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Your band's website is the headquarters of your online presence. It is the place where you can control the branding and content. Unlike social media your visitors won't be distracted by ads and everyone else's posts. It is truly yours.
Setting up a website is pretty easy these days and there are a number of simple Content Management Systems (CRMs) that require no coding knowledge or technical expertise. Some to consider are Wix, Squarespace, Bandzoogle, Wordpress and Shopify. All of these work great, but there are more and more reasons why artists and musicians should use Shopify. More on that later.
What should your website contain?
When your fans open your website, they should be delighted. It's an extension of your artistic expression. It should have a well-thought out design that resonates with your branding. The color scheme should be consistent. It should have great photos and cool videos. It should include all your upcoming (and past) shows, links to your social media and streaming sites, email list sign up form, news/blog and last, but not least, an online store section where your fans can buy your CDs, vinyl and merch.
You should have high quality photos of yourself and all the items you have for sale. This doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. You don't have to buy an expensive camera. The camera in your smartphone is fully adequate to take great photos. What makes a photo great is all in the composition. Look at the websites of your favorite artists for inspiration. If visuals are not your strong suit, you should ask for help from a friend or consider hiring a professional.
Again, this doesn't have to be expensive. You can make stunning, professionally looking music videos with your phone. But it doesn't even have to look professional. Your fans want to get to know YOU so there are no limits to what your videos can be about. Shooting quick videos during your rehearsals and recording sessions are always cool. Get behind the scenes footage from your gigs. Make videos with your dog, your cat, your food, your vintage teapot collection. Anything goes. Just remember to be conscious of how much of yourself you want to make public.
List all your upcoming shows. You can type this out on your website as you book your shows, or embed widgets from bandsintown.com or songkick.com. These services also allow you to sell tickets to your shows.
Update your website often with anything newsworthy. Post about upcoming shows, preview song ideas, express your opinions and talk about any new release or merch item.
Email List Sign Up Form
Make it easy and compelling for your fans and visitors to give you their email address. Why? Because email is one, if not the, most effective marketing channel. And it's free! You can have this feature multiple places on your website. It's common to put it in the footer of your site, but this means your fans have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see it. You can also have a pop-up with a sign-up form. Include an exclusive offer to entice them to give you their email address like a download link of your latest single, the demo recording of your first song, a VIP pass to your next show or a discount code to your online store.
How to sell on your website?
Your website should be set up to make it very easy for your fans to buy something.
Any successful artist sells stuff through their website. If you look at major label artists' websites you'll see hundreds of items for sale - anything from CDs and vinyl, to cake mixes and dog apparel.
Now, you might think this is not possible for independent artists because it costs too much to manufacture and warehouse all these different items. This is where print-on-demand comes in. There are now several companies where you can create merch items that you can sell on your website and they will print and ship it to your customers when you get orders. You only pay them when you've made a sale. If you have a cool logo or nice design, put it on coffee mugs, phone cases, fanny packs, flip flops, dog beds, you name it. Some of the companies that offer this are Printful.com, Printify.com, Gelato.com, and Gooten.com.
A little bit of something is always more than all of nothing.
The downside to print-on-demand is that your profit margin will be significantly smaller than if you buy merch in bulk and handle the fulfillment yourself. For your most popular merch items like T-shirts that you'll also bring to your gigs, it's much more cost efficient to order a batch of screen printed shirts. Print-on-demand services will use direct-to-garment printing which costs more than screen printing and may not be as durable.
Your website needs to look professional and trustworthy so your fans will feel comfortable buying from you. The checkout process needs to be clear and simple.
How will your fans find your website?
If you don't have a website yet, start by buying a domain name, ideally your artist name/band name.com.
Once you've created your website, or if you already have one, you should spend some time on SEO - Search Engine Optimization. This is a topic too vast to cover here, but the main gist of it is to make it easy for search engines like Google, to find your website when people search for you or something like you.
Your website builder should have specific sections where you can type in keywords and brief descriptions of your content. Another important aspect of SEO is links. The more websites link to your website, the better. Asking other bands you play with to link to your site is one way of building your backlinks. Any writeup about you on a blog or newspaper should link to your site.
However, when people look for you online, it's most often because they want to check out your music. And the most common place they will do so is Spotify. This is why you should build your website (or at least the store section of your website) using Shopify. Now don't get those confused despite the similarity in names.
Spotify now allows you to link your artist profile to your Shopify store so when people check out their music, there's a link directly to your online store where your fans can buy CDs, vinyl and merch from you. Streaming doesn't pay much, but this is a way to generate some decent income. To read more about how to connect the two check out this support article from Spotify.
It can be done with Shopify's Start Plan for only $5 a month. This online store can be linked to all your social media pages as well. If you already have a website you can link to your Shopify store from there. If you want to minimize the number of apps to deal with, you can host your entire website on Shopify.
As an independent musician you should utilize every channel to maximize your income. Your website is your main hub to direct your fans to buy swag from you. Make it as enticing and easy as possible.