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Web Design for Musicians and Bands

Web design is often on of the most misunderstood subjects for musicians and bands. While many artists think a site has to be flashy, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. It’s main goal is to be the “go-to” source of information for fans, potential fans, and anybody else who wants to know about you (like press, record labels, venues, etc.).

Your digital home base should be easy to navigate and have, at a minimum, the following components:

  • A Blog/News Section – This blog can be as personal or impersonal as you want it to be (the most successful artist blogs I’ve seen might not expose the artist’s “inner feelings”, but they do at least have a personal touch that connects with fans). Your blog should give fans some insight into your journey as an artist, whether it be diary of your latest tour or a showcase of your favorite art.  Pass your inspiration on to your fans and keep everyone up to date!
  • A Bio – Fans, press, and anybody who wants to book your for a gig or give you some money (i.e. record labels and sponsors) are going to want to know who you are…they might as well find out from your site.
  • Photos – Make them high-resolution just in case a venue or blog needs one.
  • Music (duh!) and Videos – Make it easy for your fans to listen to, download, and/or buy your music from your site. Include anything from iTunes and Amazon links for purchases to zShare links for free downloads. Streaming music and videos are a must.
  • Social Media Links – Connect with your fans on social networks. Link to your Facebook Fan page, MySpace Music profile, and Twitter account. (Note: You should have AT LEAST 1 of these profiles. If you don’t, start it today!)
  • Contact Info – An email link or simple contact form that directs to your email address will do (I suggest using Wufoo to build a sleek HTML ready contact form).
  • Email/Text Message List Signup – You should always have always have a way to contact your fans. How else will you announce your latest tour? I’m a big fan of Mailchimp. They have a great free package for starter accounts and their training videos are amazing.
  • Gig Calendar – Let your fans know where you’ll be and how to get there. Also include links to ticket purchase sites.

Other great things to add to your site include video and a full-fledged merchandise store. Also, make sure your fans can spread the word about your music.  TweetMeMe is a great plugin that allows fans to retweet your material with the click of a button.

This might seem like a lot of stuff for a site, but it can be achieved for relatively little money.  Just make sure it’s clean and creative.  Make it a place your fans will want to visit at least once a week for updates.  I suggest using the WordPress platform for ease of use (if you need a host, try Host Gator [affiliate link]…it’s inexpensive and they have a one-click install option for WordPress). I also suggest searching WooThemes [affiliate link] for your blog theme. They’re easy to customize and has a huge community of users online.

Need some help building your digital homebase? We have an affordable service for that.  Check out our Basic Web Design Package in our store.

If you need inspiration for your website’s design, check these concepts out:

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You’re a musician and have written 15 songs ready to record and distribute for the world to hear.  Great! The only problem is…you’re a musician and have the bank account to prove it.  You’ve tapped out your savings to pay for your expensive New York apartment, you already owe your best friend $500, and you have too much pride to ask your parents for help. What do you do? Start a crowdfunding project!

What is crowdfunding, you ask? As Brandon Mendelson describes in his Mashable article, A Guide To Crowdfunding Success:

…someone gives you money (whether it’s a donation, a purchase, or my favorite, just because) with no obligation on your part of paying it back. Now, you could pay it back, but the idea is, you’re using their money to successfully complete a project they support.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, it is.  It’s a great way to raise money for a creative project without asking for a handout.  It’s also a fun way to invite your family, friends, and fans to get actively involved in your creative journey. Our Guide To Crowdfunding will go more in depth, but essentially, here’s how crowdfunding works:

  1. You come up with a creative project you want to complete.
  2. You create a campaign to get the funding you need. This includes deciding how much you need to raise, choosing a platform, and coming up with pledge amounts and rewards.
  3. You launch the campaign and spread the word among your fans, friends, and family, soliciting pledges in exchange for rewards.
  4. You collect the money for your campaign and complete your creative project.
  5. You thank the people who donated to your campaign with their rewards.
Seems simple, right?  With the right preparation and resources, and can be the solution to all of your funding problems! Before deciding to using crowdfunding, ask yourself these questions:
  • “Do I have an idea that people will support?”
  • “If I get funding, can I realistically follow through on my plan?”
  • “Do I have a circle of fans, family, and friends big enough fund the project and/or help spread the word about my project to other people and media outlets?”
  • “Can I create rewards enticing enough to get people to donate?”

