Want to know how to build your own website?
Please Note: While this is a music website, this guide can be used by anyone wanting to make a profitable website fast. Please skip the below intro if you want to get straight into building your own website.
Today we’re going to be looking at how you can set up your very own successful music website. Whether you’re a solo musician or part of a ten man band, you NEED a website. We’ve talked about this previously in the topic ‘Why All Musicians Need A “.com” Website‘, but for those of you that missed that we’ll explain again.
Having your own website centralises your fan base. While other websites like Facebook and Twitter are useful to have and gain interest from, they aren’t a place where you can communicate with your fans on all levels. Instead, they should be used as tools to get your fans back to your website and sign up to your mailing list (We’ll talk about why this should be your main aim later on).
With your website, you can communicate with your fans in any way you see fit. You have more freedom, as you don’t have any restrictions with regard to what you can or can’t do (Providing it’s within the law of course). You also don’t have to worry about a site going out of fashion and leaving you to start all over again on a new platform (Was you one of the people to get stranded when MySpace stopped becoming an effective tool for musicians)?
With your website, people will always know where you are regardless of what else is popular at the time. They will also be able to get all your information and media in one centralised location, which is more convenient for them.
What We’ll Be Doing In This Guide
In this guide we’ll be looking at how to build your own website. We’ll be taking you through seven steps to setting up your website on WordPress (Don’t download this yet, when you get hosting in the first step this is done automatically for you) and kiting it out. For those that don’t know, WordPress is free blogging software that also doubles as a very powerful website builder. If you want an idea of what WordPress can do, note that the Independent Music Advice website, and many other big websites you probably already visit, are built and run using WordPress.
The good thing about WordPress is that it’s easy to set up (When you follow the below instructions). And once built, it’s easy to update and maintain. It’s also has a lot of features, so anything you want to do on your site will probably be achievable (Stream music, have a picture album, run a mailing list etc). So without and further ado, let’s get on with building your site…
How To Build Your Own Website
1. Getting Your Domain Name And Hosting
While WordPress is free, you need to get hosting to be able to upload files onto your website. Think of this as getting space on the internet to upload all your music, pictures and information to. You also need to get your domain name, which is basically “www.YourName.com”.
The best place to get both hosting and a domain name is from JustHost (This is the hosting company I use at Independent Music Advice as I feel it’s the best. Please note that I receive a commission if you go on to buy hosting through this link). The reason we use JustHost over other hosting companies is because they give you unlimited website space (A must for anyone who’ll be uploading a lot of music). A lot of hosting companies only allow you to upload a certain amount of music a month, which of course isn’t suitable for building a popular website. JustHost also provide you with a free life long domain name, and are very cheap to boost.
To get your website name and hosting with JustHost, simply visit the JustHost, click on ‘continue’ under the ‘Need Website’ section, and enter your desired website name. You’ll notice there is a coupon code already entered as you went through my link (You’re welcome). On the next screen fill out your information and choose how long you want your hosting for. And that’s it, you’ve now got your hosting and web space! Easy right?
2. Installing WordPress
Now that you’ve got web space, the next stage is to get your website up and running. As stated before, we’ll be using WordPress for our website. In the JustHost Dashboard (This is where you’ll manage all aspect of your hosting), under the heading ‘Popular Choices’ you’ll see a button called ‘WordPress’. Click that and follow the instructions on the next two screens. You’ll need to fill in your desired WordPress username, password and site name etc (Make sure you make a note of these details as you’ll need them later). These settings can all be changed later, but for now use details that you feel will be appropriate for your website. Once you click complete, that’s it, WordPress is installed on your website name.
3. Using The WordPress Dashboard
At this stage, I’d advice you to look around the WordPress dashboard and get familiar with it. You can access this by typing in your website name followed by ‘/wp-admin’. So for example www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin. Once you’ve logged in using the details you gave when setting up WordPress, have a look around at some of the features. You can add pages, add posts, upload media, change the appearance and much more. For now though, we’ll just focus on getting your website looking nice and neat…
4. The Design Of Your Website
Now that you’ve got your website up and running, you need to get a design to make your site stand out and look fully professional. The more professional your site looks, the more likely people are going to buy your music from it.
WordPress uses ‘themes’ to get everyone’s WordPress sites looking different. As you can see, the default theme isn’t very attractive and will have to go straight away. If you can’t design your own WordPress themes, one option would be to hire a professional designer. This will give you a unique site design which will be made to your specs. While professional designers can do very good jobs, they’re often very expensive so not ideal for people with small budgets.
Another option is to use free themes. These are available to find and download on the net, but aren’t really recommended as they’re basic and not really at the attention grabbing level that you’ll need to woo your fans.
The final option (And probably best if you want a good design on a budget) is to buy a professional pre-designed theme. StudioPress themes are the themes of choice from my experience, I use them on Independent Music Advice and most of my other websites. They offer lots of professional pre-made WordPress themes which you can quickly (Within seconds) install onto your own website. Furthermore, they look really professional and are highly customizable.
