “RELEASE YOUR ONE-PAGE WEBSITE” to preview a HearNow page for any of your published CD Baby releases. Like it? You can get it up and running for less than 3 bucks a month.

Try HearNow today!

Setting goals for your music and using your site to accomplish them

We often talk about getting visitors on your site to take specific actions, and the importance of making clear exactly what you want them to do via your site design. Sometimes these can be ongoing projects like gathering emails via an eye-catching form on your site, or highlighting your tour dates front-and-center if you’re on the road.

But if you’re willing to get a bit more granular and pinpoint certain goals you’d like to meet for your music, you can use your site to take incremental steps forward, garnering small victories along the way to bigger successes.

“Grow my email list” is a solid goal, but it might be a little broad. Something like “I’d like to grow my email list by 300 names by the end of summer” is more immediate, gives you something specific to shoot for, and allows you an end date to assess what worked and what didn’t.

If the end of summer rolls around and you didn’t meet your goal, it’s time to dissect your strategy and determine what worked and what didn’t. Are you getting more email addresses on your merch-table sign-up sheets at gigs than you are via your site? Maybe that’ll motivate you to book more shows and mention your email sign-up sheet on the mic more, or maybe it’s letting you know that your email-capture method on your site isn’t as effective as it could be.

Then you can set another goal with your past results in mind, and adjust your objectives accordingly. Did you get 600 email addresses when you were shooting for 300? Harness what worked, push it harder, and try for 900 next time. Did you only get 100? Make adjustments to your game plan and see if you can top 150 new contacts.

Maybe you want to get 100 more views on your new video in the next week. Maybe you want people to vote for you in a “best local bands” survey. Maybe you want to book a house show for New Year’s Eve. Whatever it is, create a strategy for meeting that goal with your site and give it a shot! Find out what works, what doesn’t, and keep moving forward with your eyes on the prize.

Do you actively set goals for you and your music? Has it helped you? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.

Playing shows this summer? Plant your seeds now.

Got a tour lined up for this summer? Got a few gigs you’re playing this summer? Got ONE show you’re playing this summer? It’s never too early to tell your fans and friends to plan in advance for your upcoming performances in the summer months.

In the cold of February, people are longing for some warmth. You can’t change the weather (as far as we know…), but you can tell ’em to look ahead to July, when you’ll be playing that outdoor show on a Saturday afternoon. Yep, it’s a family-friendly gig, so they can mark it down on their calendar, plan to bring the kids, and look forward to some fun.

And speaking of calendars, make sure your calendar on your HostBaby site is up to date! People might be planning their summer fun well in advance, and you could fit right into that schedule.

Rolling through multiple cities on a summer tour? It’s definitely time to get the word out and let fans know you’ll be in their vicinity, and that they should bring some friends out to support. The longer lead time you allow, the more time people have to make those plans, get those tickets, and put some money away to buy your t-shirt before you ramble on to the next city.

Haven’t scheduled any summer gigs yet? There’s still time to lock ’em down and promote – it’s only February! Get some shows lined up, get ’em on your calendar page on your HostBaby site, and when you have promo posters, etc., as the gig approaches, feature those on the front page of your site, and it’ll make for a nice little build-up to the actual event.

Got any tips or stories about planning and promoting gigs well in advance? Let us know in the comments. Got gigs coming up this summer? Let us know what they are!

Using videos on your site to tell your story

We’ve talked before about your musician bio and how it should tell your story using the aspects of your career that fans, bookers, and journalists are apt to be most interested in. This can extend to your videos, too: in fact, sometimes it’s even more effective to show rather than tell.

While you can’t send a hard copy of a video to your target audience like you could a one-sheet bio, it’s still easy to make a well-done video a central part of your site, your YouTube page, and your general promotion push.

CD Baby artist Eleanor Dubinsky recently published a video as a “first glance” preview of her upcoming album, Soft Spot of My Heart, and it does a terrific job of telling the story of the origins of the music that will appear on the release. It also gives the viewer an up-close-and-personal look at Eleanor, her process, and her friends who helped her create the music, while at the same time building hype. Check it out:

Clearly a video like this takes some serious pre-planning, so it’s something to consider well in advance of an upcoming release. But creating a general bio vid about you and your music shouldn’t be as tough – if you’ve played live or been in the studio, did you take any pictures or video? Got any video of practices, songwriting sessions, or just goofing around? Use this footage to show who you are and how you got to where you’re at.

Take some quick phone videos of fans saying nice things about your music at your next show. Have a friend get some crowd shots and more “artsy” angles of your show. It doesn’t have to be fancy: phones take high-quality video now, and folks are more used to “on the fly” footage.

Put it all together in a short narrative (or have a more film-savvy friend help you edit), use one of your songs as the background, and add it to the top of your video page on your HostBaby site. You can also make it your intro video on your YouTube page, share it to your video tab on Facebook, and pin it to the top of your profile on Twitter.

Got a video like this you’d like to share or have any tips on how to get the most out of video on your site? Let us know in the comments!

Picking your domain name (when the one you want is taken)


Picking the right domain name (your web address) for your site is an important step in solidifying your online presence, but it can also be a stressful one, particularly if you can’t get “www.yourbandname.com.” This is a common problem for many artists, but there are plenty of solutions – some basic, some a little more creative.

Let’s look at some options, with the assumption that you tried to get “www.yourbandname.com” and it wasn’t available.

.net – Sometimes if the .com you want is not available, .net will be. That suffix has always played second fiddle to the mighty .com, so it might still have that “next-best-thing” air about it to some people, but that matters less and less these days, as most of the time people will be landing on your page via Google or a direct link.

.org – This suffix was originally intended for non-profit organizations, and though you might see it used for other purposes, that’s still the understood implication for an address ending in .org. Probably best to avoid this one.

.band or .rocks – These are relatively new, so you’ve got a decent chance of grabbing one. “.rocks” isn’t for everybody, and neither is “.band” (sorry, solo artists), but these are great options for certain musicians.

Other suffixes: Lots of countries have opened up their top-level domain suffixes to the public, allowing people to get creative with them. For example, “.am” is from Armenia, but AM radio stations have adopted it for their own use. Say your band name was Glam Slam: you could try and get www.glamsl.am. This is another way brands are using lesser-known suffixes in a fairly clever way.

Switching up the wording: Lots of artists just add “music” to the end of their band or artist name and grab the .com that way – this is really common, and an easy way to not only get a .com address, but also put “music” or “guitar” or “rocks” or “sings” at the end so people know what they’re in for!

We’ve discussed domain names before: Check out the following articles from our archives for even more tips, and please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments!

Domain Names: Choose them wisely!
What if my domain name is taken?
Do I Need to Have a “.com” Web Address?
How to pick your band’s domain name