If you answered yes to all of the questions, then crowdfunding is for you!   Make sure to check out our guide to learn how to plan, promote, and execute your crowdfunding campaign. If you need help creating and running your campaign, be sure to contact us here.

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Updated: The “Crowdfunding Essentials” Seminar has come and gone, but you can still learn more about starting your crowdfunding project by reading our free articles in “The Musician’s Guide to Crowdfunding.”

Crowdfunding is a fairly new method that artists have been using to pay for albums, tours, music videos, movies, books, and other creative projects. At Go Forth Music, we recently completed a successful crowdfunding project on Kickstarter to fund a college promo compilation (see the project here). Because of the funds we raised, none of the artists had to pay a participation fee and they will get exposure on college campuses across the US.

The crowdfunding meetup will be hosted in the form of a webinar. We decided to go this route because our panel will include creatives (musicians, artists, authors, directors, etc.) and band managers from across the country who have successfully raised money for tours, albums, and other creative projects using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. [click to continue…]
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New at Go Forth Music

The first few weeks of 2011 have been quite eventful at Go Forth Music.  There hasn’t been a lot of blogging, but we have been planning and coming up with ways to better serve you, the musician/music industry entrepreneur.

In the coming weeks, expect to see a few additions to your free news and blog articles.  Specifically:

  • Starting in February, we’re offering a monthly, paid seminar teaching music industry skills relevant to today’s “music middle class”.  Look out for info.
  • We’ll be providing your with more information you want to know from working industry experts.  A few of you have been sending in your questions via our Ask An Expert page.  If you have questions you want answered, make sure to submit them.  It’s absolutely free!
  • We’ll be rolling out our consultation services. Our team is skilled in a variety of areas. Having worked with and learned from the best (we have graduates from top law schools and music business programs whose client list includes Kevin Liles, Timbaland, Warner Music Group, Island Def Jam, and Jimmy Douglass), we want to provide you with everything you need to get your career moving forward.  From contract review and copyright filing to mixing, mastering, web design, and marketing/social media plans, we can get it done.
  • We’re going to start leveraging our communities talent to get you more exposure. We’re starting off with the Hear Here compilation that we’ve been working on for the past few months.  Participants get free promotion on college campuses. Next up, music licensing opportunities. More on that next week.
  • We’re launching our “Industry Insiders” series chronicling the jobs of real, working music industry entrepreneurs and veterans.  See how they deal with the challenges you face everyday, and gain helpful insight from their words.

We’ll still be bringing you the articles you’ve grown to love (soon we’ll be adding videos!). We have yet to publish our how-to article on analytics and Next Big Sound, as well as our series on Performance Rights Organizations (including a very informative interview from Compound Entertainment songwriter Prissy Polet).

Stay tuned…there’s a lot more to come!

– Alandis

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3 Music Industry Predictions for 2011

Happy New Year! 2011 will most likely be a big year for the music industry.  Musicians and music companies, experimenting with the various tools that make creating, marketing, and distributing music easier, have finally started to get an understanding of the “new” music industry’s landscape. With this in mind, here are three predictions I’ve made for the coming year:

Analytics will play a larger, more dominant role in musicians’ overall business strategies

Tools like Next Big Sound have made powerful analytics suites available to musicians at all levels of their careers. More artists will start to use analytics to plan out tours, marketing campaigns, and distribution strategies. Doing so will allow musicians to save money, cater to their fan bases, and explore new opportunities.

Artist-to-fan relationship commerce opportunities will continue to  develop and become more profitable

Topspin, Tunecore, Bandcamp, and ReverbNation, among other companies, have made strides in helping artists make money from simple interactions with their fans.  As artists get more familiar with new technologies, more opportunities are sure to pop up, granting fans direct access to their favorite artists and creating more streams of revenue for working musicians who are using the technology properly.

There will be a marked transition from “do-it-yourself” to “team” efforts

If an artist is truly growing their fan base using proper fan relationship management practices (i.e. actually communicating with their fans), they will need help executing their strategies. A lot of artists are getting to the point where spending three hours a night replying to every booking solicitation, press inquiry, social media comment, and friend request isn’t practical.  They need help focusing on the “non-essential” tasks like booking, strategizing, and administrative work.  The trick to making this successful will be building a competent team a creating a strategy that still involves genuine interactions between artists and their fans.

