Low on cash? Here’s how you can create a music website on a budget

A solid music website is one of the biggest self-promotion tools an artist can have in 2021.

Even in an age where social media seems to dominate the attention of your fans, musicians like you need a centralized hub where you can connect with your audience and showcase your work to the rest of the music industry.

That hub? Your own music website.

A musician’s website doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Expensive websites are usually expensive because they’re a customized website built for a specific artist or brand. But there are stellar and affordable website builders out there that you can build on your own in real-time—even if your coding skill level is effectively zero.

In this article, we’ll help you decide how big of a website you need, how to save money building your own website, what to include, and more. In the end, you’ll have a great-looking website that leaves a good first impression for new fans and music industry professionals alike.

Does my band need a website?

Need is always a strong word—but yes, your band probably needs some sort of music website. But how big of a site you need is another story and depends on your needs and budget.

You may be able to rely on a strong social presence, a Bandsintown account for live performances, and a ConvertKit landing page. But you may also want more. Building a website that can grow alongside your band might take more time and money up-front, but can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

How do I create a free band website?

Unless you want your URL to be something like mybandname.freehostingprovider.biz/my-band-name-again-but-with-hypens, you’re going to need to pay some amount of money for your website.

Even if you’re not paying a developer to build a fancy website from scratch, you will likely at least need to pay for hosting and a domain name for a full-service website. The domain name is the URL of your website. For example, sundaecrush.com is a domain name. The hosting service is how you get your website live on the internet. You need both to have a serviceable website.

However, you can find affordable hosting solutions that come with free domain names. Bluehost is an example of a web hosting provider that offers a free domain name when you pay to use their service.

Once you sign up for a hosting service (we’ll include some examples below), you use their service to build out the look and content of your website. The art of building your website can be completely free, or you can hire someone to do it for you.

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What should a music artist website have?

Now that you’ve decided to build a website, you need to decide what to include in your website. While you can ultimately include whatever you want, start with these basic pages and elements.

music website

About section

The “About” page on your website is—you guessed it—where you can tell folks more about you and your musical career. It can contain an in-depth bio, select accolades, other works in which your music was featured, collaborators, and more.

Though your bio should contain the most impressive and relevant information about your music career, try not to litter the page with too much information. Update this section when you’re about to release an album, get nominated for an award, or have another major musical milestone. You don’t need to list every collaborator or every detail about your career.

When in doubt, ask another musician to look at the information you want to put on your About page and highlight what stands out to them as important or impressive, then consider trimming down the rest.

Concerts and tour dates

Facebook Events and Bandsintown pages are great, but you should also include show dates and ticket information on your own website. Of course, no one wants to create Facebook Events for each show, then add those dates to Bandsintown, then add them to their website. No one has time for that!

music website
Seattle based indie band Deep Sea Diver uses the Bandsintown plugin to showcase their tour dates. Image via Deep Sea Diver.

The good news is that many of the most popular website builders integrate with Bandsintown, and Bandsintown automatically creates your Facebook events for you. Bandsintown has a free WordPress plugin for adding your show dates to your website, Bandsintown, and (if you’ve set up the Bandsintown Facebook integration) Facebook events at once.

You can even insert event dates and ticket links from your Bandsintown shows directly in your emails using ConvertKit—perfect if you want to automate your tour promotion, or if you’re a band manager who manages multiple artists.

Mailing list form

While social media followers are great and increasingly important, having a strong email list is still essential for any musician. Fans who sign up for your email list are your biggest supporters and they want to be the first to know when you have new shows, merch, and music to announce.

The best way to convert site visitors into email subscribers is by putting email list signup forms on your website. ConvertKit offers versatile free form options, including non-invasive pop up forms, simple embed codes, free-download-for-email forms, and more.

Press photos

Remember those press photos from your EPK? A great use for them is putting them on your website. In addition to images of you or your band on your homepage, you might want to have a page dedicated to photos or media.

Fans and other music industry professionals alike want to see what you look like—or at least how you present yourself. After all, your style and look is often a part of the overall experience you give your fans. That’s why most bands have a page dedicated to a few high-quality professional band photos.

