For those who aren’t familiar, I run a electronic dance music website where we constantly post the latest music and news in the industry. At the end of January, I decided to take my knowledge of web design, digital marketing, and my knowledge of the music industry to help up-and-coming producers. I will also be cross posting all of the articles here as while the information is made for electronic dance music artists, it can be easily translated into any other industry.
Outside of electronic dance music, the one topic I can talk all day about is websites. I have been making websites since the end of the 1990’s and ended up majoring in computer science in college. I have built this site as well as all the other versions with EDM Assassin among my other projects. I may have a bit of a bias when it comes to websites, but I do it for a good reason. Although, knowing that I tend to go overboard on this subject, I’ll be making this extremely simple for you to do as well as create by yourself. I can understand how individuals or agencies charge thousands for websites, myself included, but the majority do it within reason. I will break this down for you section by section along with giving multiple options and explaining it all.
Why Need a Website with Social Media?
This is the most asked question I receive from artists when I inform them that they should have website. I get it. You don’t pay for social media. It is out there for free. Although, social media changes. It updates. Algorithms change. Popularity of said social media changes. Remember MySpace? What about Friendster? Remember when people were hating on Facebook and said it was dead to them. I can say the same about Twitter and other social media websites. Nothing is forever when you don’t have control. A website is under your control. As long as you maintain (the little maintenance that it requires) and have backups (always should have backups), websites can last forever. It is also your little piece of the internet. You can culminate everything you’ve done on your website and not rely on another website. Soundcloud goes down? Least you have your music on your website. What about that awesome photo someone took of you, but they deleted their Facebook. If you saved it, you can put it on your website (with their permission). Your website will not go anywhere unless you choose for it to do so. Simple as that.
As I have mentioned on the articles revolving around Basic Branding and Social Media, you should have a domain name for yourself or your group. Domain names are simple to purchase and simple to handle. There are plenty of registrars out there to purchase domain names from. I use and recommend Namecheap. There are others such as GoDaddy, 1&1, Google, Name, etc. Any of them are good, but I chose Namecheap. Two things to note when doing domain names. Always setup two-step authentication and always use a registrar that is different than your host for security reasons.
When it comes to choosing a domain name, there are few recommendations or guidelines that I always stick with. This doesn’t mean you have to follow, but you’re trying to appease your following and they may not always see it the same way as you do. The idea is to make it easiest for them to find you.
1. Always use a .com
When you think of websites, you think of .com. I know there are a ton of different top level domain names including specialty ones, but when you think of any domain name, you think about .com. It is inherent. It is unfortunate that it works this way, but it is extremely rare to find something that is outside of this rule. I have a portfolio that uses a .org, but I have a backup .com that I give to clients for this very reason. Why cause any issue and lead them to another site? Just get a .com.
2. Never ever use a hyphen
This is the most simple rule I can give. I will give you a real life example. My first domain name I ever got was perfection-studios.com. I don’t own the domain name anymore, but when I kept telling everyone about the site, they would go to perfectionstudios.com. I never said go to perfection “hyphen” studios dot com. This is a preventable mistake that can lose traffic. A majority of your traffic won’t come as a referral, but rather as direct traffic meaning they’ll enter in your web address.
3. Shorter the better
There is no reason for a long domain name. If it isn’t taken, get rid of extraneous words such as The, DJ, etc. Keep it the same as your branding unless the domain name is already taken. A-Trak uses atrak.com, but he also bought djatrak.com. Hell, Facebook went from The Facebook to Facebook. You can keep them both and redirect to one, but always use one and stick with the shortest one. I hate to pick on my friend, John, but I have told him this numerous times and now he makes for a great example.
My buddy John Lutchman is a great DJ and does some great work. He has a solid site, but I am judging him hardcore for his domain name. His domain name is TheDJJohnLutchman.com. There is no reason why it should be that. He doesn’t call himself The DJ John Lutchman. He doesn’t even have DJ John Lutchman in his branding. These are extra words where you can screw up spelling. An issue would be with the double “J” or just writing teh. Of course, these are silly, but you’re trying to minimize this as much as possible. Plus, JohnLutchman.com is available to purchase which gives him zero reason to own it. BUY IT, JOHN!
4. Always use whois protection
When purchasing a domain name, you have to enter all your information. It is a rule. For an addition $2.99 (price may vary), you can get this thing called private registration or whois protection. GET IT. Don’t question. Don’t cheap out. If you don’t, your information is public information. That includes where you live, your full name, and even your phone number. You don’t want to allow yourself to be doxxed. No way! Just buy it and set it. It will give information that will only get to you if need be such as a problem with hosting and lawsuits. That is extremely rare and 99.9% of the time won’t be an issue whatsoever.
This is a difficult process for me to write as it all determines how much you understand. I’ll give you two options. I do want to note that there are many other options, but these are what I feel are best for artists as well as the bang for your buck. This can potentially get expensive, but the majority of readers aren’t getting extreme traffic so that isn’t a major issue.
