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!

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Taking control of your music career

I recently read an article about the band Protest The Hero (PTH). The article describes how the band is taking their music career into their own hands after fulfilling their obligations to their record label. It seems that quite a few bands are spreading their wings and giving the finger to the conventional notion that successful bands have major label backing.  Contrary to what some may believe, getting signed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, being a signed artist has its benefits (bragging rights mostly). Yes, you have some opportunities that are only available to those on a major label. However, record labels are merely investors that have the financial capacity to loan artists money for a series of specific terms. Keep in mind that artists give up some personal freedoms to be signed.

Many bands are turning to Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund the costs associated with production.  For obvious reasons, professionally touring bands are going to have a MUCH easier time getting their fans to throw down money.  However, never underestimate the generosity of your fans.  I played a gig as a benefit for a local charity and someone donated $130. Talk about jaw dropping!

Another distribution avenue is Bandcamp, which allows fans to name their price for your music.  While it’s true that some people are stingy ass hats and take the music for free. I would highly suggest having fans sign up on your mailing list in exchange for the download. You should value your music enough to get something in return for it.

One of the best parts of digital distribution is lower overhead and not having to carry inventory.  For any artist who has purchased physical CD’s in bulk, I’m sure you have at least a box or two collecting dust. Just click, upload and you’re in business. While digital distribution has its perks, it’s always a good idea to keep a small quantity of physical CD’s on hand.  You never know when you will need them.  Physical CD’s are essential when you submit your press kit for radio promotion, venue owners, and other important people that you want to make a lasting impression on.

Wireframe – Over Me

When I initially wrote this song I was describing the an intense adoration for someone.  Something like a tidal wave, powerful and uncontrollable that sweeps one away.  Sadly, this song took on an entirely new direction while I was recording this song.  Not more than a few hours into recording, I received news that my grandfather passed away.  He lived a modest life and put his family first.  The news was crushing.  In spite of the fact that death is a part of life, the process of loosing someone close to you is never easy.

This is one of my favorite songs on Wireframe’s album “Phases”, bittersweet as it may be.

Phases (2010)

Wireframe – Over Me

Swept away in the flood

You came rushing up taking all of me

Through the endless blue

Blindsided and hopelessly surrendering

You crash down in waves over me

Flowing over the edge

I watched these changing phases

When you come and go with the ebb and flow

Reflections of the ageless

Stepping though, into the other side

We’re making memories tonight

You crash down in waves over me

(can you see what you do to me?)