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Selling Your Music Online -
Designing Your Web Site
Part 1 of 2.
Article by David Nevue - Updated August 2005
Back to Internet Music Promotion 101

Okay, you’ve decided you want to create a web site to promote your music. Now what? That's what this article briefly addresses.

This is an edited (shortened) excerpt from the book,
How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.  

How Much Do You Know?
First, ask yourself this question: “How much do I know about computers and graphic design tools?” If you know little or nothing, you might want to consider hiring a professional. The appearance of your web site is very important to your success. If you have any doubt at all about your design capabilities, trust someone else who can do the job and make you look good. At the very least, someone may be able to help get you started and you can take it from there.

There are literally thousands of Internet-based companies out there ready to design your web site for you. The fees for such services vary greatly. Professional designers may charge you hundreds of dollars; smaller companies or individuals may do it for almost nothing. Always, always contact past clients of anyone you are considering working with and ask how satisfied they’ve been with the service. Don’t take the first offer that comes along, but do keep in mind you often get what you pay for. A cheap designer might give you a cheap design.

There are many places on the Internet where you can search for and make contact with professional designers. At GetaGraphic.com for example, you can post your design requirements and graphic artists will bid for your job. You can evaluate each bid, including each bidder’s portfolio before committing to anything. Similar options are available at Compare Web Designers, The Elance Agency, and HostBaby.com. You'll also find a list of designers in our online directory.

Also, don’t forget to make use of your fan base. Chances are, you have a dedicated fan who knows something about web design and has some skill at it. They would probably jump at the chance to help you get your web site up and running. You might offer them free CDs or concert tickets in exchange for their services.  

If you’d rather not bother with creating your own unique web site, there are musician’s communities you can join who will host a generic, but attractive web site for you. CD Baby is one of the best examples. Going this route, however, can create limitations if you are seeking to sell your music in significant numbers on the Internet down the road. Be aware of that.

Designing Your Own Web Site.
If you want to design your web site yourself, and don't know how, the best way to learn is to just jump in and do it. If you are an inexperienced web page designer, you will very likely want a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) page editor. This makes web site creation about as easy as it can be. My personal favorite of the WYSIWYG editors is Namo WebEditor. I’ve been using this for several years now and I love it. The easiest way to learn how to use an HTML web editor is to first download and edit an existing web page. Virtually all web editing software, Namo included, has an option where you can give it a web page address and download that page into your software for editing. I suggest that when you first start out learning how to use your web editing tool, this is exactly what you do. It’s easier to take something that’s already done and experiment with it, than it is to start from scratch with a blank page.

How to Find Ideas for Your Site Design.
One of the best ways to find site design ideas is to simply look at what other musicians are doing with their own web sites. Search for an artist in your same genre at CD Baby using the “Style” list on the right side of the page. Click on that, and you’ll be presented with a list of the best selling independent artists in your genre. Select an artist that looks interesting. Now, look in the left-hand column of the artist’s CD Baby page. Under “Links,” most artists will include a link to their ‘official’ web site. Using this method, you can visit a number of artist’s personal web sites to gather ideas. You can use this same method at other artist communities like SonicGarden.com. After doing some investigating here, you should find enough web sites to provide an abundance of inspiration.

Planning Your Online Press Kit
As you begin formulating a plan for the overall layout of your personal web site, try thinking of your site as an online press kit. Like a press kit, your personal web pages should contain the following:

  • Your name and contact information
  • A band or artist photo or photo gallery
  • A band or artist biography
  • Product information (CDs, T-Shirts, posters, whatever)
  • CD details (track list, song descriptions, album background, sound files)
  • Your upcoming performance schedule
  • Press notes, reviews, customer testimonials
  • The latest news about your act

These are the things your web site should have at a very minimum, and these items ought to be easy for your web site visitors to find. If you hand your business card to a club manager who might want to book you and they look to your web site for information, they ought to be able to find that information quickly and easily. They will also need to be able to contact you directly from your web site.

Keep all this in mind as you plan your web site layout. However, as you will soon see, there is more to maximizing your web site for music promotion than just creating a personal web page from which to sell your music. Your online press kit will be just one very small part of your growing Internet presence!

The Basic Stuff You Need to Know
Before you go about designing your web site, there are some basic technical things you will need to know:

Graphic Types: There are basically two types of graphic image files used on the web; *.gif and *.jpg files. Unless you’re doing something really unusual, all your images will be saved in one format or the other. Which format is best? Well, here’s the general rule: for photos, pictures and desktop scans, use *.jpg files. For text logos, small graphics or line-based graphics use *.gif files.

HTM What?: HTML. Don’t let the technical-sounding word scare you. All a web page is is a simple text file that contains lines of basic text commands called HTML. If you’re using a WYSIWYG editor such as NAMO WebEditor (my favorite), you don’t even have to worry about seeing this ‘code’. You can design your page in a layout format much like you can with a desktop publishing program. As you become more skilled as a web page designer, however, I guarantee you’ll find understanding the code useful. To view the HTML code for your web page (or ANY .html web page for that matter), simply open your *.html file in a text editor. You can edit the HTML code, save it, and then open it with your browser to view and test the resulting changes.

Your ‘Home’ Page: Your web site ‘Home’ page should be saved as index.html (or index.htm, it doesn’t matter). Once you’ve designed your home page, use your FTP client (I recommend CuteFTP) to upload it to the root directory provided to you by your web host. Then, when you type your web address into your web browser, your index.html file will be displayed by default.

The above items are some the things no one tells you about web design but expects you to know. So, with those things behind us, let’s move on!

Web Graphics: Get Everything You Need Free!
Everyone wants to have a web site that looks cool, but not everyone has the ability to design cool-looking images to dress up their web pages. Since you probably want more than just text on your site, you’ll be happy to know that there are many places on the Internet where you can find and download free web graphics. Some of my personal favorites include:

If you have difficulty finding what you’re looking for in any of the above sites, check out FreeGraphics.com.

How Much Is Too Much?
There are all kinds of fancy things you can do with your site graphically. You can add some cool effects to your site using images from the above services. If you use animation, however, use it sparingly. It's best to keep your web site design simple and to the point. For some reason, some designers think the more stuff they have flashing and spinning on their web site, the cooler it is. You know what I think when I see a web site like that? I think an eight-year-old kid designed it. I don’t take it seriously. The truth is, in terms of web design, less is better. Pages load faster, and your site is easier to navigate. Whatever you do, make sure the text on your web site is easy to read. There is nothing wrong with using a solid color or even just white for your web site background. It looks much more professional. Want a classy web site? Just find a simple graphic theme that uses a few small images and repeat that theme throughout your web site.

Make It So! How to Make Your Site ‘Live’!
Once you have your web page designed, the HTML document and graphic files that make up that page need to be transferred from your computer to your web host’s server via an FTP client. I recommend CuteFTP's software, but CoreFTP's free FTP tool is a good alternative for those of you just starting out. 

This ends part one of this discusson on web site design. What you've been reading is an edited (shortened) excerpt from the book,
How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet. For more on web site design, read Part 2.


David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy and Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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