Website 101 for the creative types

You are a Musician. You are a Band. You are a Writer. And you want to set up a website for yourself; your book, your music, your life. Heck, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

So I was speaking with this friend of mine from college, a musician. It surprises me that it took him this long to break away from the staid stable corporate job and chase his musical dream.

This post comes out of a couple of back-and-forth emails…. All you musicians, bands, writers: please take note.

The first point to understand is that the website is merely a tool, a medium. It’s a medium to reach out to your audience, to reach out to your would-be-sponsors, to get published, to be hired, to be loved (and your end-product to be purchased. And read / listened) by people. That’s why you are here, right? Or why are you here? Put your novel up on a blog. Put your music up on Myspace.

The second is that the website is just one of the many tools you use. An email is a tool. Your Facebook and Mypace pages are tools. Your tweets are tools. Your live gigs are tools. Your book-reading sessions are tools. Your Youtube video is a tool.

Third: What sets the website apart is that most often than not, it is the first thing that your would-be fan sees when (s)he types your name on the search page. It is first impression, and you would like to make a good one.

Okay? Now back to your website. First, answer these questions.

1.       What are you offering?

You have a band. You have had a couple successful gigs; a few fans; a stalker … You are on your way. Answer this, then. What does your band stand for? Not the simple ‘Avante-garde-pop with a bit of punk and some Ali Farka Toure influence” or the “A bildungsroman on growing up in the capital city of India”– that’s what you do. That’s what you have created. Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your promise to your audience? What should they expect from you?

2.       You are a brand. What’s that brand? What is your brand image?

You are a mystical sufi-influenced rock band. You are an anonymous writer. Then why do you want to make yourself public, like a frog? It’s self-defeating. If you are Where’s Fluffy, you should not have a twitter feed, leave alone a web-page. You understand what we are getting at?

3.       What do you want to achieve via the website? Why should you have a website? What purpose does it intend to serve you?

This is important. The first question should not be ‘why not a website too’, but rather ‘why a website’? My friend is, in my opinion, a genius; and I feel he needs to have a website. But I am a fan and a friend. He is the artiste; he is the one in charge of his image. If the website does not add to his image, then why invest the energy into it? If the website does not help in reaching out to the influencers (music producers, record labels, publishing houses et al) or the audience (readers, listeners); then why have a website?

4.       A one-liner.

Now write a one-liner about your offering to the world. Your world-view, your music, stems from that one-liner. Your website obviously is an extension. Think about the above three points, when you are getting at this. Speak with your agent if you have any. Ensure you are coherent and consistent; in all the media outlets.

Now fill in the gaps and create your website.

  • There are hundreds of places from where you can buy your domain. (GoDaddy etc are common ones)
  • There are myriad website templates that you can pick up online. Google them. Ensure that they mirror your image. A spartan wordsmith should not have an orange-and-red-and-green flames-and-popups, and a glam-rock band should not have a plain-white background, bare-details website.
  • Link all your other tools into the website.
  • Your twitter feeds into your website.
  • Your Facebook posts do the same.
  • I should, with one click, go to your Myspace page where your music could be listened to.
  • I should, with one click, read a sample story or an excerpt of your soon to be published novel.
  • You should have a homepage that gets the attention you want. And is brief.
  • You should have a page which mentions what other people are saying about you.
  • Normally, you should have a page which gives your detailed contact information.
  • If you have a blog, link to the website.

And that’s just the basic stuff.

But you are on your way already. You know what you are looking for; I don’t think you need any more advice from this uncreative old suit.

You are the creative mind. So show the creative.

Wow us!

Last Question: What is our pedigree? Why should you listen to us?

There is an option. Don’t. But we’d read through a bucket-load of information on this topic available on the internet, spoke on this to a few creative people we know, and this piece is well-researched. And well, we have been marketers. Not books, not music bands, but other things; companies, products and services.  Some of them were excellent companies, super services and mind-blowing products. Some of them were rank bad. Just like there are good and bad writers, and good and bad musicians…

And good and bad marketers.

So do some more of your own reading, and get at your website. Or don’t. But don’t go in blind, please…

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