Apps that make life just a little easier

There are tons of apps out there.  Here are just a few that I’ve found that make my like a hell of a lot easier:

Evernote – What else can I say… I FRIGGIN’ LOVE THIS APP! (yes, the bold, all-caps font were completely necessary).  I use this application for notes on the go, lyrics, musings, and even clipping web pages for reference.  The built-in audio recorder is by far one of my favorite features.

I highly recommend coming up with the $45/year for premium membership.  The 1 gig monthly upload limit and the ability to keep a backup notebook on my smart phone is a piece of mind in itself.

HootSuite – This is one of the best social media management tools I’ve used! Because I only manage a couple of twitter pages and my personal Facebook page, the free version is perfectly sufficient. Yes, you can call me a cheap skate. Yes, I’ll probably tell you to fu** right off. To be honest, the pro version is a bit spendy at $9.95/month. They also have an enterprise version (for a top-secret, fight-club “we don’t talk about it” price).

One of the many features I really like about HootSuite is that it allows you to integrate other applications – such as RSS feeds, Instagram, and Tumblr – all within your dashboard.  This is also one of the only platforms that has Google+ integration, which is awesome!

HootSuite has also unveiled a feature that allows internal conversations among team members and colleagues in real-time. It’s a very cool feature that I look forward on using more.

Hojoki – This application ties everything together. Put your keys is similar to a social networking site within your applications such as Evernote, HootSuite, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google calendar, Twitter, and a slew of other apps you may or may not use.  The threaded conversation is a great way to stay up to speed on what’s going on across multiple applications.

WordPress logoWordPress – what started out as a simple blogging platform has evolved into a Web design powerhouse.  WordPress is my first choice as a platform for website development!  There are tons of SEO benefits; just try doing a web search and you will find a plethora of information about how this works.  In layman’s terms… this ranks you higher in an organic web search without having to pay money. BONUS!

If you can use MS word you can use WordPress. It’s just that simple.

Square – As a performing musician this application is a godsend.  Previously, I was using a merchant account that not only had a monthly fee, but also processing fees on top of that… needless to say, that hurt the slim margins we already had.  Square charges and you only pay when the transactions processed. Additionally the charge a 2.75 percent transaction fee very reasonable considering you can swipe MasterCard Visa American Express or Discover cards.  This app can increase

dropbox logoDropbox – Ahh yes, cloud storage!  This has been an invaluable tool when collaborating with fellow musicians where proximity is an issue.  Out of all the cloud storage programs I’ve used, Dropbox is the most reliable and seems to have the fastest sync times.

Brown Paper Tickets – I started using this application more and more considering the change in environment with the music industry. Brown Paper Tickets (BPT) allows you to act as your own ticket vendor by scheduling, advertising, marketing. Essentially you cut out 1 more person as a middleman with their finger in the pie… this means more money for you as an artist.

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Websites are hardly free… but necessary

Let’s face it, websites cost money.  While it’s much more convenient on your pocketbook to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account to promote your music, you need a website.  Why?  Nothing, NOTHING, makes a band look more amateur than solely relying on social networking page as their “band page”.

Though it’s not very common, what if some of your fan base doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter.  Anyone remember Myspace? How about PureVolume or Garageband?  That’s what I thought. For some of us it’s pure nostalgia, ah yes, the good ‘ol days.  For those of you with a blank stare or the look of a monkey doing a math problem, I could probably tell your age by simply asking this question.

I’m sure that you’re asking the million dollar question, what’s this going to cost me?  The short answer really is that it depends on how much legwork you, as an artist, want to put in.  In most cases, the more responsibility you are willing to take on as a musician directly relates to the cost savings on your wallet.

So where to start? There are tons of information on starting a relatively low cost website. I say “relatively” because there are costs with hosting and maintaining any custom URL… trust me, it’s well worth the money you will spend.

To begin, you will need two things to create a website:

  1. Domain name
  2. Web host

These are relatively easy to set up.  Many sites that offer hosting allow you to purchase your domain name through them.  At this point, it’s best to forego any extras they try to offer you.  You don’t really need the advertising credits, website builders, lasers, or free puppies. Just stick to the basics… a domain name, and a web host.

This is perhaps one of the best YouTube tutorials on setting up a basic WordPress-based website that I’ve found: http://youtu.be/8Jv47_VIBOQ.

Most likely, you’re going to want to go with the “Baby” package.  It’s $6.36/month ($76.32/year).  Additionally, Host Gator offers, “All plans guarantee you unlimited disk space and bandwidth, free site building tools and templates, and 24/7/365 award winning technical support”.  I have personally used this method to create a few websites.  It’s easy.  It’s efficient.  It saves tons of MONEY.  As noted in the YouTube video, the simple integration most likely saved you about $500-$2500 right out of the gate!

Now, before we go any further, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I love ReverbNation.  I have a personal and band account, widgets strewn about the web and I have used the analytic reports because I’m into geeky shit like that.  But use it for what it is; ReverbNation is a tool – nothing more, nothing less.

ReverbNation has a web hosting service that costs $17.95/month… that’s $215.40/year!!!  Depending on what you’re willing to spend and how much labor you want to skip out on this may be an option for you.  The benefit of using ReverbNation’s website builder is that your entire band profile is linked to the web page. All of your shows, photos, and artist information are synced seamlessly.  Not too shabby if you’ve got the disposable income to do so.  However, compared to the $76.32 Host Gator has to offer, I’m not so sure I’m willing to part with $139.08 that could be better spent on merchandise or gear.

I was also recently introduced to BlueHost, which could potentially save you even more money.  I understand that they are running a special right now for $4.95/month ($59.40/year), which is an outstanding price.  Additionally, you get a $100 credit for Google Adwords… big BONUS!  I have never used their services and, therefore, could not personally vouch for their services.  However, I have heard some really great things about this company that are worth looking into.

Perfect.  Now that you have a domain and host, what next?  If you’re still asking this question, you most likely didn’t watch the YouTube video, but that’s OK.  Maybe you’re at work, or you’re just reading this to determine whether I’m full of malarkey.

I would suggest integrating Word Press onto your website (if you’ve gone through Host Gator or BlueHost, you should be able to install this with one click).  If absolutely necessary, you can install Word Press manually, but this becomes more challenging.  I do not recommend doing this is you’re not familiar with mySQL or FTP uploading- You can really fu** up your website.

After Word Press is installed take a couple of minutes to familiarize yourself with the dashboard.  Posts in Word Press operates similarly to MS Word, there’s even a paste from Word option.  Additionally, you will need to understand how plugins work.  By itself there are many features that Word Press cannot do.  However, with the assistance of external extensions, or plugins, you are able to make your website absolutely stunning.  You can start add pages, create a static homepage (highly recommended), and last, but surely not least – Start adding content, content, and more content!