Videos

In the days before YouTube, you had to use your own site storage to showcase your music videos on your site. These days, it’s as easy as dropping in an embed code or URL from YouTube.
Some bands create a separate page for their music videos and videos of live performances. Others create an all-encompassing “Media” page that features both still photos and videos. You may also want to feature your newest video directly on your home page so site visitors see it right away.

Social media links

At the very least, your music website should contain links to your social media profiles. The website builders we mention below all make this part easy—typically they’ll prompt you to add these crucial links.

music website
Rising songwriter Joy Oladokun’s website prominently features her social profiles in the header and footer of her website. Image via Joy Oladokun.

Some bands also choose to include a social media feed on their website. It’s a nice touch for bands that are active on social media, but we recommend skipping this if you don’t update your social media at least weekly. If fans visit your website and see you haven’t posted to social media in a month, it might make it seem like you’re inactive.

Music streaming or digital downloads

While you probably don’t want to offer all your music for streaming (you want people to buy it, after all), you should at least make it easy for fans to find and buy your music from your website.

music website
Daniel Donato’s “Music” page has options to purchase physical copies of his music directly from him alongside options to stream or purchase digitally. Image via Daniel Donato.

We recommend dedicating a page to your music that gives fans the option to buy or stream your music on an official streaming site. Above, you can see this is exactly what guitarist Daniel Donato has done on his site, with options to purchase his music directly from him at the top of the site, and options to stream (or purchase) digitally below.

Online store

Over the past decade, merchandise and direct sales have become an increasingly large part of a musician’s income. From vinyl records to t-shirts to stickers, merch sold at live shows can be the difference between an artist affording to stay at a hotel versus crashing on a random sofa or sleeping in the van.

Musicians should also offer their merch on their website. Most website builders allow for integration with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, or WooCommerce. You can offer a wider array of merch on your online store than you can on tour, since you don’t have to worry about lugging it around.

music website
NPR-featured indie band Sundae Crush offers a host of unique options in their online store, including patches and guitar picks. Image via Sundae Crush.

If you’re not interested in shipping, you can pay for shipping partners. Unless you’re shipping dozens of shirts a day, though, we recommend picking a day each week to hit up your local post office.

Contact information

Having readily available contact information for you or your team (your manager, agent, label, publicist) is one of the most important parts of your website. It’s the easiest way for other music industry professionals, journalists, and more to contact you with opportunities or questions. We recommend keeping this information at the bottom of your website (the footer) or on its own page so those who need it don’t have to dig around too much for it.

What to look out for in affordable and free band websites

Some sites can seem like enormous price performers when you first start out, but as you need features (for example, a webstore, embeds, plugins) you have to jump up several price tiers.

As you’ll see below, sometimes that jump is huge. For example, one affordable website provider starts at $4 to $45 a month if you want to be able to sell and ship to other countries from your web store.

music website
Most website builders and hosting providers have different plans with different pricing. Make sure you won’t be priced out of a cheaper plan in a few months or years. Image via WordPress.com.

Paying a mid-level price for something that won’t throttle you in terms of features and tools will be something you can grow with is ultimately better in the long-run.

Another big consideration is finding a website builder that clicks with you. Some people find drag-and-drop editors like Wix are easy to understand even without coding experience. Others might prefer the WordPress editor. Try out a few free trials and see what you like best.

Where to create a music website

These days, there’s no shortage of affordable and easy-to-use website builders. We’re big fans of the following website builders, none of which require any coding experience.

ConvertKit one-page website builder

Especially when you’re starting out, you might just want a single-page website that contains some high-level information about your band, an email sign-up form, and links out to your social profiles. The ConvertKit landing page builder is perfect for that.

music website
ConvertKit’s landing page builder makes it easy to build a music website for free.

You can build a single-page website with the same tips from our article about building a free EPK—all you have to do is pick a template and customize it to your taste.

Wix

Wix is a drag-and-drop web editor with plans that start at zero dollars. That’s right, Wix is free to use. But the free version, while great for students who need a website for a class project, isn’t ideal for musicians.

music website
Wix has dozens of free music website templates. Image via Wix.

With the free plan, you have to use username.wixsite.com/sitename as your URL, which doesn’t exactly look very pretty on a show poster. Plus, there’s limited functionality with the free plans. In other words, you’ll have to pay at least $14 a month to have access to a professional-looking website with Wix.

