Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at how to get set up online, avoiding the pitfalls and making the most of your time in cyberspace. This will be familiar to many of you but no harm in starting at the very beginning. It is easy to get caught up in the addiction of social networks but we must remain focused on what a band goes online for. Not all do and for good reason. With approaching 1 billion Facebook users and 140,000 Twitter users an online presence can further your reach and bring you new fans but only if used right.
The first thing you should do as an artist in the digital world is decide on your name. Sounds bleedingly obvious but if you are going to put a lot of work in setting up your digital identity you don’t want to be changing it in a year.
Once you have done that you need to register all the services you will use. I’ll go back over each one in future posts but this is my default setup.
Domain (that’s a .com, .co.uk, .tv etc)
Server (the home of your website – not so much name orientated, more digital real estate usually accessed via FTP)
Facebook Profile and Page – social network
Twitter Profile – social network
MySpace Profile – music streaming platform and social network
YouTube Profile – video streaming platform and social network
Soundcloud Page – music streaming platform and social network
Instagram – photo platform and social network. Make an account through your smartphone
Ifttt – functional bit of programming to allow you to automate posts between platforms
Hootsuite – allow you to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook page and profile and MySpace
Google Analytics – site tracking
Google Alerts – specific term searching delivered to your inbox
Check the name based ones for availability before signing up as it’s easier for your fans if the URLs are all the same after the forward slash (/)
It is worth thinking a bit about SEO (That’s search engine optimisation) at this point as well. Calling your band John Smith is not going to help you grace the top rankings of google. Likewise google your name to see what else comes up. Apart from other bands called the same thing you might be surprised about sites that share similar URLs. I’m sure the band Feeder were.
People rattle on about new social networks like they are the most important thing in music. And whilst they are an important part of your promotional package you just have to look at MySpace to see how fashions come and go. The most important part of your digital armoury is your domain and website. Why? Because, as long as you keep paying the domain and server fees, you will own it forever and it will be the one address that never changes as social networks flare in and out of fashion. Think of it as your mothership. Within it you can house a blog, shop, live dates, press information, contact details and more. Your social networks are satellites all pointing back to your website.
Domain vs Server
Your domain is just an address.
Your server is where your website lives.
Your domain points to the server
Some companies offer both together or you can buy domains from one company and point them to server space you rent from another. I use a combination of 123-reg.co.uk and nethosted.co.uk for domains and nethosted.co.uk for hosting. Great value and astonishingly fast support from the latter especially. You will be faced with a bewildering array of MySQL, PHP, Apache and many more forgettable names. My advice, before signing up, ask the company (also know as the host) if they will do what you need. I have encountered some companies recently that charge extra for WordPress compatibility. This my friends is just rude. A domain should cost between 3 and 10 quid per yr and server space about £35 per yr. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other similar open source sites need a database to work from. When considering how much space you need on a server how much you want to put on your site. The wordpress download is 3.8MB and with a few plugins isn’t really going to get over 20MB so add that to the size of images and other content you’ll use.
Web 2.0 (Attention! Bullshit Alert)
You will have no doubt heard lots of people bibbling on about Web 2.0 and how clever they are but what does it actually mean? In its simplest form web 2.0 is the move away from passive websites to the use of user generated, interactive social platforms. Why do I mention it? Use it in your site. Host your audio on soundcloud, video on YouTube, pictures on Instagram/Flickr and embed them in your website. Not only does this make your site interactive but it also means you are not paying to host huge video, picture and audio files. You are paying by giving these companies your information and information on browsing habits which they can then sell. But that’s a whole different story!
Another of those annoying acronyms flying around! It stands for File Transfer Protocol and without going into too much detail you need to use FTP to upload files to your server. I use Cyberduck for this as I’m on a Mac but there are other free ones. Just google it or ask host. Once you have a WordPress or similar platform installed you can usually upload images and other content via the site which is much easier.
My first choice for the new artist would be the WordPress platform. You can go with wordpress.com (free as they host it) or wordpress.org where you use their web architecture hosted on your server space. Basically all the hard work is done for you and there are tons of free themes out there that you can use straight out of the box or, if you know a bit of CSS and PHP, customise to meet your needs. This is a bit boring but listen up. To use WordPress you need to upload WordPress to your server AND make a database that connects to that WordPress upload. The WordPress folder contains the site itself- code and architecture, content you upload and plugins. The database contains the text data for the actual content – words, links, pages, posts and all the info that tells the site where to find your pictures and stuff. When you back up, which you should do regularly, you need to back up BOTH. The WordPress installation process is well documented. Click here to read up.
I mentioned these in the previous paragraph. WordPress is a pretty useful platform but one of the brilliant parts of it is the ability to run independently built plugins from within the platform. Here is a list of some of my favourites.
Google Analytics – If you don’t know what it is, google it. One of the most important and useful bits of free software out there
Page Links To – Like Ronseal, does what it says on the tin
Blog-in-Blog – allows more control over your blog categories so you can post specific blogs to specific pages and turns WordPress into a CMS system. Great for individual band members. You can see this in action on this site here where all the posts I have written are pulled into one page
iFrame – WordPress sometimes throws a bit of a hissy fit with iFrames if you’re embedding them with html and this is a useful way round. An example of IFrame embedded content might be a YouTube video or a Soundcloud player
Under construction – A quick way to put a holding page across the front of your site when you’re tinkering with stuff
Gigpress – gig listing database with RSS, and calendar links
FanPage Connect FREE – Enables you to make Facebook app pages from within your wordpress site. You’ll need an https:// address (SSL certificate) to do this
Next week I’ll go through some of the Social Networks, what to do with them and what not to do with them!