Having a real website and professional email is an important part of building ANY business – and that applies to musicians too. If you or your band wants to build credibility, effectively market, and fully execute on key opportunities as they come, you 100% need to have a real website and email. This guide is going to cover the essentials of building a professional website and email for musicians.
Part 1: Why You Need A Real Website as a Musician
Should a musician have a website? YES! First off, here are a few reasons why:
Reason #1: People Will Google Your Band
What’s the first thing you do whenever you’re curious about something? You Google it! Pay attention to how often you pull out your phone and search for something that you’re curious about. I guarantee you do it a lot more than you realize.
If you’re doing your job right, people will find you on Spotify or meet you at shows want to know more. More often than not, they’re going to go right to Google. They may also go to your social platform of choice, but a search is universal.
Because people WILL Google you, you need to make sure that what they find looks professional. You want the first result to be YOU. If they can’t find much about you or it looks like you’re not a legit band, that will leave a bad impression. Social sites sometimes show up in the rankings, but it’s sometimes hard to predict and can vary depending on your name.
I’ve seen artists without a website have their Submithub profile rank higher than their official Instagram – which literally doesn’t matter to anyone but curators on Submithub while they’re actively reviewing your song. Ouch.
If your name is based around common words or phrases, you need to give all the evidence that you exist to Google – and that people care about you. In general, the more references to you as a band, the more likely Google will serve information about YOU rather than showing random listing related to your name.
Reason #2: A Website is a Platform You Have Complete Control Over
Just like you want the first result on Google to be you, you also want to make sure that the first result is an experience you control. The 1st search result gets about 33% of the traffic, while the 2nd result drops to 18% and it declines from there.
In PR, you almost always want to control every aspect of the messaging, experience, branding, calls-to-action, etc. You can’t do that with Instagram or whatever the social flavor of the month is. You always have to play by Zuckerberg’s rules. Their goal isn’t to help you out… their goal is to have users spend more time on their social platforms – often at the expense of directing people away from your content! They could push a new update to the algorithm tomorrow that makes it impossible for your posts to show in people’s feeds.
Social is great for having FUN, but as a PROFESSIONAL tool, it has severe limitations. A website can adapt to whatever needs you have. Creating something as simple as a list of links (to albums, shows, past publicity, etc) is impossible on Instagram… but on a website, you can easily make that and design it however you want.
Reason #3: Fans Aren’t The Only People Who Take an Interest in You
Ever hear the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know?” Well, think about what those “whos” are gonna do before throwing you a bone. Remember you need to make a good impression with:
- Venues/promoters/booking agents
- More established artists
These are all people you need to make a good impression on if you want their help on your journey. These VIPs WILL do their research on you. Remember that music is a business and they’re going to be examining you from a business standpoint. If you don’t have a website, that’s a business red flag. It means you don’t take it seriously enough. Why would they risk their time and money on you?
If I had to pick only one reason why bands need websites, it’s this reason. Most fans probably won’t care if you have a website, but it’s about making a good impression WHEN you really need it.
Reason #4: Websites Need Domain Names – Which Means You Can Make Pro Email Accounts
This goes hand in hand with reason #3. It’s about first impressions when it really matters. If you’re cold-emailing playlisters, bloggers, venues, etc, and only have 3 seconds to make a good impression… which looks more like someone a VIP would want to partner with?
Exactly. Don’t look like another trash local band that’s too cheap to treat their band as a business. Look like you have your stuff together when first impressions matter.
Reason #5: Websites Let You Collect Emails for Email Marketing
Email is by FAR the best way to promote to your existing fans, so it’s critical that you start building your email list. I know it’s not as sexy as reaching millions of followers on Instagram or Twitter, but the data speaks for itself. You’re way more likely for people to buy tickets, listen to your song, buy merch, etc via email than on social media.
Remember that while he plays nice, what Zuckerberg wants and what YOU want is vastly different. Facebook wants users to stay on their apps (even at your expense), while you ultimately need people to get off that platform to listen to music, buy tickets, go to shows, etc. Email just shows up in someone’s inbox and they at least will see the headline (if they open it is another story). There’s no algorithm or limits on links to screw you over.
Reason #6: Websites and Email are Forever
Social sites come and go. Remember MySpace? You probably won’t if you’re younger than me, but back in my day it was THE platform for bands because “everyone is on it” and “it lets you post music easily.” Too many people put their eggs in that basket and just pointed people to their profile. When people left MySpace for Facebook a lot of bands had to rebuild their entire web presence.
Part 2: What You Need On Your Band's Website:
It SHOULD be obvious, but sometimes it's so hard to find the music of an artist on their website. Make it easy. Embed videos of the song AND have links to your streaming services.
