Elements of a Good Band Website

Okay, so here’s a rant that I’ve had boil up in my head for the better part of a year or two, and finally, well, I’m here.

If I made a band’s Web site, I would have, at a minimum:

  1. Lyrics to the songs. This is so unbelievably important, and it’s so unfuckinglybelieveably frustrating that more bands don’t do it. Let me give you a hint, bands: hiding your lyrics from the Web will just have some fanboy put them out there for the world to see, and the people who will get the traffic [and the ad revenue] are the shady jerks with the “Congratulations, you have won a free Nintendo Wii!” ad that screams at you the moment the page loads. You want that traffic. Why? You want them to know who you are.
  2. Tour date listings. Essential. It’s a pain to update them, I know. There’s many apps out there for that, but I would choose Yahoo!’s Upcoming if I were you. Upcoming is searchable, scriptable, extensible, and also pretty darn easy to update. Then there are folks like me who use All Crazy Style to mash up Upcoming data with Last.FM plays to find out when bands I like are playing near me. Real simple: you load the data in Upcoming, and you can spit it out on your site. You can update Upcoming from anywhere.
  3. Links to listen to your stuff. Don’t fire music at me when I load your site. I know you’re a musician, but the Web is largely about text. Let me choose to listen, and give me that option, but that auto-load bullshit is for MySpace. [And don’t get me wrong, MySpace has value.]
  4. Links to buy your stuff. These need to be everywhere: main site, discography pages, album pages, individual song pages. If you create a page per song, that individual song page should have a link of a place to buy that song—iTunes, eMusic, what have you. You want to cater to the fan coming in to Google some obscure lyric they heard on a commercial or in a Zach Braff vehicle—they’re gonna buy that shit if you give them half a chance.

The way to think about it is this: most people aren’t going to load up your main Web site and have that be their entry point. They just aren’t. Google is going to send them to you. So, think about a song you really love, Mr. Band Guy, and Google that. So, if you love Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, you get Last.FM’s page for the song … which has … BINGO … iTunes link. Last has done the heavy lifting for you here. But they’re gonna do that for Page and Plant … chances are they won’t for your garage band.

Some thoughts: if you get a song picked up for Grey’s Anatomy or Kyle XY or whatever, you want to 1) have that fact listed on a page about that song, and not just in a news feed/blog 2) lyrics of the song on that page, so the Googlers who are bad with names but good with ears for mumbled lyrics can find it and 3) a quick, fast way for them to buy that song and 4) relevant links on that page to find out more about you. The scenario is this: “I heard this killer song on Scrubs last night. Let me find it on Google … ooooh, there it is. 99 cents? Sure, I love that song. Hmm … who is this guy? Let me read more about him …”

It’s hell getting found in the music business. It’s hell getting found in the blogging world, too—which is why this entry is named like it is. Chances are that, if you’re not one of my regular readers, you got here from the Goog, too … so you should be nodding your head.

Okay, okay, okay, examples.

Bad: M. Ward: LOUD MUSIC, can’t find shit. Damn shame, because I love M. Ward.

Poor: Shearwater, which has a lyrics page for their stuff, but … in PDF. I know, you want art. I want to cut and paste the lyrics into iTunes. Don’t make me work, dammit.

Okay: The Mountain Goats, who have lyrics for The Sunset Tree available, but that page does not get you anywhere on that site. There isn’t a link to be found—not to the rest of the site, not to a place to buy the song you Googled, nothing. Kudos for posting the links, though.

Good: Andy Osenga, and not just because he uses some of my photos on the site. But he’s still not to great, because lyrics … Andy Osenga lyrics on Google don’t get you anywhere near him. [Or, for that matter, near andrewosenga.net, which is a problem Chris Hubbs and I should fix…]

Great: well, hell, no one really comes to mind. Leave suggestions for good band sites in the comments.

Folks, I know … this shit is hard. But it makes you money, so you better work at it.