Custom websites for musicians! Easier than you think…(nerdblog)

My friend, producer and studio owner Mack Damon (Hollywood Studios), once said something to me that blew my mind. I’m going to paraphrase because the conversation took place a long time ago. But, it went something like this: There’s three things you want anything to be: fast, inexpensive and awesome. Pick two. ūüôā

Think about it. You can make something awesome and inexpensive but, chances are it’s going to take you a while. You can have something fast and inexpensive but, I’m pretty sure it won’t be that awesome. And you can have something fast and awesome but it’s gonna cost you. I’ve found this to be true where almost anything is concerned. So, when it came to building my website, I knew I had to give this some thought. 

There’s no doubt that I wanted an awesome website. That’s one. Resources that I could allocate for it’s construction were limited so, it had to be inexpensive. That’s two. So, I was prepared for the fact that it was going to take a while. I either had to wait until I raised more money to hire someone or get to work researching and slowly constructing the website of my dreams. 

Lucky for me, this is where label owner Joe O’Brien (RatPakRecords.com) came in. He said, “Why don’t you try Bandzoogle?” 

Here’s a phrase I rarely use: O M G!

Inexpensive? Why, yes. I compared to other website building platforms for musicians and it’s all that and the bag of gluten-free chips. We’re talking features that include email, stats, fan clubs…plenty of space for music, you can run your own store. It has just about everything. Features: http://bandzoogle.com/features.cfm

Fast? Um…the easiest tools ever mean you can put up a website in no time. Try it. For FREE! Put something basic up and you can expand it later. 

Awesome? See what you think of my site. I did this in less than a week’s time. They have some beautiful templates but I wanted a custom design. So, with a set of professional pictures by my friend and photographer Kimberly Scott and a photo editor for cutting pics to fit my design and creating graphics (I use Photoshop), here she is:  www.lauramariemusic.com

Website

Did I have any complaints?

Well, the Reverbnation site builder is powered by Bandzoogle and I made the mistake of thinking both services would be identical.  They aren’t. If you’re in love with their store feature, you have to sign up directly through Bandzoogle to get it. The site builder through Reverbnation only allows you to use RN’s store widget as your store. On the plus side, if the RN widgets will do for you, going through them will be a snap. 

A complaint I heard from another user was that they wished they could set metatags for individual pages to better optimize the site for search engines. I have to agree with that one. That would be pretty slick. 

So, here you go. They give you 30 days to try it out which, trust me, is plenty of time to see how easy it is. Click the button and 
you get 60 days instead of 30 by using the referral code: 
m6bb6f  

Bandzoogle: band websites that work

And, yes, now that I’m a customer, I also get a discount for referring you. But, spend some time using it and you’ll see why I am referring every indie musician who wants a website upgrade to this site. 

If you can’t afford your own web designer, Bandszoogle looks like the best bet to me.


Here are my favorite things about using it:

1) Easy to integrate with my social networking sites and blogs

2) I LOVE the built in store feature. 

3) I can go totally custom or I can use their templates and choose from a number of fonts. 

4) Customer service is fantastic! They are on it!


Some custom things I added:

1) A share button: http://www.addtoany.com

2) HTML code to feature both my blog feeds with the help of https://feedburner.google.com/

3) An ArtistData calendar 

4) An additional ReverbNation music player for the music page

5) Graphics and spacers (for my custom look) 

All other features were provided by Bandzoogle. Woo-hoo!

 

If you need help adding any of the custom features I added, let me know. I’ll be happy to post a tutorial.

Let me know what you think?  – LM

 

 

 

 

 

For the Indie Do-It-Yourself-er

The following are helpful tools I presented to Elite members of the GoGirls in one of our “secret” meetings at Folk Alliance in Memphis this year. This is a list. It is only a list. If you need further help or have questions about any of these, please post in the comments below. I’ll share my experience as best I can.

These are just some great places to start if you don’t have a team around you and are working on a limited budget. And, yes, you should have your own “.com”. A Facebook fan page will not suffice. And, if you are a band and have a Facebook profile and are using it as a fan page…stop it. Now. Please. 

