12 top tips for online success

Our quick-start guide to taking your music to the web

Everyone knows that the internet is a great place to share, publicise and even sell your music, but how can you make sure you stand out from the ever-growing crowd? The 12 tips below should set you on the right online course.

If you want to read more about the issues we’re addressing here, check out Computer Music Special Vol.28: The Musician’s Guide To The Net. On sale now, this is the perfect magazine for anyone who wants to make a success of their web-based musical ventures.

If you can’t find the mag in your local WH Smith, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Chapters or good independent newsagents, it can be ordered from www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk

1. Give it away
Remember that people need to hear your music and live with it before they’ll start wanting to engage in any sort of economic relationship with you. 30-second samples are pretty much a waste of time; don’t hoard the music – it’s not like you’re going to run out.

2. Get them talking
There are people who talk about music all over the internet. MP3 bloggers, in particular, are useful people to be in contact with. They make recommendations, often to thousands of readers who have come to trust what they have to say. You want them to be writing about your music, so give them your MP3s to share.

3. Get connected
One of the easiest ways to have people find out about you and what you do is to exchange links with other artists who might share a similar fanbase. Don’t be afraid that you’re sending people away from your site – be generous with the link love.

4. Build a community
The web used to be a land of signposts and (sometimes) destinations. Now it’s an environment where people do things. So, instead of just putting a brochure on your website, why not build a space where your fans can congregate, talk to each other and create the site content themselves?

5. Be seen
Make sure Google knows how to find you. A Flash-based website may look cool and the words may fly around the screen in an impressive fashion, but as far as the outside world is concerned, you might as well be hiding it. Relevant text and links are a good starting point.

6. Assemble your team
You may not need a record label these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the skills and knowledge you need to get where you want to go. Think like an online entrepreneur. Use resources like Elance.com and Guru.com to get the administrative, technical or promotional help you require.

7. Forge meaningful relationships
While it would be great to get 10,000 people visiting your MySpace, it’s worth far more to you to have 1000 regulars. You want people to become invested in you and what you do. Treat them like guests and friends, and make sure they care about what happens next.

8. Make it viral
The best thing you can do online, if you’re trying to make money out of music, is make or do something that will have people forwarding ‘Check this out!’ emails to their friends. You want to be remarked upon? Then be remarkable.

9. MySpace is not your webpage
While a lot of musicians rely on MySpace for its convenience, it’s not a substitute for a professional standalone site of your own, where you have control over the content and design. MySpace is a bit like the pub: you can bump into all sorts of interesting people and have interesting conversations, but if it looks like they want to do business, take them back to your ‘office’.

10. Be everywhere
There’s more to the internet than MySpace and Facebook. There are more online music stores than iTunes. The more places people can trip over and discover your music, the more likely they are to do so. You can have the greatest site in the world, but if that’s not where people are looking, it’s done you no favours.

11. Embrace the freedom
Consider the possibilities of the medium. Pop songs and albums are a specific length and form because of the physical properties of vinyl and CD records, but why bother with filler album tracks when four great songs will do? Why not have a three-hour tune? The old conventions need no longer apply.

12. Go for frequency
Once you have people coming to your website, give them a good reason to come back. If it’s the same every time, they’re going to think, ‘I’ve seen that’, and not return. A regularly updated blog should be the cornerstone of your online activities.

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