Not only are videos great for embedding your music on your site, having a variety of kinds of videos is a good move.
You're not just in the business of making music, but also creating a brand and image. Having videos of you playing or doing interviews in addition to your music/lyric videos will let people get a better feel for who you are.
This is one of the top reasons to build a website. You want fans on your email list because it's by far the best way to promote your stuff. We'll cover more about WHY that's the case in a little bit. Bottom line, make it easy and obvious where they should sign up.
You need to share your announcements here. If you post an announcement on IG, you also need to write about it here. People in the industry will scroll through to see what you've been up to. Plus, the more content that Google finds on your website, the higher you will rank for ANY search related to you. Never pass up an opportunity to add more information.
Blogs are super useful because it gives you a place where you can write longer and go more in-depth than on your social feeds. It's easy to add to the end of a teaser social post “check out our blog to read more about X/Y/Z.” Then they're on your website, opt in to your newsletter, etc.
Yeah, you should add your lyrics to Genius, your DistroKid account, etc… but you should ALSO make sure it's on your own website too. There are three reasons for this:
- Giving Google more information on you in general (song lyrics are free searchable content that help you rank higher for ANY search related to you)
- Making sure when someone trys to figure out what song is playing by Googling the lyrics that they find you
- People come to/spend more time on the platform you control
Not just a list of shows, but give people a way to get tickets if needed. This goes along with your website being the home base for everything you do. Most people use a Bandsintown widget to display the shows.
Having a dedicated photos page is great because people ALWAYS forget to ask you for photos before they need it (venues promoting shows, bloggers, etc). Make sure they get something that's A) up-to-date and B) high quality so that you look good. Plus your superfans will obviously love looking through the cool photos of your shows, photoshoots, etc.
Not only are you writing this for your fans, but you're writing it because people will scope you out professionally. Tell your story and what makes you unique. Show that you're the real deal and not just another crappy local band or SoundCloud rapper.
Just like photos, people forget to get your press stuff all the time, so make sure things are accessible.
EPK means Electronic Press Kit. This is a hidden page with pretty much anything a VIP would need. You send it over when working with journalists, bloggers, venues, promoters, etc.
It should have your bio, full-resolution photos, embedded music, videos of you playing live, complete information about previous projects and tours, additional contact information (who handles booking, etc), noteworthy previous press coverage, stats on your listeners, etc. Basically, anything that someone who is in the press or promotional world would need to do their job.
If you have merch, either sell this on your website (easy to do on Squarespace), or link to the platform you use for selling merch.
Have a dedicated page with all the contact information. List the key email address and contacts. Even if you're self-managing, set up email aliases so you can have separate addresses listed for:
- General: (email@example.com)
- Management: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Booking: (email@example.com)
- Press: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This not only makes you look more legitimate, but it also means that you can then easily delegate these roles in the future.
Part 3: Picking Your Band's Domain Name
.com is Almost Always Best
Always try to get the .com of your artist name. I know this is often not possible, but be strategic about what you'd pick instead. For instance, a band called Torpedo Kitten should obviously go with torpedokitten.com as the first choice, but could also go with
Just whatever you do, don't go with “torpedokittenofficial.com” – something about having “official” in the website name seems so inelegant and local bandy.
A TLD is the ending of your domain name (.com is a TLD). I don't usually recommend going with niche endings like “.band” – they see tacky and most people still aren't aware of the fact that .band is the TLD. If you say in conversation “torpedokitten.band” people might interpret it as “torpedokitten.band.com”
I think it's a good idea to also get a couple of similar domains or typos of your name just to protect your brand. For instance, The Talbott Brothers' main domain is thetalbottbrothers.com, but they also have talbottbrothers.com and forward it to their main domain. Just in case someone types in the wrong thing… or worse, impersonates you!
Part 4: Picking Your Website and Email Tools
Website Builder Options
Website Building Option #1: Squarespace
Squarespace is a pretty popular website builder. I like it because it is simple, looks good, and handles the technical stuff for you. They have a bunch of addons for eCommerce (aka merch store), memberships (think fan clubs), and basic email marketing.
For musicians, they automatically have a Bandsintown widget that makes it easy to automatically display your upcoming shows.
I recommend going with at least the Business plan (currently $18 a month) so you can have the analytics, additional customization, and online store.
Another tool in a similar vein is Wix, but I personally find it has a steeper learning curve.
Website Building Option #2: Hiring A Designer
This is honestly a great option if you're not good at visual design or not a techie. You definitely don't want a website that leaves a bad first impression… because first impressions matter obviously! Having a poorly-designed website is like showing up to a date with mustard all over your shirt. That's all anyone will be able to focus on – even if you have a great personality.