The theme in 2011 is “Proper Use Of Music Business Tools and Technologies”.  If musicians can master the tools available to them, they’re well on the way to prosperity!

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One of the most important elements of creating a successful crowdfunding project is determining pledge amounts and their accompanying rewards. This can prove tricky because you want to attract potential contributors with reasonable pledge levels while making sure you don’t lowball yourself. Essentially, you want to maximize the amount of money you can raise.

Consider the following when attaching rewards to pledge amounts:

How Much Do You Need?

What are you raising money for, what do you need to accomplish, and how much will you need to do it? Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, so you want to create an attainable goal. Make sure to budget everything out, and add about 10% to the final cost for Kickstarter and Amazon Payments fees (they take their money out before you get your share).

What’s The Reward Worth?

Try to pair rewards with comparable pledge values.  For instance, the typical music single download costs $0.99. If you offer a $1 pledge level, offer an exclusive music single download.

Would YOU Want It?

Create rewards that your fans actually want.  Put yourself in their shoes: What kind of rewards would you want from your favorite band? Some suggestions:

  • Early access to the album
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • An autographed copy of the album
  • Credit as a producer
  • Attendance at a recording session
  • Personalized messages and/or recognition on a song, video, or website

Who’s Going To Be Contributing?

Your fanbase, family, and friends will most likely be your most enthusiastic contributors (at least initially).  Knowing this helps you determine:

  • How many people you’ll be able to solicit pledges from, and
  • What type of budget your potential contributors are working with.

When determining pledge amounts, knowing your fanbase’s budget is crucial to your success.  If you’re catering to a bunch of college students, it’s going to be pretty hard to get them to pay $50 for a Limited Edition CD/Video combo.  A $20 autographed  Limited Edition might work great, though. On the flip side, if you’re a jazz artists with a huge fan base of working professionals, the $50 set might be worth your while.

Exclusivity

A reward might sell better if there is a limited supply. If a fan knows he’s going to get 1 of 50 autographed CDs available, he’ll likely jump at the chance.  Our limited edition CD was our most popular reward, most likely due to the price point ($20), and the fact that we only offered 75 of them.

If you missed the first part of our Musician’s Guide to Using Kickstarter, you can check it out here. Make sure come back for the third part of our series, which covers promoting your campaign. And don’t forget to contact us if you have questions about setting your campaign up!

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The Go Forth Music Gameplan: Year End 2010

It’s been a great few months at Go Forth Music…we’ve posted our first articles, had some great guest commentary, and hosted a live meetup in New York City.  We’re going to spend the rest of the year prepping our readers for the new year. Here’s what we’ll focus on:

  • The Business of Songwriting: Artists need to know about copyright, publishing, and performing rights organizations. We have a few articles explaining everything, as well as an exclusive interview with Compound Entertainment songwriter Prissy Polet.
  • A Musician’s Guide to Kickstarter: We started this series earlier this year and will finish it before the year ends.
  • Building Your Team: Another series we started that every musician should  read going into the new year.  Know who needs to be on your business team and what role each person plays.

Make sure to check back daily starting Monday for new informative articles.  Also, sign up for our newsletter for weekly music business news and site updates. See you soon!

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Preparing For A Recording Session

I received an email today from a friend who is the manager of an up-and-coming girl group. She and the group received the final mix to one of their songs and had some concerns with the overall blend and felt like the vocals were boosted unnecessarily, as well as parts of the beat, and so now it seems like there are additional pitch problems. After listening to the mixes I realize it was not the mix that needed improving but it was the vocal production that needed work. These were the tips I gave her to so that she and the girls don’t have to waste time have to re-record songs.

  • Make sure everyone knows the date and time of the session. You don’t want to be called in to work halfway through your session. Everyone involved needs to clear their schedules. As well as schedule your recording sessions for consecutive days. When you have several days in a row to work with, you can make sure plenty of time is allowed for setting things up and getting the right sounds.
  • Have A Plan. Is the material ready? Are the melodies tight and rehearsed? Having a clear idea of what you’re creating before you even step foot in the studio, and budgeting both your time and money will make a huge difference in the final product.
  • Don’t invite all your friends to come by the session. While this may seem like a friendly thing to do at the time, after the hundredth or so interruption you won’t feel so friendly. Recording is actually a pretty boring process to watch unless you are directly involved. Instead, invite all your friends to the album release party!

