Is it necessary to have your own website when you’re an up and coming rapper, singer, producer or band? I’ve always been of the mind that everyone should have a website as it gives you a little more legitimacy. The thing is I’m not sure a website is absolutely necessary anymore.
There’s been a new movement toward not having a site at all and just building your following on social media. If an artist can get their Youtube, Twitter, Soundcloud, or even Instagram poppin’ they can do everything from book shows to hire an audio engineer all in the DM. Admittedly, I’ve been slackin’ on promoting ADG on social media but after about a week on Twitter I booked a client, who I’m pretty sure discovered us on Twitter first rather than our website first (which is crazy because it opens up whole new opportunities and potentially makes having a website obsolete).
The thing is I’m not so sure he would have bought had he not gone to our website eventually. And this is where having your own site makes you more legitimate. For example, I remember when The Weeknd dropped his first project House of Balloons and being from Toronto, a lot of us were hip to him early and the only way to hear his album was by going to his website and downloading it. It wasn’t on Soundcloud or Audiomack or any of these kinds of audio sharing sites. The Weeknd’s site was simple but it captured his brand of dark alt r&b and by him having a site it just made him seem like the real deal.
What’s even more crazy is I downloaded it without hearing one song first, it was all of the strength of my friends, whose music tastes I trust who recommended him. Plus his site just gave him way more credibility as it captured his image perfectly.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is get a website if you want to be taken more seriously but don’t worry if you don’t have one as your main goal should be to get poppin’ first. Even if you make a simple site that only provides a download link to your album or points people to iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music, that’s a lot better than what 90% of artists do. Also don’t forget to have a contact page so that fans and booking agents can contact you. An “about page” is not really necessary because at this stage of your career, everything will be moving so fast that the things you’d list in your bio such as career milestones will change quickly. You also should be selling merch on your site which I will explain why later on.
Getting a Website Name
The first thing you should know is that there is no website service that’s specifically for artists. So don’t be fooled by any website company trying to spin it like it’s specifically meant for musicians because that’s just a load of b.s..
The second thing to know is that you get a website by first registering a domain name. This simply means buying the website name. A good way to think about is to think of your website as a store and your domain name is your store’s name. So just as it isn’t a good idea to name your store Walmart, it isn’t a good idea to name your website Walmartstore.com or Kanye.com or anything that’s already well known (and likely trademarked). You want a unique and original name which hopefully is your stage name. For example, Kanye’s site is kanyewest.com.
There are a ton of places you can buy a domain from and the cost usually ranges around $3 for the first year to $20 for renewing it. Also beware that domain companies will try to up sell you into buying things like privacy and security, which can increase your costs, I don’t think those add-ons are needed right when you’re just starting.
Where do you get a website name from? One of the most popular places to get a website name is Godaddy.com. I’ve been using them for the last 10 years and have never had a problem with them. But I don’t see how I would because I don’t interact with them at all other than to renew my domain names every year, which at this point has become a mere formality. I wouldn’t recommend getting hosting with them as I had my first sites hosted with them and they were painfully slow, which was not only frustrating for myself but also a bad experience for my audience. Remember you want to make your fans and potential fans fall in love with you and by having a slow loading website it just makes them want to run away from you.
What is Hosting?
The next thing you should know, and this confused me when I first got into creating websites, is that in order for your site to run you have to also buy what’s called hosting. Think of hosting as the rent you would pay if you had a store. And just like the rent, you usually will be paying hosting fees every month. The prices can range from $3 to $200 a month, depending on how reliable and fast you need your hosting to be. The rule of thumb, just like in real life, is the cheaper the price, the slower your website will be. Not only that but if you are paying very little, don’t expect great customer service either as the hosting company wont have very much money to pay its employees to provide great customer service. There’s nothing more annoying than a slow site and an unhelpful customer service rep.
However, when your site is just starting out and you don’t plan to use it to blog or host your music (you’re instead embedding the Soundcloud or Spotify player into your site) you don’t need to pay $30+ a month for hosting. Now I wouldn’t recommend the cheapest hosting because that would be like recommending to you the worst restaurant in town and being surprised you got food poisoning. For the musician that just wants a website with good hosting, I’d go with Hostgator. Reason being is because in all of my ten years doing music websites, I’ve never had a bad experience with them or even heard from my friends of having a bad experience with them either. Their cheapest plan starts at $3.95 a month.
Pro tip: When you provide a free download link to your album on your site, have it hosted at an audio sharing site. This way the downloads don’t waste your site’s bandwidth limits which is basically like your cell phone’s data limit in that you don’t want to go over.
Now that you have your domain and hosting, you need to use some content management software to visually see your website (otherwise it’ll just be a blank white page). Since you probably can’t afford to spend thousands on a custom website design (and probably shouldn’t), you should install a program called WordPress onto your site. It’s not only the most popular and best content management platform, it’s also free!
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system. And I know you have no idea what that means but imagine it as running both the stock room and the front end of your store. It not only helps you create the content on your site such as your pages and blog posts but it also allows you to easily change the look of your site through the use of themes. In order to give you a better idea of how it all works, here is a screenshot of what the back end of ADG Mastering looks like:
The best thing about WordPress is that it is free and has been around for over 10 years. It also has a huge community of developers that make free and paid plugins as well as free and premium themes for your site. If you have no idea what a plugin is, think of it as an app on your phone. Just as you go to the app store to download apps to make your phone better, you go to the WordPress’ plugin directory and download plugins to add different features to your site. For example, you could add a music player plugin to play your songs or a shopping cart plugin to sell your music or band’s t-shirts. Anytime, I’ve thought to myself you know I wish my site had so and so, sure enough someone in the world has created a plugin for it.
That’s all I’m going to say about WordPress, there’s a ton of resources online that’ll help you learn more about them. I will say installing WordPress for someone who isn’t tech savy can be overwhelming, so what I would do is ask my hosting company to install WordPress for me. Hostgator hosts a lot of wordpress sites and even offers WordPress hosting where they set up and optimize your WordPress for you so it loads much faster.
Where to Get WordPress Themes From?
Now that you’ve got your website name, hosting and WordPress installed. You’ll want to get a WordPress theme to change the look of your site to match your brand’s aesthetic. Just like if you’re The Weeknd and you make dark R&B, you’ll want a dark website that captures the essence of the type of music you’re making. You can try to find a free WordPress theme on WordPress Theme Directory but I wouldn’t recommend that as the free themes are known to have buggy and malicious code. But if funds are low, certainly start using a free theme and get to know the WordPress ecosystem.
If you want to step it up a little, a good place to get premium WordPress themes is Themeforest. A theme I use for my artist site is the Ironband Theme. It has a clean layout and allows you to customize it to match the look and feel you’re going for.
Adding It All Up
When you add it all up making a presentable website for your band or music isn’t going to affect your alcohol or drug habit too much. Why? Let’s do some back of the napkin math:
Domain cost $5 + Hosting cost $6 + Premium WordPress theme $60 = $71
That’s it! I personally found the cost so cheap that anytime I did a new project I’d set up a website just for that project. I’d also name my new site after my album and found that worked really well in getting awareness out and helping create a new feel for the project as opposed to just sending fans to my artist site.
One Last Thing to Consider
It’s really easy for any musician to make their own website with tools like WordPress. However, I would recommend that artists get professional photos done so that fans can match the face with the music. There are so many faceless musicians out there that could improve their image just by getting someone who knows how to take a good photo to give their brand the right look. Also having great photos on your site will help take your site from just being decent to “oh man who is this amazing artist?”. And of course, you’ll be sharing those images on your social media as well, further spreading your awareness.