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Music Success in Nine Weeks, Optimizing Your Website, Week 3

Original content posted at www.true-northmusic.tumblr.com

February 02, 2010

Music Success in Nine Weeks, Optimizing Your Website, Week 3

Ariel states, “The New Web 2.0 is all about having a two-way communication with your fans—not just having a static silo-like website packed with unchanging brochure like materials.”  This comment hits the proverbial nail on the head regarding communication online.  How does a band keep the conversation going with fans and friends, even when it is not performing out on a consistent basis?  I believe having an active and engaging site is paramount, but also a website which is simplistic, easy to navigate, optimized and has data tracking built in to actively gauge what is or is not working on the site. 

6 Steps to Maximizing your Websites

1.  Add your Pitch to Your Homepage

Fortunately, most social media sites have this little “pitch” feature built in, prompting users/ bands to indicate genre as the page is being set up.  It is critical to remember consistency of message across platforms, whether it is your website, FB, MS, Twitter.  Eg. True North:  (Modern) Country, Roots Rock, Alt-Country.   

I have not been able to assess how important it is to have exactly what type of music the band plays, spelled out specifically on the index page, but somewhere on the index should be a nod to what genre the music is! 

What I learned early on in the True North adventure was fans tend to recognize the faces of the band as the brand versus the actual True North logos, website content or merchandise.  That facial recognition is why I try to keep the band photos consistent in the sites and not confuse fans with regularly updated or “casual photos.”  Hire a professional photographer, spend the money to have excellently crafted, Photoshopp’d images of the band with the logo on the photo, even the website if applicable.  Flick’r & Photobucket are great social networking tools which sync with almost any websites, provide widgets or other linking to make seamless photos of band performances and show content. 

Fans want to be engaged and look at cool pictures of a performance, but if the slideshows are clunky, work poorly or do not work at all, consumers tend to get pissed and move on to another site.  I still struggle utilizing Flick’r / Photobucket sites to full potential, but continue learning tricks to make these tools work better with social media. 

2.  Your Site Must Load in LESS than 3.5 Seconds

Yes, people do have the attention span of a fly, so make the website site load quickly, no clunky graphics or content.  Most of the world utilizes DSL/ Cable or other high-speed connections, but there are still individuals who use dial up (I know, unthinkable), so be mindful of that demographic.

True North is in the midst of yet another website overhaul simply because of a loading, workability and speed issue.  It is a long and painful story of what happened with our TN Website Version 2, but let’s just say True North’s website was used as an example of “what not to do” by a design class at Johnson County Community College.  Everything that could go wrong did, from firing the original designer, having to hire a programmer, utilizing a Content Management System (CMS Drupal) versus straight HTML.  While I think it is good ideology to hire an individual who is a fan or friend of the band to do a website, it is critical this individual have a design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and programming background.  Graphic designers are not necessarily web designers, no matter how much they might like one to believe!  Get a website scope of work, content layout format, color studies and everything you can upfront from the person you will work with and then spend some money.  Do not pay anyone for work you do not approve or pay someone upfront or before the site is to your satisfaction…bad idea! 

On a lighter note, many community colleges have web design programs…find a student designer you mesh with who needs to build his/ her portfolio, get a website for less money.  OR, hire a professional with a great portfolio, spend no more than $1,500, get a site that wow’s fans and a site you want to talk about. 

3.  No FLASH Intros

Oh My GOSH!  I completely agree on this point.  While Flash may look pretty, amazing/ funky and there are great templates out there for cheap (TemplateMonster.com), a band looses the searchability of the website by Google or any other search engine.  Supposedly the newest version of Flash is web searchable, but I have not been able to find any supporting data indicating as such.  Flash also does not let a band embed Google Analytics (FREE), which is key if you want to measure site traffic, gather analytical data about who is visiting, what type of consumer is visiting and what parts of the site are most trafficked. 

4.  Have a Consistent Look and Feel Throughout the Net

I agree with this statement and attempt to implement this strategy throughout the TN social media and online content…reference Point 1 above.  The challenge becomes one cannot always consistently match colors with Web RGB or CYMK, especially on social networking sites.  If you are not a programmer, web wizard or otherwise, best to stick with the KISS Plan (Keep It Simple Stupid)!  Basic colors, layout and nothing too fancy or off the wall.  Eg.  www.kcviolin.com

REMEMBER, different monitors make sites and colors look strikingly different!  A PC monitor or regular flat panel is not going to have the same resolution or color definition as a LED monitor or Mac.  And, people have different settings on a personalized monitor…brighter, darker, less/ more contrast, etc.  I have a PC & Mac so I can compare the look and feel of content, colors and how sites/ colors/ content load and look on Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Yes, welcome to the Nerdery. 

5.  Give Away an Exclusive FREE MP3/ Video

This is something True North was not doing prior to meeting Ariel/ Taxi Conference.  Collectively, the band was of the opinion that we will provide samples, short snippets or tunes to entice fans, but not give away the “whole enchilada!”  Our ideology was: we have worked hard to write, create, produce, so we should be paid for the tunes, fans should buy the music…boy were we wrong!  You have no idea how many tunes I email or CD’s I give away…it has almost become my business card and has lead to more opportunities thsn I could have imagined or created on my own. 

Actually, giving away free music has been a bonus as a promotional tool for festivals and new performance opportunities.  New venues can download tunes easily, not have to listen to an entire CD, capture the feel of the band and see if True North is a fit…right on the desktop, instantly.  Ariel also suggests utilizing Fizzkicks.com for free download music hosting. 

Following Ariel’s advice, True North placed free, downloadable tunes on the website, Revernation, linked a Reverb Widget into FB.  I cannot tell you how easy of a sell it is to direct people to our websites…consumers hear FREE and are all over it.  I have even found a few tunes which were downloaded and playing on others websites or social media; the ultimate compliment!  There was information online today about how to maximize FB Fan Pages by utilizing Involver Social Marketing.

Free videos are cool, lets fans or promoters see the band in action at show or playing an interesting venue.  True North’s YouTube Page has one video on it (more forthcoming), primarily to showcase a tune, video of the band in the recording studio and still shots from band gigs.  The band, fans and I collectively have tons of content, so I learned how to use Mac’s iMovie, gathered content and made a video!  I will say it is time consuming to create good looking visual content and making movie presentations is not my field, but a good skill for someday.  If you have a fan that is an awesome videographer, enlist his/ her help.  One tip…do not publish your band’s content online unless it is professional, has a polished feel and represents the image the band wants to perpetuate.  Fun and light is good, do not be an idiot, your mother may be watching!  Plus there is always someone “higher up” looking at content, not just fans or friends. 

 6.  Make it Clear, Set Them at Ease

True North utilizes Constant Contact for newsletter and Fan announcements; it is not cheap, but it is a slick professional platform with nice analytics, email hosting, spam and bounce management.  Reverb Nation has a free email list hosting service, but it is in the development stages, not very band user friendly yet.  The band added a Free Tune coupon with links to Reverb into our “Thank you for Signing Up for Our Email List” email form and it has been a hit. 

We also included the disclaimer last year that True North protects fans confidential email addresses, does not sell fans information and does not sign up fans without permission.  To me, falsely adding fans the same concept as illegally downloading tunes, movies or otherwise…one really should avoid doing anything that is not in the best interest of the band.  Also, fans have the option to “Opt Out” of the email service anytime by clicking on a link in each newsletter or on the band’s sites.  Personally, I am hoping to translate the free music give away into more traffic on the fan email list and connecting to fans/ consumers directly! 

Well, onto Week Four, stay tuned for further “insightful” commentary on the True North Music Success adventure.    –Will Gladhart

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