 

Helpful Tools for Indie Artist

 

Easy and affordable DIY websites: Hostbaby.com and Bandzoogle.com

Both sites now have customizable templates that are affordable and allow you to update your pages and sell your music with very little hassle.

 

Most affordable iPhone app (and Droid to come…): getsoundaround.com

Now owned and also available through Reverbnation.com. Price cannot be beat!

 

Update all your social networks at once: Hootsuite and Ping 

Both of these services allow you to update your social networking sites and FACEBOOK FAN PAGES from your computer and both have iPhone apps for your convenience.

 

Landing pages for your Facebook fan page: Rootmusic.com and FanBridge.com 

Social Networks 4 Musicians has a sweet deal for custom pages but, if you have some DIY skills check out Rootmusic. And, if you are already using FanBridge, they’ve made it easy for you. 

 

DIY CD Sales: Bandcamp.com, Tunecore.com and CDBaby.com 

There are benefits to each. If you haven’t checked them out, do it now.

 

Credit Card sales at your shows: CdBaby.com and Square iPhone app 

Securely swipe credit cards on your iPhone and get direct deposits or get the affordable swiper through your CDBaby.com account.

 

Get your music on the radio: Airplaydirect.com

Get professional and beautiful download cards: Dropcards.com

Get royalties: Soundexchange.com (lengthy application but, do it. If your music is streaming anywhere online, you could have money waiting for you)

Get songs licensed: Pumpaudio.com (They are pretty selective about the music they choose so, be prepared with professional quality recordings of songs as well as instrumental versions. Some people hate the terms so be sure to read them over carefully. All I know is that I’ve received some pretty nice checks without having to shop my songs on my own.)

 J

 

  -Laura Marie

 

Up Next:

Bands: Social Networking No-No’s #2

That’s APPropriate (wink wink)

Some new iPhone apps that are making me happy:

 

Reverbnation: If, as an indie musician, you don’t have a Reverbnation account…get with the program. Seriously, it’s easy to use and integrate with Facebook and other social networks. Basic account is free so no excuses and NOW there is the iPhone app that lets you update your status, check out your profile stats, create an email, check email stats and (TUN TUN TAH!!!!) contains a mailing list sign-up form. Yeah…sweet. Imagine you and your minions at gigs standing around with your iPhones and signing people up directly like geniuses hovering around the genius bar at an Apple store. Serious nerd alert. I love it. 

It’s called CONTROL ROOM it’s in beta for and available through iTunes for iPhone. Check it out. And, thanks to fearless GoGirls leader and Social Networks 4 Musicians founder Madalyn Sklar for giving me a heads up on this one. 

Reverb

Speaking of dumping that mailing list clipboard, FanBridge has a FAN COLLECTOR that works for that purpose as well. It’s simple, it works and now I just have to have my minions set up to use it. I love using FanBridge for managing my mailing list but I really need to update my landing page. Ugh!

Fancollecter

 

And, believe it or not, I’m going to heap some praise on My_____’s new iPhone app. Yup. That’s right. I really like it. I’m not kidding. Let me tell you, it makes it easier. I don’t have to log in on my computer. I don’t have to be bombarded with auto-players on my new and “improved” home page stream. I can easily CLEAR all my notifications. I can even DELETE messages with telltale subject markers that reek of spam without having to read them. Yes! YES! WTH, My______. I don’t know how or why but “pat, pat, pat” on the back for that one. 

Myspace

If you will notice, my friend requests are cleared. My notifications are cleared. I can totally avoid the stream if I so choose and I now only have 3 unread emails. Woo-hoo! Get it here

 

 

Okay, so good stuff. Well, I think so. Plus, here is another one that Madalyn sent my way that is a ton of fun. 

Instagram

INSTAGRAM according to the site it’s a “fast, beautiful, fun way to share your life with friends…” ( I ‚̧ alliteration)

SUPER NERD ALERT! You will be SHUNNED by some users on this app if you edit your pictures prior to uploading them. I’m just sayin’…it’s some sort of nerdy rule but whatever…

 

That’s it for now. Let me know what you think about any of the above. 

 

Laura Marie

(check out my other blog too: http://lauramarie.posterous.com/

Myspace is killing me…

For so long…

For so long I said I wasn’t going to complain. 
I was going to refrain from making public complaints about the atrocity that Myspace has become. 

