To be a successful musician today you need to communicate with your audience. Your fans and potential fans will type your name into Google and with a bit of luck, your website will appear first on the results. The opportunities for letting your audience know more about you, displaying tour dates, and even making money are endless with a well thought out website.
Your web presence is one of the most important tools you have for communicating with your audience.
YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites are in many ways more interactive but there’s no reason no to use your website as the main communication vehicle between your brand and your audience. Remember, your website is your property. The other ways of promoting yourself on the internet involve someone else’s platform. Remember MySpace? Imagine if you’d invested hundreds of hours in building up your MySpace page. The internet is a fast changing place and although it’s pretty certain that Facebook will be here in five years, who know what path they will take with their service. Maybe musicians will have to pay to have a fan page. Maybe advertising on Facebook will be the only way to use it.
Your own website is something you have 100% control over and from that point of view it’s a very valuable and long-term asset. How are the most popular bands using their websites to their advantage?We look at the top 10 band websites according to Alexa.com to see how the most internet friendly bands are promoting themselves online.
According to Alexa the most popular website about a musician or band is brucespringsteen.net
The Boss uses a basic looking WordPress website with the emphasis on the calendar. There’s nothing standout about the website and looks a little dated. Ticketing for the concerts is handled by Ticketmaster. Merchandising is taken care of by Fanfire/Livenation which removes the need for an in-house e-commerce platform.
Clicking on an album cover in the Music section takes you to iTunes where you can buy the album and listen to songs. The site has outsourced all the heavy work leaving a blog as the core of the site. This is an option for musicians that don’t want to offer e-commerce on the site directly. It saves on development costs.
It’s a fast site, measured using two industry standard tools for measuring the speed of websites, Gtmetrix and Google Pagespeed. Brucespringsteen.net clocks 92% on the GTmetrix PageSpeed score, and 86/100 on Google’s PageSpeed score. Not bad at all.
Brucespringsteen.net uses W3 Total Cache (our recommended caching software) for speeding up page loading. The site runs on a Nginx server (one of the two main Linux Web Server options). CloudFlare is the content delivery network, useful as it’s a site popular all over the world. The site hasn’t been updated in quite a while but its popularity remains very high.
Interestingly the Boss doesn’t use a .com domain.
This is a more modern looking site than brucespringsteen.net and grabs your attention much more easily, although this may be due to the typical scary Iron Maiden artwork.
The band promote their social media pretty well and the site takes advantage of all the usual website techniques for keeping people engaged.
I found the site to be slow at times. Technically, It’s a PHP based website so probably written as a proprietary package. I did find some images that were not rendering on the page, possibly because they were deleted. For such a high-profile site this isn’t something you’d expect to see. The shop page is built into the site but there seems to be issues with their SSL layer for secure shopping.
The site does not score well at all on either GTMetrix or Google Pagespeed. With an E score on GTmetrix PageSpeed and 27/100 for desktop on Google PageSpeed it’s obvious that the site is not trying to win any prizes for speed and efficiency. Unlike their solos, this one just doesn’t soar. The main issue is with images. Very few of the sites images are compressed, resulting in huge files that are resized on the fly for delivery to your browser. This is very inefficient and causes bottlenecks in downloading. The total page size comes in at a heavyweight 7.4MB which is enormous. The site also has a bunch of marketing and analytics plugins and tools which will add to the overhead.
It’s popularity can’t be denied but I’d hate to be an Iron Maiden fan living in a country with very slow internet speeds. I’d need an hour to download each page.
Coldplay, like Bruce Springsteen, use Fanfare to sell merchandise on the site.
PearlJam.com is unusual in that it runs OScommerce, an online store software. The site also runs on CentOS (a free Linux clone). I haven’t seen many commercial sites using CentOS. The site itself gets a mediocre ranking on both the GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed tests. (71% and 53/100 for desktop, respectively). However, it’s a quick site to navigate and it’s uncluttered and intuitive to use. Pearl Jam use their site to sell all manner of things such as books, posters, films, and of course music.
A seemingly simple site but the menus hide tons of good information about this hugely popular band. The forums have literally millions of comments so for the most active discussion on Pearl Jam you know where to go.
The website of the most popular metal band of all time, Metallica.com, doesn’t strike me as a well thought out one. The front page doesn’t quite fit on certain viewports. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viewport
They are obviously pushing social media with the icons for several displayed prominently on the page. There are also links to their SoundCloud account (with almost 100 live tracks), iTunes, and Spotify. Knowing their history of being unfriendly to internet based music sharing software, I always imagined that Metallica would ignore sites like Spotify and SoundCloud. But they appear to be quite active on all fronts.