If you go this route, make sure to actually hire someone worth their salt. If you scrape the bottom of the barrel for a budget designer, you're going to get a website that looks like you hired the cheapest designer you could find. This is a business investment!
If you don't know of someone who can do it, you can check out 99designs or similar directories.
Keep in mind, that when you hire a designer, most of the time you ALSO have to pay for the hosting/platform in addition to their design services. Think of it like you're hiring them to paint your living room, but you still need to keep paying your rent/mortgage.
Website Building Option #3: WordPress + Hosting
This is probably the most hardcore way to do it and is honestly complete overkill for most artists. Unless you have a particular need for WordPress (like going hardcore with blogging, integrating with some other tools), you're going to spend a LOT more time learning the ropes and trying to maintain it.
It's a great platform for power users and those who like get dirty with code, etc. But I'm guessing if you're reading this guide, you're just want to get your website built and that's ok!
WordPress is an application – meaning you need a server to run it on. I recommend getting hosting from Cloudways if you go this route.
If you go this route, you can also use a pagebuilder like Brizy or Elementor to make the design easier.
Pro Email Account: Google Workspace
I really only recommend one tool for your email: Google Workspace. Think of it like the pro version of Gmail. It uses the same user interface but you get to email from your domain (oh and no ads in the inbox). Plus it lets you create “aliases” for your account so you can have a virtual address like “email@example.com” in addition to your main address. Helps you look more legit and build out the address all booking/press/management stuff should go to for WHEN you delegate it down the line.
If you bought your domain via Google, it should upsell you to add Google Workspace right then and there. Super easy.
Email Marketing Service Options:
Email Marketing Option #1: MailerLite
If you're just dabbling with email marketing, MailerLite is what I've been recommending lately. It's super easy, relatively inexpensive, and works! The free plan is pretty powerful if you're not ready to spend on email marketing yet.
The only downside with MailerLite is that if you build your website on Squarespace, there's currently no native integration. They have a hacky workaround so you can use Squarespace's default newsletter signup block, but I'd probably recommend just building a form in the MailerLite backend and pasting in the embed code where you want the block.
Email Marketing Option #2: MailChimp
Probably the most well-known provider in the music space. They definitely paved the way for email marketing for small businesses, but I personally find the UI old, clunky, and frustrating. In recent years they've also shifted away from just email marketing to trying to be an all-in-one marketing platform for running ads on social media, eCommerce, etc. I personally think they've lost their focus now that they're trying to be everything to everyone.
Still, they have a free plan that works (but be careful if you want to upgrade because it's way less bang for buck than MailerLite's premium plans), integrates NATIVELY with Squarespace's newsletter signup blocks, and your musician friends might already use it so they can help you learn the ropes if needed.
I haven't had a chance to play around with their eCommerce offering, but you might find benefit to having your email marketing and eCommerce nicely integrated for abandoned cart emails, upsells, loyalty coupons, etc.
Email Marketing Option #3: Squarespace Campaigns
Squarespace's email offering is very basic, but it's built into Squarespace which is nice if you're already using Squarespace for your website and eCommerce and don't want to deal with the endless customizability of a platform like Mailchimp. It does what you need it to do: send out blasts and run automations after someone new signs up or buys something.
The templates are pretty pre-built with limited customizability, but again it works – especially if you don't want to deal with designing your emails.
There's no free plan for sending, BUT they let you capture emails from the newsletter block on your website for free.
Online Merch Store/eCommerce Platform Options:
Online Merch Store Option #1: Squarespace
Probably the easiest option if you already have your site on Squarespace. Your merch store is just another page on your website with the same design and everything. It's also easy to display your products on pages, blog posts, etc just by adding the product block and typing the product name (think a blog post about “New Shirts Available Now!).
Building a store on your Squarespace plan requires either the “Business” or “Commerce” plans, starting at $18 or $26 a month respectively (as opposed to the basic Squarespace plan of $12 a month). I recommend at least the Business plan anyway. The Commerce plan includes access to the Point of Sale app if you want to use that for your merch table so your merch sales data is all on one platform (as opposed to using Square for your merch table)
Online Merch Store Option #2: Shopify
For the longest time, I considered Shopify overkill for artists since it's mostly targeted to people going hardcore on building online stores (like my friends at Lambertones), BUT they recently added integration with Spotify to display your products directly on your public Spotify profile which is really cool.
The biggest issue I think most people have with Shopify is the cost. There's *technically* a $9/month lite plan – with the catch that they don't host the storefront for you. You have to manually embed buy links onto a page elsewhere. Beyond that, the regular plans start at $29/month. But they also give you discounts on shipping labels for DHL Express, UPS, and USPS for shipping.
