It’s really, really easy for people to forget about you. It’s really, really easy for potential listeners to write you off because you look unprofessional. If you want people to take you seriously, then you need to take yourself seriously as well. If releasing music and growing a fan base is a goal of yours, then there are a few things that I think are absolutely necessary to portray a sense of professionalism and keep your fan base growing.
I’m amazed at how many artists are out releasing and promoting music but don’t have a website. Your Facebook page is not a website. If possible, your website should be www.mybandname.com (or something as simple and as close to that as possible). There doesn’t have to be a lot there, it can simply be a page that directs people to where they might want to go. A simple image and links to your Facebook/Twitter as well as links to places to purchase/listen to your music will suffice. Having that URL and a main landing page gives people the sense that you are taking yourself seriously and that you care about presenting yourself well to listeners.
Now that you have a website at www.mybandname.com, it’s easy for you to get a snazzy email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully you agree with me that an email address like that looks way better than something like email@example.com. It’s a unique email address and shows listeners that you’ve put some time and thought into how you are interacting with them.
So now you’ve got a website and a unique email address. Now you’re all set up to have a nice mailing list. I believe that the mailing list is the most important part of these three things, but it doesn’t make sense without the first two. When interacting with listeners over email, it’s more important than ever to be professional. People hate to get unexpected, annoying, or unprofessional things in their inbox and they’ll mark you as spam in an instant. But an email from a unique email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) with links to a unique URL has a much higher chance of being effective and getting people engaged.
I do highly recommend that you use a service to manage your mailing list for two reasons. The first is that the infrastructure a service provides gives people on your list the ability to easily unsubscribe. If you just BCC a bunch of people from your GMail account and don’t give them the opportunity to get off the list, you have the potential to make a lot of people mad and possibly get in trouble with spam laws. The second is that most services give you widgets and other things that help you add more people to your list. So you can put a signup box on your website, Facebook page, etc.
How, and How Much?
I know some of this stuff can be daunting to figure out, but I promise it’s not bad. I’ll give you a few tips here, and if you have more questions feel free to email me at email@example.com (see that nice email address?)
Website: There are two parts to this. You need to buy a domain name (www.mybandname.com) and a hosting service. I use Dreamhost to do this, but there are a million companies that do basically the same thing. This is where I bought the www.lowercasenoises.com domain name. As for hosting, you have a few options. Typically when you buy a domain name you can buy hosting as well with the same company. If you do this, you can install WordPress or any other website software you want and manage it yourself. The other thing you can do is use a service like Virb or Bandzoogle to handle hosting and use their service. I use Virb, and when I first signed up, the default URL they gave me was lowercasenoises.virb.com, but they give you the ability use your own URL which is what you see at www.lowercasenoises.com.
Email: Once you buy a domain name you should be able to use Google Apps to get an email address at that domain. It’s pretty easy to set up and most places where you buy the domain should help you with this. And don’t worry, it’s free if all you want is the email address functionality.
Mailing List: I highly recommend starting with FanBridge. They have a free version of their service you can try to see what you think.
So how much is all this? Well, a domain name is usually about $10/year. Hosting (whether from the same company or a service like Virb/Bandzoogle) typically starts at $10/month. The mailing list from FanBridge is free until your list gets too big, at which point you may need to start paying about $20/month.
The Big Picture
Hopefully you can see what having these three things does for you. You have a professional looking website where you can list contact information (your nice email address) and have a mailing list signup form. You have a unique email address that looks professional when corresponding with listeners. And you have a mailing list service that doesn’t annoy fans and is legitimized by the fact that you have a professional website and email address.
I guarantee that after you put these three things in place you’ll be viewed as much more serious and professional to your listeners.
Question: Do you see any ways that you can increase your professionalism in the eyes of your listeners? Lets talk about in the comments below!