The site offers a membership option and a boring looking store that offers a huge range of merchandise.
Bruce Springsteen really does have the internet covered. His second site is the 6th most popular on the internet. It’s actually a site for Springsteen and Jersey Shore artists.
The site appears squashed inside the browser and looks like it hasn’t been updated in years. In fact, it hasn’t changed much since at least 2004.
Just shows that you don’t need the most amazing looking site to be popular. The site could be improved upon to make it faster but it’s seriously backward compatible and the old saying ‘If it ain’t broke..”, comes to mind.
This WordPress site is one of the cleanest looking sites in the list. Clean lines and a simple interface make up for the tiny and annoying image slider on the homepage. On the performance front it is a higher ranker than most of the others.
The Shop section is handled by MusicToday.com, an entertainment marketing website owned by Livenation. The site offers a huge range of options for the real DMB fan in the form of Box sets, live recordings, posters, clothing, DVDs, and more. I can’t imaging I’d ever want an official scarf of any artist but there’s obviously a market for people who want these things.
The system for viewing images of the band is a bit cumbersome and videos all link back to Youtube.
Another .net domain, Dead.net is the home of the Grateful Dead. This site uses Drupal, a Customer Management System like WordPress but losing ground in the CMS wars. It’s not the prettiest of sites but does the job. The forum software looks quite outdated and the mixture of fonts makes for an incohesive website experience. There’s a forum that requires registration and a store selling all kinds of Dead related stuff. This is not a site I’d plan to emulate.
Muse rank number 8 on the list which was surprising to me as they are not quite as well-known as the other bands. They obviously have an internet savvy following.
.mu is the Top Level Domain (TLD) of Mauritius. The problem with having a band name that’s a common English word (and a short one) is that the domain name will be already owned by someone who got there back in the 90s when domain names were made available to everyone. So Muse have gone with the .mu TLD. These days, there aren’t so many penalties (by the search engines) for having a country specific domain as they understand that it’s getting harder and harder to find domain names. A country like Mauritius will have so few businesses that it’s automatically assumed that .mu domains are international. Other common alternative domains are .co, .io (like this website’s TLD), .net, .ly, .me
Muse.mu makes good use of eCommerce by offering a whole range of products to buy directly on the site. The site is also offered in many different languages.
Last on the list, at number 10 is Bobdylan.com
For one of the oldest musicians on the list he has one of the hippest websites. This is the fastest website on the list and the one I like the most. This WordPress site uses the Clarendon FS Bold font https://www.fontspring.com/fonts/fontsite/clarendon-fs, a reasonably priced commercial font which gives a solid, old-school feel. The masonry http://masonry.desandro.com/layout.html layout of the blog posts is easy to navigate and the simple clean menu bar is refreshing. There’s an excellent sortable table of all of Dylan’s songs and clicking on an individual song brings you to the lyrics page where you can also buy the track through iTunes.
It’s a well thought out site with the emphasis on clean lines, uncluttered information, and hip typography. This is one that I’d recommend most musicians to try to emulate.
Plugins include W3 Total Cache and Yoast. The site also uses CloudFlare to speed up content delivery.
Number 11 on the list is one that I thought about not including. Weirdal.com is the home of Weird Al Yankovich. OK, so he’s a musician but he’s a parody, so it’s hard to know if he counts.
The site opens up with an autoloading video, something I really don’t appreciate. However, it’s a slick site and one I like a lot. It’s scores quite well on the speed tests, despite the reliance in videos. The site is laid out quite well and it’s easy to navigate.
The store section is where the site is let down. Registration is mandatory, if your shipping method is not available then you lose the information to entered on the form, and PayPal appears to be the only payment method.
This is a WordPress running the popular NextGEN image gallery and Lightbox plugins.
What you can learn from other bands
Every website on this list has a different feel and approach and it has to be said that the slow speeds and old technologies of some have not affected their popularity. Many of these sites use WordPress which is now running on 20-30% of all internet sites. For new artists I think the best approach would be to give yourself the best advantage by leveraging the technology available to you.
A fast site, with the best (but not necessarily expensive) technology will serve you well in the all important search engine rankings. Even if your popularity exactly matches that of another artist (impossible to gauge, I know) you would still be able to gain some ground by ranking higher in Google. As most people learn about their favourite artists through their websites it’s wise to make it easier for people to find you. This is even more true for musicians that have a niche market audience, or offer something different. For gigging musicians, bands for hire, sessions musicians, and music teachers this is even more critical.
If you’d like to know more about setting up a website but don’t know where to start, send us a quick email with your requirements and we’ll give you some free advice.