They also have a Point of Sale iPad app, which is nice for keeping your data about sales from the merch table in the same place.
A Shopify storefront is technically a separate website from your Squarespace website, so you'll have to manually put links between the two and do your best to make them feel like one website design-wise.
Online Merch Store Option #3: Big Cartel
Big Cartel is a platform targeted to artists and musicians more than the other platforms. They do have a free plan (limited to 5 products), which is nice if you're just getting started.
Of all the options, it definitely feels the most “creative-friendly,” trying to be simple and focused on the needs of artists (while the other options try to work for a lot of other kinds of businesses), doing things like automatic sales tax calculation/submission. It's just $9.99 for the next tier up, which for what you get looks to be pretty generous.
t like with Shopify, Big Cartel gives you a technically separate website from your Squarespace website, so you'll have to manually put links between the two and do your best to make them feel like one website design-wise.
Online Merch Store Option #4: Square Online
If you already sell your merch with a Square reader at your merch table, this might be an option for you. It keeps all your data in sync between your POS app and your online store (which is nice for keeping track of inventory, easy sales reports, etc).
They have a free plan, but you have to pay for features like a custom domain (store.yourband.com) – starting at $12/month, which is reasonable.
Just like with Shopify, Square Online gives you a technically separate website from your Squarespace website, so you'll have to manually put links between the two and do your best to make them feel like one website design-wise.
Part 5: Band Website Best Practices and Common Mistakes
Pass the “Caveman Test” (Make Everything Obvious)
There's an expression in web design called the “caveman test.” It basically means that you want to make sure it's STUPIDLY obvious
- What you do
- What the visitor should do next
Is it clear you make X kind of music? Is it obvious that you want them to either stream your music, get tickets, or opt-in to your newsletter? People don't want to have to think, so remove the distractions to those main objectives.
Most people won't read your website, they'll scan it. So make sure your site is scannable.
Use Strong Calls To Action (CTAs)
How do you get people to do to the thing you want them to do next? Create clear, compelling, and obvious calls to action. Creating giant colored buttons helps make it obvious that they should click. You don't get people to do what you don't ask for! (In fact, most communication and promotional principles could be summarized with that.)
I find that having verbs really helps. A button that says “Listen on Spotify” is always going to be better than a link that says “Spotify” (and even better would be something like “Listen to the NEW album on Spotify” since it gives more of a reason and sense of newsworthiness). Similarly “Get Presale Tickets” is better than just “Presale Tickets” because you're inviting them to take action.
Each page should have it's own main CTA. If you have multiple sections of a page, each section can also have it's own mini CTA.
Limit The Amount of Crap In Your Main Menu
A big mistake I see on people's websites is they try to jam EVERYTHING in the main menu at the top of the site. This ultimately serves as a distraction from the main content when someone first lands on the page (in fact, I currently have too many in the menubar of this site).
Again, make it super obvious what you want people to do when they first land on your page. The less reading the better.
So where do you put the less critical links? That's a job for the footer of your website. I've heard this jokingly called the “junk drawer” of your website. Most of the non-essential links can go there (but some pages don't even need to be listed at all, for example, your EPK or landing pages you created for specific campaigns).
Mobile is Half of Traffic
Always check what your pages look like on your phone when you're designing them. Like, literally pull out your phone. The “mobile preview” on most web builders can give you a good idea of what it might look like, but sometimes it actually renders differently on the phone because of how the mobile browser works, real-world screen sizes, etc.
Similarly, make sure your site loads fastly on mobile. Nobody likes a slow website. If your site is slow, people will quit and never come back. Make sure you aren't putting a million giant photos and videos everywhere.
Your Website Should Be On-Brand
I mean obviously right? But sometimes there's a disconnect between your artist brand/persona and what your website looks like. I think most musicians get this naturally, but it's still something to ask. Basically don't use a black and red heavy-metal design if you're an indie-folk-pop singer or vice versa.
Your Website Should Tell Your Story
Not just with the copy of your website, but also the mood of your website. Similar to asking if your website is on-brand for you, you should think about if the website communicates your story – and by that, I don't necessarily mean your literal history, but also what you stand for, what you inspire people to do, etc. All of this needs to add up and get people excited about who you are and what you stand for.
After visiting your website, do people feel like they know you more? Like they want to be your friend? Do they feel more invested? Are they more likely to become True Fans or Superfans?
I hope this guide helped you start wrapping your brain around building a website. Please comment below if you have any questions or comments about what we've talked about here!