  • Make sure your songs are finished. Going into the studio hoping to finish lyrics or on the spot is a recipe for a negative experience. You may be inspired by the pressure, but you’ll listen back to it later on and think that you could have sang it better, or that you don’t especially like this line or phrase.

  • Find the right studio. Virtually any fully equipped recording studio will be able to get the job done, but each studio has its own unique characteristics. Some studios are filled with the newest gear and are designed for digital recording. Others have vintage gear and unique acoustics that add a certain color to your sound. You might know what is best for you until you’ve visited several studios.

  • Practice. You’d be surprised how many acts come into the studio obviously unprepared. Come in with a well-rehearsed structure for your songs. Take the time to practice the songs you want to record in the studio thoroughly. This isn’t to say that you can’t be creative in the studio, but it’s a lot cheaper to be creative on your own time.
  • Use social networking to your advantage. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, musicians’ forums, and many other online resources can help you connect with recording studios, freelance engineers, independent producers, and numerous musicians that could give you tips and recommendations along the way. Not to mention, blogging about the making of your album is also a great way to get your fans excited about the final result.
  • Relax! Recording is fun and there’s no really no pressure. Just be prepared and you’ll have a smooth, and enjoyable session with a great product at the end!
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Three Things You Should Look For In Any Contract

Ideally, you should have an attorney look over any agreement you’re presented with or plan to present to someone. However, if you cannot afford a lawyer and must read over a contract yourself, here are three things you should look out for.

1. A Way to Get Out

When you are handed a contract immediately scan to the last sections and read the termination section. Be sure that the ability to get out of the contract is mutual and reasonable.

2.  The Specifics of How to Get Paid/ How Long You Will Have to Pay

When you are expecting money from a contract look for specifics such as how many days the person can wait to pay, whether the time period is calendar or business days, and method of payment. If you are the person paying, (giving a percentage) it is especially important to take note of how long the contract lasts and and what items/services the person will get a percentage of. A red flag should be raised immediately if the contract states that a person has a perpetual right to a percentage of something. Most contracts have sunset clauses that reduce the right to the percentage years after the contact ends.

3.  Contradicting Language

The biggest way you can hurt yourself is to not completely read through a contract. A section in the beginning that seems in your favor can easily be negated by a clause later on in the contract (even at the end of the same section). Look for phrases that refer back to other sections and reference them for contradictory language.

The purpose of this article is to foster an open dialogue and not to establish firm policies or best practices. Needless to say, this is not a substitute for legal advice. In any particular case, you should consult with lawyers experienced in the field you are in and licensed within your state. Depending on your specific situation, answers other than those outlined in this blog may be appropriate.

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Why You Need An Attorney

The music industry is built on two things: talent and deals.  Go Forth Music guest blogger Shay M. Lawson, Esq. explains why you need an attorney to act on your behalf when making your agreements.

1. Nothing is Face Value

In the music industry, what is discussed is often not reflected in the written agreement that is signed. At first glance the terms may seem to be the same, but the small print of the contract may negate other portions and often tend to be entirely one-sided without providing ways to get paid to get out of the contract (among a plethora of other things). It is in your best interest to have an experienced pair of eyes look at you agreements.

2.Reassurance is Priceless

A great young attorney I know summed it up well: “If you are dealing with enough money to get angry about, you should get a contract.” Even if the people you are dealing with seem trustworthy and/or you have some kind of history with them, consider what will happen if things don’t pan out as planned. You want to have the reassurance that you have a way to get paid or that you have a way to prove that the agreement is as you believed it to be at the beginning of business.

3. Business Will Be Conducted As Business

With the correct team in place you will be taken seriously by those who are conducting business with you. When people you deal with know that you are serious enough about your business to hire an attorney, they’ll be sure to be on their Ps and Qs. Your career is an investment and the return on your investment is only as strong as the team around you. An attorney is an important part of your team who ensures all your ducks are in a row.

The purpose of this article is to foster an open dialogue and not to establish firm policies or best practices. Needless to say, this is not a substitute for legal advice. In any particular case, you should consult with lawyers experienced in the field you are in and licensed within your state. Depending on your specific situation, answers other than those outlined in this blog may be appropriate.

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