It is beyond ridiculous and gets worse with every passing moment. Where can I start? 

The endless spam emails. The “friendships” that consist of some band adding me without me knowing because I don’t have an option to approve or disapprove after so many connections, that band publicly thanking me for supporting their music or being a fan (still, no idea who they are) then endless posts with their music players or gig flyers regardless of where in world they happen to be in relation to me. The new layouts that make absolutely no sense. The new “news feed” that now brings the dreaded auto players and gig flyer posts right to your home page. Great.

Yup. I can’t even check my myspace mail (not that there is ever anything worth reading there) without having some unwanted music go off on my page. You know what that reminds me of? Those obnoxious people who drive around with their radio blaring so that you can’t hear yourself think. Closing your windows doesn’t help. Nothing helps. Until, you drive away. Just like Myspace. 

I’m not sure the people who run myspace even use it. You’d think that if they did, they would make it less annoying for users. Who is really using myspace these days? Clearly, a zillion musicians are on it promoting, promoting, promoting at a feverish pace, seemingly taking all their tips from some “how not to promote you music online” manifesto. 

But, yes, it is true. We must keep our Myspace profiles. As musicians, we need a page that music industry contacts recognize as a place to easily access our music. Music accessibility on Facebook is only as good as the app you choose but, you have to know which apps to choose, how to use them and how to direct people to them. And, just like our own websites, they aren’t uniform and searching beyond a few clicks can get tedious for contacts.So, for those reasons, Myspace is necessary. Increasingly frustrating but necessary. Does anyone read the bulletin board anymore?

If only there was some other site that offered free streaming music in a pretty much uniform format that music industry professionals could recognize as an easy place to hear the music of whatever artist they’re considering. 

Hmmmm:

Reverbnation – Not just the music but bios, show info, pics, fan info, etc. etc. and easily searchable too!!! Musicians have no excuse because the basic page is FREE!

Bandcamp – just the music but, again, free and free streaming. You are guaranteed to hear the tunes when you visit an artists Bandcamp page. 

Sonicbids – yeah, despite my recent beef with the ‘bids, their EPKs have all the standard stuff. Though, searching the website can prove problematic without a direct link to your press kit. 

All this to say that I’m going to keep my Myspace page. I’ll probably also keep bitching about it but I’ll likely keep the grumblings to myself until some new feature makes me blow a fuse. 

On that note, can anyone tell me what will happen if I connect my Facebook to my Myspace? I’ll try a lot of things just to share the experience with you but, the longer I can keep my Facebook page from becoming like my Myspace page, the better. 

 

Laura Marie

ArtistData changes

Just the facts: 

There’s a new version of ArtistData and it no longer provides CSV downloads for Reverbnation or Sonicbids. Sonicbids acquired ArtistData and, about the same time, removed CSV upload capability from their site. But, ArtistData can not update your Sonicbids calendar. You have to do it manually on the Sonicbids site.¬†The new version of ArtistData has removed the Sonicbids CSV download (which was useless anyway since Sonicbids removed the capability) along with the Reverbnation CSV download so, now you have to enter the data manually on the Reverbnation calendar as well.

Just the opinion:

Three major players on the indie front and none of them work together? Well, I mean, two of them work together but they don’t work together on the calendar feature. Sadly, this is the feature that sold me on these services in the first place. And, maybe Reverbnation hasn’t played nice-nice. They haven’t been cooperative with ArtistData according to ArtistData. Ok, I’ll buy that. But, removing capability from the service draws a clear dividing line and it’s getting to the point where we’re going to have to compare and choose. I guess that’s what they want.¬†

I don’t know. ArtistData alone didn’t seem to be about the competition and fighting for position. That’s what made them easy to work with and stay with. In my opinion, anyway. ArtistData+Sonicbids …meh. Though, I’m still hanging in there. ArtistData still posts my upcoming gigs to Twitter with little interruption and I was with them first so…yeah. But, is that enough to keep the relationship going? And, does any service really want artists to ask themselves such questions? Probably not. ¬†

Just so you know:

I’m a paying customer for both Reverbnation and Sonicbids. Someone has to try these things out for ya. ¬†Which do you prefer?