Most well-known and even upcoming musicians have websites. It looks professional, shows you can afford a domain and is a central hub for all your other social media links. It can act as a public EPK with streaming previews, photos and a "Sizzle Reel" showcasing previous performance/music video footage to portray your image.
But wait, so then what’s really the point of spending money on a website when you’re just re-directing to all of your social media? I get that maybe sometimes there are added features like blog entries but I feel these are rarely up to date and it should be a manager/PR or someone similar doing this because that time should be spent on the music. What about the Sizzle Reel? well, for upcoming artists, it's more effective for this to be included in directly targeted PR e-mails instead of hoping people are landing on your website.
Sometimes these websites focus too much on an aesthetics with flashy animated background images that slow loading times down and confuse the viewer from retrieving actual information. I understand that there’s an artistic appeal which may align with the artist’s image and it's exhilarating to make, but I feel most people are just on your website to read your bio, listen to your music, maybe check some tour dates and/or contact you. (again, depends on your status).
This brings me back to my time working at Canadian Music Week. As a festival assistant, I spent many hours retrieving information on artists and bands for creating their profiles on the website and guess what? When looking these people up I would always avoid any personal website links and go straight to Facebook. I know that under the “About” tab on an artist page there will be the same consistent information I need like genre, e-mail, hometown. I also know there will be band photos and exactly where to find them and of consistent dimensions and quality. When I used to take risks on personal websites I wasn’t guaranteed an easily clickable .jpeg (sometimes I’d have to screenshot based on the file type setup) and I wasn’t guaranteed the key pieces of information that I just mentioned to be listed without sifting through a lengthy bio. Even the audio players integrated into websites like Squarespace are just whack, like why not link to your Spotify so all your plays add up in one spot? Listeners can then follow you for notifications of your new music, something that a personal website couldn’t offer unless perhaps from a mailing list.
As an artist myself, I made a website just in time for my debut music video because I wanted to seem like I had my shit together. It was essentially a landing page with a "watch" button that just linked to my YouTube. Super handy right? I’m sure a high percentage of the views came from there rather than personal sharing through blog submissions and organic Facebook shares ;)
I ended up refunding the website and just focusing on spicing up my social media platforms instead. I realized I didn’t need the website at the time and instead I would need my Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify etc. looking on point when it comes to the organization and artwork as these were acting as my online image and in a way, my EPK. I won’t go into detail about how to do this but its simple and straight forward. Have consistent cover and banner artwork. Take/use professional, quality photos that clearly portray you or your brand or your name. Fill in all fields that you can to provide the most information. I know sometimes it’s cool to put shit like “Hometown: Your Mom” and that may seem jokes to you and your buddies but if you want to increase the chances of being booked and upping your exposure, real information can come in handy.
Toneden have also introduced Fanlink, which is just what it sounds like. A link with all the social media platforms in one which is gaining popularity due to its convenience and simplicity.
Now on the topics of e-mails. Along with my website I also purchased the e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). This is what I was hyped on the most, to seem important in all my e-mails. Now the question this poses is, do people really care/will it even be used? Back to CMW days, a lot of these artists are represented by management or an agency, in which case, the contact e-mail will not even belong to the artist. So of course in this case the e-mail issue doesn’t even apply. But what if you’re still more independent and can choose between say email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org. This isn’t up for me to say, it's simply a matter of opinion which you think will be worth it in the long-term so please do comment below and state your opinion.
In conclusion, I think independent artists in early stages of their careers should save their money and utilize free social media platforms to promote their music rather than dishing out on a website. That being said, I think some platforms may be a waste of time due to technology evolving and trends cycling. For example, ReverbNation doesn’t seem relevant anymore, nor MySpace. There are a lot of websites popping up trying to be the new Soundcloud etc. so we’ll see what the next cycle brings but for now stick to the giants.