Why YOU Need a Website

Perhaps you’ve been toying with the possibility of a website, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. After all, there’s a lot going on in your life, and carving out the time necessary isn’t easy.  In the hierarchy of things, how important is this, exactly?

For those hoping to thrive as a professional musician, the question is easily answered. Without a website, you don’t exist.  You’re invisible…at least in the eyes of the world.  And there’s more: Without a significant web footprint, you haven’t been successful. 

This assessment may seem harsh, extreme, and exaggerated.  Obviously, the logic is flawed. But perception is everything. So how well is your career going? “Google” your name to find out.

Just think about it. Let’s say you’re looking to hire a trombonist for a gig, and a friend provides three referrals. A keyword search on the first player turns up nothing.  Nada.  The second name unveils a nicely designed website, presenting a bio and other information about this low brasser. For the third musician, 130 unique hits emerge: an artist website, social networking pages, news releases, calendar listings, extensive blogging, etc. True, it may be impossible to assess who is the better performer from this exercise, but contestant #3 certainly has the most “fame.” And #2 is has at least done something. Who would you contact?

The Internet, more than any other invention, has transformed our society.  The great equalizer, it places individuals on equal footing with even huge multi-national corporations, since it’s no more expensive to visit one website over another.  But flip the equation on its ear: A musician without a site is disadvantaged not only against big companies, but also individual competitors with web representation. 

There’s no way around it.  It’s difficult to be taken seriously if you don’t have a website. Building a beautifully designed site with compelling content should not be the goal for savvy musicians.  It’s the minimum.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the main benefits of a website?

  • It’s about the cheapest form of marketing available
  • It allows you to carefully craft a message and emphasize your “brand”
  • It’s accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection
  • It’s open 24/7
  • It allows for virtually unlimited material to be stored and displayed
  • It provides an easy way for viewers to learn about you and your work
  • It allows new people to discover you
  • It has the potential of keeping past clients/fans engaged, building trust and enthusiasm over time
  • It makes it easier for the media and presenters to obtain photos, bios, etc.
  • It can generate revenue (through merchandise sales, affiliate programs, ads, etc.)
  • It forces you to think about what’s really important about your work, what makes you different, and how you’d like to frame professional activities
  • It can fulfill just about any function imaginable

Will a website automatically make me more successful?

While having nothing definitely decreases your likeliness of success, the mere fact that you own a website doesn’t guarantee stardom.  Far from it.  It just puts you in the game. In fact, many musician websites do little to help their cause.  But a carefully crafted site with the “right” content has the potential to help you immensely. 

Is it ever too early in my career to have a website?

This is a question I hear frequently from music students.  There are varying opinions.  For me, if you’re accomplished enough to work professionally, you can probably benefit from a site.  At the least, the experience of developing one will teach you valuable lessons about the omnipotent World Wide Web.  But how you present yourself is vital; changing perception is always difficult.  Carefully craft your message.  If you want to be respected like a pro, present yourself appropriately.   

Can a website actually hurt my career?

Indeed it can.  Poor quality recordings, weak content, sloppy writing, and irritating design all count against you.  When someone finds your site, they quickly form an opinion.  Make sure it’s a good one.  

Is a personal website better than other formats, such as a MySpace or Facebook pages?

Each kind of site offers unique advantages, with the potential to reach different communities.  Most savvy musicians maintain multiple sites.  Some use secondary pages as a means for directing traffic to their primary URL.  But if you’re just starting out, just pick one as a starting point.  Building web presence is a process, not an afternoon activity.

How much does it cost to build a site?

There are many ways to create a website.  It’s easier than ever to start with a template and build it yourself for next to nothing.  The other end of the spectrum involves hiring a designer, which can range from a few hundred dollars to $10k+.  Additional options include working with a friend, employing a student at a discounted rate, or bartering your time and skills in exchange for web design. No definitive correlation between price and efficacy can be drawn, and each method is accompanied with pros and cons.  But being on a budget is not a valid excuse for failing to have a site. Low cost options abound.

So what makes a website powerful? 

My book The Savvy Musician has a thorough and detailed chapter exploring this very issue.  I will also explore aspects of this issue in future articles on TSM Blog.

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