for Record Labels
Copyright 2006 by Keith Holzman,
Holzman Solutions Unlimited.
Back to The
Purpose-Driven Web Site...
Websites have been very much on my mind lately because I've been
re-working my own. It's a task that takes lots of time
and thought in order
to come up with the optimum text, architecture, and look.
have a very basic task -- to educate the public on just what it is your
company or your record label is all about, and perhaps more important, it may
also be a way of selling them something. And if you're selling, you must be
clear just what it is you have for sale -- whether it's music, a service, or
The purpose of my site is to let potential clients become
aware of me and my company. It includes an explanation of how I might work
with them, and how I might help them. Most of all, it's to
encourage worried or anxious label executives to contact me to see if I
can solve their problems. Yes, it's an online brochure, but it's
really much more than that.
For example I've included lots of "value
added" material -- including
articles (all previous newsletters), a
recommended reading list, links to industry resources, etc.
As research into my
revision I spent a lot of time at a great many sites -- those belonging to
other firms that offer business services, graphic designers specializing in
websites, editors who specialize in marketing, and of course, those of many
record labels. I was amazed
at how really good a few sites were, but appalled
at how poor others looked. Unfortunately, the latter was true of a great
many, for labels large and small.
Message-Driven Web Site...
When designing or re-working your
existing site be sure you have a
thorough understanding of the message you
want to convey. Text and
graphics should project the image or brand of your
to, as well as evoking, the kind of music you
A few years ago I write a newsletter about this subject,
and everything I said then still applies. What follows is a revision
of that article.
Let's start with certain basic things that I believe
should appear on
all record label websites.
New Release Information.
Regular customers and frequent visitors to your site should be able to find
out quickly what you've just released, or are about to issue.
should be a complete artist roster with separate pages for each artist and
possibly a separate page for each title.
Each album page should include
a cover mini and a paragraph or two of information about the music, a
complete track list, and the capability to stream 30 to 60 seconds of the
best part of each song. Common streams utilize RealPlayer, Windows Media
Player, or QuickTime.
The page should have up-to-date tour information
for the artist, or for a label with just a few artists, a tour schedule page
for the entire roster.
In addition, make it very easy for visitors to
buy CDs, individual tracks, T-shirts, caps and other merchandise you care to
sell. Shopping cart software is readily available, and administering it
has been made less
website should also include key details about the label, with complete
contact information including address or P.O. Box, telephone number --
preferably an 800 number -- and an email address. Include a bit of label
history if you've been around for a while and have a story to tell. You might
also explain your policy about A&R submissions -- if you allow them --
and to whom they should be sent.
Include a place where visitors can sign
up for a newsletter or bulletin you might send out from time to time,
advising what's happening with your artists and their new
Keep your site up to date. Old tour itineraries or news
releases should be removed before they go stale. On the other
hand, information of forthcoming events should definitely be posted in
a timely fashion.
Here are a few additional things that you need to be
certain your web designer takes care of. Check all links to ensure they work
Broken links are a major user annoyance, and may keep your customers
away from pages they might want to look at.
Have lots of
artist photos on your site, preferably close-ups with uncluttered
backgrounds, but your designer should optimize all graphics for the web,
compressing them as much as possible. Pretty photos and artwork make a page
look good, but too many can slow the download to fans' computers. Very good
looking home pages for some labels take just a few moments to appear on a
screen; others take a minute or more, often looking no better, and frequently
worse. Moreover, a slow-loading page may just make a prospective
give up and go elsewhere.
Be sure that all text and
information is thoroughly proofread by at
least two people who can
It's a good idea to put a short description, appropriate to the
page being viewed, in the window title of each page. It might mention
the artist's name, or the title of the release.
Include a "hidden"
media page or section that can used by
publications, distributors, and others
with "a need to know." It should contain high-resolution photos of all your
artists, and might also have advertising materials, logos, etc. It's not
linked from the site, and can only be accessed by those who've been given the
URL. Some labels password-protect the pages, but this is cumbersome for
a someone that needs a photo right away.
Many labels and web designers
make the same common mistakes. The biggest, and probably most frequent, error
is that their sites are too complicated. Don't make a visitor sit through a
long flash animation and then force him to press an "enter" button if he
wants to get into the site proper. If he didn't want to visit, he
wouldn't have typed the URL or clicked on the link that brought him to
the site in the first place.
Be sure that all navigation links are
clearly marked. Don't make a visitor need to spend time figuring out where to
go to next on your site, or how to get there.
Avoid the use of
blinking words or graphics, jumping characters, or other devices that take a
visitor's eyes off what they're viewing. That's considered to be one of the
major annoyances on web pages. The second greatest annoyance is "pop-up"
pages. I have my software set to block
sure to make maximum use of a typical screen size. It seems that the most
common web browser window is set to 1024 x 768 pixels, followed next most
often by 800 x 600, and then 1280 x 1024. The first size is equivalent to a
14-inch flat panel display. Many older CRT (tube) displays use an 800 x 600
resolution screen, so you need to take that into consideration in setting up
Test the site on all of the common browsers -- Firefox,
Internet Explorer, Netscape and Safari -- checking them at common
Make full use of the width (the higher number of
pixels) so that the browser window stretches to an easily viewable screen.
Most important -- don't make a user have to scroll from left to right and
back to read the entire width of a web page! The screen layout should
be "liquid" so that a visitor can adjust the window to his
Color on the web is great, but avoid clashing hues, unless
you're doing it on purpose. No matter what type color you choose, make
it easy to read against the background. I think red type on a
black background is not only difficult to read, but causes eyestrain.
Also be sure to use color to delineate visited and unvisited links.
This helps users know where they've been.
I recommend you obtain the
vital web statistics of site visitors. Many web hosts maintain such data and
make it available to you for free. If they don't, sign up with one of the
many companies that exist to provide you with this information. Just type
"web site statistics" into your search engine and see listings for the
many firms that can help you. And it can be surprisingly inexpensive.
I'm amazed at the amount of information I get for my site for less
than ten dollars a month.
Dr. Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman
Group has published excellent advise regarding usability and common mistakes
in website design. His information at the following URLs is
make sure that your website is as user-friendly as possible.
You want to
encourage customers to visit and buy from you. You don't want to send them
away in frustration.
Copyright 2006 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights
reserved. Adapted from "Manage for Success," Newsletter #60,
Keith Holzman is the principal of Solutions Unlimited, a management
consultant specializing in the recording industry. A trusted advisor
and troubleshooter, he is a seasoned music business senior executive
with extensive experience in all aspects of running a label. He was
President of ROM Records, Managing Director of Discovery Records,
Senior Vice President of Elektra, and Director of Nonesuch Records.
He publishes "Manage for Success," a free monthly email newsletter
devoted to solving problems of the record industry. You can subscribe
at his website <http://www.holzmansolutions.com>. Keith is a member
of the Institute of Management Consultants and has served as a
panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a board
member of many arts organizations. He can be reached at
Keith is also the author of the recently published "The Complete
Guide to Starting a Record Company" available both as a 235-page,
printed spiral-bound book, as well as a downloadable E-Book.