WordPress

The most popular website builder in the world is WordPress.org. But don’t confuse that with WordPress.com.

What’s the difference? WordPress.org is an open-source, completely free website builder that can be hosted almost anywhere, including affordable web hosts BlueHost and HostGator.

There are literally thousands of free WordPress site designs (templates) and plugins that enable you to do almost anything you can think of. For example, you can install the free ConvertKit forms plugin so you can collect email addresses, install a free web store like WooCommerce or connect the Bandsintown plugin to get your tour dates on your site.

WordPress.com uses the WordPress platform, but is an all-in-one hosting solution. You can start for free with WordPress.com, but you’ll want to at least use their $4 a month option which comes with a free domain name.

However, WordPress.com (unlike WordPress.org, it’s confusing, we agree) gets expensive, quickly. While WordPress.org doesn’t charge you to use plugins or change any element of your website, you need to get a higher-priced tier for WordPress.com to do basic things like add ecommerce, upload videos, or even put Google Analytics on your website.

Squarespace

You’ve probably seen ads for Squarespace, which is one of the most popular site builders and web hosting platforms today. Plus, it offers dozens of integrations with other popular websites and marketing tools, including ConvertKit, YouTube, and Spotify.

For $12 a month you can have your own site and domain name with plenty of free templates to choose from. The downside is you have to pay more to get essential features, like a fully integrated web store.

In other words, if you don’t need ecommerce on your website, Squarespace is a great option. However, if you think you’ll want to sell your records, merchandise, and more directly through your website, that $12 a month website you started with can balloon to $40 a month before you know it.

Weebly

Like Wix, Weebly offers a free website solution with an unpleasantly long and awkward domain name. However, for as little as $6 a month, you can have a custom domain with an online store, but your fans will have to see ads for Weebly’s parent company, Square, on your site.

Bump your monthly fee up to $12 a month and you can remove the Square ads from your website and get a free domain, making Weebly a price performer compared to Squarespace.

How to promote your website to get more site visitors

So, you’ve built a website. Now what? Just like you’d promote an upcoming show or newly released music, you should promote your website.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fancy way of saying “how to get your website to show up on Google.” Though SEO can get extremely complicated, you really only need to know the basics.

All of the hosting platforms above have special SEO tools that make it easy for your website to show up in Google. Most bands with unique names have no trouble showing up in Google searches for the band name, but if you’re the band Girls, for example, you might find folks find your website by searching “girls the band.”

While most bands rank well for their band name, some bands want to show up for specific search queries. For example, a cover band in Seattle might want to try to show up in search results for “Seattle wedding band.” This is a much more difficult feat, but here are a few tips to help those types of bands:

  • Put “Seattle Wedding Band” in your site title
  • Create a page on your website called “Book us to play your wedding” or something similar
  • Use variations of the phrase “Seattle wedding band” throughout your website

Again, SEO can get much more involved than that, but keeping those tips in mind may already put you ahead of other Seattle-based wedding bands.

Email

Email and website go hand-in-hand. Unlike sites like Facebook and Instagram, it’s where you have more control over what content you release and who sees it. With email, you know for a fact that everyone you send an email to will receive it. Compare that to Facebook, where you have to fight with algorithms or pay money to ensure every fan sees your posts.

When you build emails, prioritize linking back to your website versus other services. Encourage folks to visit your website to buy your record, watch your videos, see your tour dates, read your blog posts (if you choose to have a blog) and more.

ConvertKit helps you create a deeper connection with your fans by reaching them directly in their inbox with personalized updates—no algorithms getting in the way. The stronger the connection with your fans, the more control you’ll have over how you earn a living with your music.

Social

One great function of social media is using it to funnel people back to your website. Every once in a while, remind your fans and supporters on social media that they can find important updates about your music, support you via merch sales, and browse tour dates on your website.

Turn your musician website into a moneymaker

A website is an investment—and that means you want to make sure that you’re making money through it.

From merch sales to ensuring that potential collaborators and other opportunities can find you, there are dozens of ways for musicians to make money online.

Interested in making a single-page website via ConvertKit? Get started here!

The post Low on cash? Here’s how you can create a music website on a budget appeared first on ConvertKit.

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