A Web Presence – Do You Need It?

© I.Woloshen

As a songwriter, there are certainly advantages to having your songs, or at the very least yourSELF exposed to the masses. The “millions” that internet companies tell us we’ll be exposed to, however, isn’t necessarily true. Why? Because there are millions of other websites out there, and an infinite number of surfing possibilities! So why bother? Well, here are a few of my thoughts.

I’ve had my webpage online for about 6 years now…that’s pretty much since the beginning of the internet when we were all just learning about it. Of course, many things have changed in those six years…websites can be a lot more interesting to look at and hang out in now, many of us have faster connections, and we’ve all become more web-savvy both in our surfing and in our creation of them. The downside, of course, was that too many people jumped on the bandwagon, starting internet companies and a boom in the stock market, only to fall flat when many of them proved to have no substance. That’s my first rule of thumb: substance.

Maintaining a webpage of any sort is a big job. Actually, you have to think of it as an “ongoing” job. Just putting your picture and a couple of audio files online is not going to do much for you, unless you’re already famous 🙂 If you don’t want it to be a lot of work, my first suggestion is to use a websites like Soundclick, where you don’t have to do AS MUCH to keep it going. You still need to advertise it and keep it fresh in order to keep them coming back, but it’s not as much work as maintaining your own website. SO, if you’re not ready to commit to the time it takes with your own website, these others are a good starting place.

What Is Required Of You – Essentially, think of these sites as online press kits. On most sites you will need photos, audio files, a bio and if possible, some press quotes. I’ve seen people use fancy generic photos instead of pictures of themselves…I’ve even seen a few people use their pets 🙂 I have to say though, that if you’re a performing songwriter, the pic should be of you. Make it a good one, a close-up if possible.

Audio files are normally mp3 files these days, although some sites convert into Real Audio files as well. If you don’t know how to make an mp3 file, then learn how! Or at the very least, get your audio gearhead friends to do it for you. By doing a search on your favourite search engine for “how to make mp3 files”, you’ll get a lot of websites to peruse. My set up is this: I stick my CD in my computer’s CD/DVD player…from a CD, I rip the .wav files into Windows Media. Then I convert them to mp3 files using Adobe Audition , but there are plenty of free audio converters out there, just do a Google search for audio converters. When you upload an mp3 file to a website like Soundclick, lo-fi and hi-fi versions of the files will automatically be created, so all you upload are mp3 files. Confused yet? Don’t worry, it’ll get easier 🙂

Your bio should be short, concise, and only include the highlights. Favourite colours and other hobbies might be cute, but they are not important facts 🙂 I’ve seen very clever bios that don’t say ANYTHING relevant…maybe that’ll attract a few jokers. A sense of humour isn’t a bad thing, just make sure you include a little beef with your burger. If you’ve had any press at all, throw in a couple of good quotes. This makes you appear more “legitimate”, even if it was your uncles’ newspaper in a small town of 250 people where the quote appeared.

Beyond this, as I said before, keep it fresh. If you get new pictures, upload them, new songs, same thing. You don’t have to upload ALL of your songs, but rotate them once in awhile. If you have any news, upcoming performances, awards…let your listeners know.

These are the basic elements you’ll need for other music websites. But what about creating your own website…is it worth the trouble? I’m certainly not going to try to teach you how to build a website, I’m much better at teaching guitar 🙂 But strictly from the point of view of a songwriter or performing songwriter, there are several things to consider. When I first created my website, the smartest thing I read about building one was that it had to have something on it that would keep people coming back. That’s when I had the idea to create a songwriting tips section that I started writing articles for. There are a number of big websites now that cover all aspects of songwriting that are far better than mine, but on almost every one of them, there’s a link to mine! This has built up slowly, over the years. Most of the traffic to my website used to be from links that other songwriters had up on their web pages. The majority of traffic I get now is simply from search engine inquiries with the keywords “songwriting tips”!

You are likely not going to want to write your own songwriting tips (although I encourage you to if you can!), but you have to create your webpage with the same thought…”how can I make sure people will come back for more?” This is not an easy task. Content is everything. You could build a site around another hobby or interest…you’re a creative person, just let your imagination go! Here’s another list of do’s and don’t’s in terms of creating a website:

1.Do check out the singer-songwriter directory and check out as many webpages as you can to see how others have done it.

2.Do remember the same rule you apply to your songwriting…K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid!

3.Do some research on HTML, the code that is used to create webpages. You can buy software to create your pages that doesn’t require any extensive knowledge, but it helps to know a little.

4.If you are colour-blind, do consider getting some colour scheme ideas from elsewhere…OH, how the eyes hurt when I see pink text on a blue background…arrgghh!!

5.Don’t have a bunch of goofy, distracting, time-consuming animations or java-scripts on your pages unless they apply directly to your content. People will leave your site really fast if it takes too long to download, or if it makes their computer crash!

You don’t have to pay for web space these days…do a search on any search engine for “free web space” and you’ll find all kinds of them.

Promotion Is Everything! If you already have a following in terms of performing…have your website URL on every piece of promotional material you put out there…posters, business cards, stickers, CD’s, everything. If you don’t have a following yet, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time promoting your website, mostly on the web. Make sure it is listed with all of the major search engines. If there are other music-related websites where you can post or promote your site, do so. Join songwriter forums (see my critique boards article for links), and chats so that you can not only meet other songwriters, but get some promotional ideas. The web is not a static place, it changes constantly, so be on the lookout for new places to promote yourself as much as you can.

I handle my own web pages, etc., but that does not make me an expert when it comes to web page development. So if you have any general questions about it, I’d be happy to help you. Otherwise, I’d refer you to any one of a number of websites that have much better and more specific information. That’s my disclaimer 🙂

Ultimately, if you’re willing to put the work into it, having a web page has far more advantages than not. You’ll “meet” all kinds of people out there, find new songwriting collaborators, new fans and you’ll find yourself part of a wonderful community. Good Luck!

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