If you don’t know anything about coding or web design go with WordPress hosted
I use exclusively WordPress when it comes to websites. One can argue using different content management systems such as Joomla or Drupal or even a flat content management system such as Grav. They are all great options, but I am a fan of WordPress. 27% of all websites on the internet agree with this which is why I love it as well as the vast community behind it. Also, for those who have zero clue what I am talking about, WordPress hosted is perfect for you. At this rate, as long as you know how to use a program such as Microsoft Word, you’ll be golden. WordPress.com is what you want. There are different packages starting at free, but you’ll need at least the Personal plan which costs only $2.99 a month (billed yearly). If you want more out of them, they have other options that cost $8.25 a month (billed yearly) or $24.92 a month (billed yearly). This is extremely cheap and they handle everything.
The downside to this method is you don’t have a completely custom website. There is nothing wrong with this. If you’re reading this, you’re starting out. So, you’ll take a hit on this. There is nothing to be embarrassed about as a majority of sites aren’t custom. Your favorite blogs use a template or a framework. WordPress provides quite a number of different themes and it allows you to changes colors and other such options. This will still make you unique. Plus, it doesn’t involve any coding. Probably, the most coding you’ll be involved with is hex codes which is the code for colors which is easily to look up via Google or if you have Photoshop. Outside of this, fill in your information as well as your content and you’re good. Website done. Seriously, that is all you need.
If you do know something about coding or web design – get hosting
There are like a gazillion web hosts out there – big, small, managed, unmanaged, dedicated, shared, etc. I wish this was an exaggeration, but there are so many. We use LiquidWeb and we highly recommend it. Although, that is most likely too much for you. There are plenty of options. I would recommend searching whatever you’re about to use on WebHostingTalk for legitimate reviews and thorough uses. Usually the rule of thumb is if it is too good to be true, it usually is. Although, the difference between this and WordPress.com is that there is plenty of more customizations. This is used if you’re bringing in a web designer such as myself or if you plan on doing it yourself. You also do not need to use WordPress as you can do a static site via plain HTML and CSS or use any content management system of your choosing. All of this can be done on hosting and it could cost anywhere between $10 a month to thousands, but being that you’re not a heavily trafficked site, you don’t have to worry about heavy hosting bills
Rules of Thumb to Web Design
1. Mobile responsive websites are critical
We use all types of iPhones, Androids, tablets, iPads, and more. Why hate on them? Plus, Google prefers this.
2. Always believe in KISS. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
This is a legitimate principle. You don’t need to have cover pages. You don’t need music playing in the background. Just your content and you. That is all.
3. Optimize everything.
This may be a bit complicated, but it really isn’t. There is no reason for you to have a huge image that is 5000px big that is 25mb large. That isn’t loading well on anything. The smaller, the better as it loads quicker.
What to Put On Your Website
You have gotten your domain name. You’ve found your hosting. You got your look. You build the site. Now, you need content. What do you put? This is the central area for you. This is where everything you put on all your socials comes to culminate. It is all about you. Feel free to put your music, obviously. All of it – bootlegs, originals, remixes. You can put up it for download. You can add Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube embeds as well as whatever else you prefer. You want to put all your socials. There can be an about me as well as a contact form. Feel free to put a presser on there.
I am told the best thing to put on your website is your EPK or Electronic Press Kit. This allows those trying to hire you and those trying to learn about you find you easily and give them everything they need. The whole website can be considered an electronic press kit, but you can have a dedicated section for it.
Put whatever you want. Make it professional and you’re good. I wish I could be more expressive on this, but it truly comes down to you and your brand. You can put anything you want. Write blogs. Write about music. Keep it original. Do not copy and paste from other sites.
The great thing about this is you can add analytics for downloads as well as your whole site. You can see where people are going on your site. You can even see it in real time with Google Analytics.
Let’s cut to the chase. How much will this cost you? Let’s make it easy.
Domain name (via Namecheap) is $13.75 a year. Good news, the first year will cost $9.84 as they do coupon codes if you Google it and private whois.
Hosting is $35.88 ($2.99 a month for 12 months) if you go with WordPress.com. If you go with plain hosting like Bluehost, Siteground, etc. prices start around is $7.99 a month, but there a plenty of deals for those who just get new hosting.
Outside costs can be whatever you choose. For example, you can buy WordPress themes on premium WordPress sites such as ElegantThemes or ThemeForest. You can buy neat scripts to enhance your site. It can get pricy, but there are plenty of free alternatives. One will argue they’re not as good, but your money and your website.
Website or no Website
I always believe that you need a website hands down. As I started this article, I stated that I wanted to keep this article simple and I am biased. This is extremely basic. There is so much into websites such as search engine optimization, server optimization, user experience, user interface, palettes, etc. I can go on and on and I do with clients. Honestly, they are important and I can discuss each one, but the goal is to get your name out there. If you’re popping up on Google and the first thing is your website followed by everything you’ve done and blogs writing about you, you’re doing it right. The best advice I can give is make the website for your fans as well as potential fans and no one else. They are the ones finding you and using your site. There is no harm with a website. Just maintain it by adding new content as you put it out and you’re done. Simple as that…or as complex as you want. In the meantime, I am available to work on your website if you want to hire me! Shameless plug at the end.