Why a Website?
Arts decisions-makers and audiences assume that performers of all levels have an online presence. It’s hard work at first, but once you are set up, the fun can begin! Even if you aren’t trying to get new work through your website, it pays to let people know what you are doing wherever and however you are contributing to our field. By using your website as a tool, you can give people some insight into your personality, highlight work that is most important to you, provide others with resources, and create an easy way to be contacted.
This article is designed for artists and conductors at every level and will provide useful resources for readers building their first websites, or who may want a refresher on some best practices. With tools like Wix and Squarespace making it so easy, now is the time to get started! Let’s dive in with some basics.
Why is a Website Essential?
“Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing,” argues David Cutler. Marketing is more than your materials; it is how you conduct yourself as a business. Like branding, marketing encompasses your professionalism in a variety of areas: dependability, passion, creativity, communication, and a host of others. Good marketing can provide three main benefits: to keep past customers engaged, to attract new clients, and to increase name recognition.
It is important to bear these ideas in mind when approaching marketing. As you can see, it is an almost limitless topic. In this article, we are going to focus our conversation on the single best way to market yourself: through a website.
Design Best Practices
Let’s think now about how to design your site so that it will best serve you and your audience. Your website is normally the first thing a person will find when he or she seeks further information about you as an artist, so you must have a strong message and deliver it clearly. David Cutler advises considering six important questions when building website content.
What are you trying to market? Are you trying to entice someone to come to your concert, to buy your CDs, to present you in his or her club, to hire you as a private teacher, or to hire you as a guest artist? Decide on your target market and the product you are trying to sell.
What is your call to action? How will your audience take the action you are hoping for? Will they join a mailing list, buy a CD directly on your site, watch your embedded videos, or purchase a ticket to your next show? Make this action easy for your website visitors by linking directly from your homepage.
What is in it for the customer? A mantra often used by salespeople is: “find out what people want, then help them get it.” Are you marketing an experience or are you providing a service? Can they get performance tips in your newsletter, or perhaps a free CD with a concert-ticket purchase?
What questions will guests have? Predict them, and provide answers.
What will draw new viewers? Do you promote your website at shows? Do you direct people to the site from your social media pages? Do you offer valuable resources on the site that will help your audience in some way? Do you provide industry news? People won’t simply visit to find out more about you — provide them with a tangible benefit.
What elements will hold their attention and bring them back? Learn what people like about your site and what qualities might inspire them to invite their friends to visit as well.
Various experts have similar lists of recommended content for websites. Here are the elements that artists will often include: 1) a home page, 2) a biography, 3) contact information, 4) a description of services offered, 5) a repertoire or composition list, 6) a performance calendar, 7) a blog, 8) recordings, 9) a retail page where visitors can purchase your products, 10) photographs, 11) a press or testimonials page, 12) useful links page, 13) a FAQ page, 14) and a mailing list sign-up.
It is up to you to decide which of these many elements will best deliver your message and serve your goals. Make sure that your messaging is consistent, i.e., that your brand is established on your home page and reinforced on all other pages.
What Works with Your Audience?
Remember, most people decide whether or not to explore a website within the first two seconds of viewing the home page. Therefore, your home page should be visually striking, should clearly identify the subject, and should present something unique about you. Here is a list of guiding questions to consider as you build your landing page:
Is the most important information present: name and artist type (if you are on this site, probably “conductor”). Experts recommend that the most vital information be presented in the upper-left corner of each page, as this is the first area that visitors see.
What is the unique aspect of your artistry? Is your brand communicated clearly?
Is there enough white space, or is the page cluttered?
Are the other pages on the website clearly labeled in a menu bar at the top of the page?
Is there a call to action?
After landing on this page, what catches your eye first? What would you click on first?
How we Create our Platform
Creating an excellent website takes a lot of work, as it is both a technical challenge and a creative process. The nuts and bolts are important! At first, you will need to focus on three main areas:
Domain Acquisition: The first thing you must do is to reserve your website address. You reserve an address through a domain registrar by purchasing the rights to a Uniform Resources Locator (URL). Popular registration sites include DotEasy, GoDaddy, and Register.com. Through such sites, you can purchase your domain name for a small yearly rate. The site will register your ownership with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Always remember to renew this domain before your period of ownership expires. Also, check to see whether your registrar offers hosting services or if you will need to purchase those separately.
Web Hosting: A website must be hosted on a server. Some individuals choose to host their own site, but most choose to pay a small fee to an established company for this service. The server is identified by its Internet Protocol Address (IP address). Usually, this service can be provided by your domain registrar or by your site construction company (considered next). When selecting a web host, it is important to consider issues such as storage space and bandwidth, especially if you expect to display high-definition videos on your site. Independent companies that provide this service include Dreamhost and Media Temple.
Site Construction: If you are skilled in web coding, you might choose to design your own website from scratch. Others may use a construction tool with templates that can be easily customized. Some companies, like Google Pages and Yahoo SiteBuilder, offer free web hosting and provide templates. With these services, however, you must include “Google” or “Yahoo” in your web address, which can look unprofessional. Consider instead using a company, such as Wix or Squarespace, that allows you to use your own address. For a low monthly cost, Wix and Squarespace will register your domain, host your page, and provide templates and design tools that are easy to use.
During the site construction phase, be sure to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and an analytics platform. SEO ensures that your website will appear on searches through Google and other engines. This is an often overlooked but essential step. Analytics provide you with valuable information on traffic data, such as number of page visits, time spent on each page, and geographic location of visitors. SEO needs to be coded into your site, which is a fairly technical process. Squarespace and Wix will also establish SEO for you. Analytics are provided by Google for free (for any website), and can be implemented fairly easily.
As you build your site, make sure to solicit feedback from your trusted network of friends or colleagues and take careful note of what your peers say — they are your prospective audience! Were they drawn to the items you had hoped? Were you surprised at where they chose to click first? Is your brand recognized in the way you intended?
Things to Remember
The website is our gateway to our community, along with things like social media and email newsletters. While it may not be the right tool for everyone, because of the available resources, even novices can create a compelling platform. We encourage you to believe that you have something big to say and to share it with your audience and network through your website. Also, who knows? Maybe in creating the content for the website, your thinking will be directed to something that will make a big difference in the lives of others, or be the start of your next big project! We certainly found that to be the case with Everything Conducting — and we hope that this article will help you find your online voice as well.
 Cutler, David. The Savvy Musician. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Helius Press, 2010, 50.
 Cutler, 51
 Ricker, Ramon. Lessons from a Street-wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools. Fairport, N.Y.: Soundown Inc., 2011, 65.
 Cutler, 95-96
 Bettger, Frank. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling. New York: Fireside, 1986, 33.
 Cutler, 97 and Beeching, 135-138
 Cutler, 99
 Beeching, 134
 Beeching, Angela Myles. Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 130
 Hamann, 86 and Beeching, 130
 Beeching, 130