Organize your webmail with message filters

If you get a lot of email, you can now make sorting it simpler by using automatic message filters to filter messages into folders using criteria you specify. It’s time to organize to your heart’s delight! Here’s how.

If you’re using Moving Pictures but not using this feature, you should be!

I found myself on a great-looking HostBaby site the other day, the home of the Dirk Quinn Band. When you first land there, you can see they’re making perfect use of the Moving Pictures theme: with some great live footage of the band looping continuously, their site is dynamic without being overly busy, and really makes a solid first impression.

To add to this vibe, they’re also taking advantage of a widget option that is exclusive to Moving Pictures. In the bottom-right-hand corner of their site (also pictured above), they’ve got their social links, email list, and tour-date widgets rotating smoothly, catching the eye without distracting.

These widget choices reflect their priorities – gaining social-media followers, building their email list, and getting fans out to their shows – and they’re now able to include those actionable items across every page of their site in a cool, rhythmic way that goes hand-in-hand with the overall feel of the theme.

Are you using Moving Pictures and not taking advantage of this cool feature? Hook it up! Just select the widgets you’d like to have rotate through (you’re not limited to the ones mentioned here) and watch ’em add even more depth to your site.

Look like something you’d like to try but you’re using a different theme? Again, this is exclusive to Moving Pictures, so switch to that theme and give it a shot!

You can find even more info on HostBaby widgets here.

Are you using this feature currently, or did you just set it up and want to show it off? Hit us with links in the comments and we’ll check ’em out.

Are you missing out on sales because you’re making this mistake?

There are a handful of things to discuss here in regards to the above tweet:

First, Dave is using the word “purchase,” not “stream” or “listen to.” Dave seems to be the kind of fellow who enjoys supporting bands via buying their music (artists love guys like Dave!), but I’m not sure that even means vinyl or CDs. He could just be talking about downloads. Either way, he’s not saying he looked for a Spotify link and didn’t see it. He’s saying he was ready to BUY something and couldn’t. That’s not a good luck for a musician’s website.

Second, don’t forget about consumers like Dave! It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that streaming is king now, especially if you’re in a younger demographic where it seems like everyone just listens to music via Spotify, Apple Music, etc., but there are still a TON of people who prefer CDs, vinyl, and downloads. These items make you more money, and some of your fans know that, so they feel better buying a physical product from you or paying full price for a download. You should let them do this!

Third, even if you don’t have physical products, people should be able to download your music. Maybe you have a “listen” link on your site, and that’s great! But maybe you could consider changing it to “Listen/Purchase” or “Listen/Buy” or something else similar. Then you’ve got a great “try before you buy” setup that allows people to listen to your embedded music on your site and purchase directly from the links you provide on that same page.

Bottom line: missing out on a sale (and maybe a new fan!) by not being clear and deliberate on your site is easily preventable. Make your buy/purchase/download links prominent, so when someone’s in that space where they’re really excited about your new music, they can get what they want instead of getting frustrated. You’ll get some cash, they’ll get your music, and everybody’s happy.

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.