Once you have your required theme by which ever means, you can quickly install it by going to the WordPress Dashboard (Remember, www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin), clicking ‘Themes’ under the ‘Appearance’ section on the left hand side, selecting ‘Install Themes’ at the top of the new page, and uploading your downloaded theme with the given submission form. Your theme should be in .zip format to be uploaded. Once you’ve done that choose ‘Manage Themes’ (Also at the top of the page) and click ‘Activate’ to activate your theme. That’s it.
5. Kitting Out Your Website With (Free) Plugins
Now you’ve got a great looking website, the next stage is to make your website do more! WordPress uses add ons called ‘plugins’ to allow the website owner to add different features to their site. Below are a list of useful plugins that I’d recommend using to boost the performance of your musician website. All these plugins are free, and are plugins that either Independent Music Advice use personally or is used by one of our sister sites.
Like themes, they’re all easy to install. In the WordPress dashboard you simply click the ‘Add New’ button under the ‘Plugins’ section of the left hand menu. You then search the given name below (In bold) and click the ‘Install Now’ button next to the required plugin. You then choose to activate it and that’s it, your plugin is now installed. You will have to further customize them to work how you want, but this isn’t hard and the instructions come with the plugins. While there are thousands of plugins you could use to add features to your site, here are five that we really like and suggest you use:
- Contact Form 7
This plugin adds a contact form to your contact page. Any time someone contacts you, the message is sent directly to your chosen email address. See the Independent Music Advice contact page for an example of how this looks.
This gives ‘sexy’ book marking icons below your website posts so people can quickly and easily share your website content on Facebook, Twitter, via email, MySpace, and virtually any other important social networking site you can think of. Now you just have to provide content people want to share… Check the bottom of this post for an example of that (We only choose a few services to allow people to bookmark with but there are a lot of other options).
- Subscribe To Comments
If you’re going to allow comments on your website you’re going to need this plugin. It allows people to subscribe to and watch your comments for any new replies. This is handy for the user, as they’ll be emailed when someone’s replied to a topic they’re interested in. It’s also handy for you as it encourages people to keep coming back to your website. Check our comments section for an example of this.
This is an essential plugin. It automatically stops known spammers leaving comments on your blog. And if your site ends up even a little bit popular, you’re guaranteed to get loads of spam messages. This plugin comes with WordPress so you don’t have to search for it, you just have to activate and configure it. Independent Music Advice use this plugin.
- Post Videos And Photo Galleries
This plugin allows your to add a dynamic photo or video gallery to your website, great for visually keeping your fans up to date with what you’re doing. While we don’t currently use this on Independent Music Advice, we have other websites that do use this great plugin.
6. How To Sell Your Music Directly From Your Website
So now that your site has all the necessary features to help you gain sells, let’s look at what you’ll actually need to sell your music directly from your website. While you can always sell your music via sites like Itunes and Amazon then put the link on your website (This will refer the user away from your site an on to Itunes or where ever it is you’re selling your music), it’s often better to try an make sales from your own website. It’s still good to get your music on third party website such as Itunes as they already get traffic and your music can appear to other people you couldn’t otherwise reach (Check SongCast to get your music on Itunes, Amazon and other popular music selling websites. The SongCast account is free to sign up to). However, selling music directly from your own website both looks more professional and allows you to keep more of the profit, so this is the ideal situation.
The easiest method I’ve found to sell digital downloads directly from your website is a service called E-Junkie. They’re basically a shopping cart system for your website but allow you to sell any type of digital downloads. What you do is upload your single or album, state the details (Price, how many times the buyer can download it before the link expires etc) then E-Junkie creates you a button. Via this button your fans can buy your music and have it sent to them as soon as they pay. This process is fully automated, so even if you’re half way around the world and someone orders your music they get sent it straight away.
Once you’ve got the button, your simply put it into the page you want to sell your music from. That’s it, you’re ready to take orders.
7. Adding Content
That’s almost it. You’ve now got a hosted website with unlimited space for all your media, a great looking design, enough plugins to make your site fully interactive, and a way to sell your music directly off your site. So what now? You guessed it, you need to add content! Without content your site won’t be worth much, so start filling it up with useful information and media for your fans. Pages you may want to add include:
- Home Page.
This is the first thing people will see when they visit your website at www.yourwebsite.com. Different people add different things to their home page, but you can check the home page in Independent Music Advice for a clue as to what you could include. You could include your latest CDs, latest gig dates, up coming news, anything really.
- About Page.
This is where you tell your fans about you. Make sure you have some useful and interesting information in there, and really sell yourself for your readers. Why should people buy into what you’re all about?
- Media Page.
Having a media page where people can get your audio videos and pictures is standard. You may want to make them into separate pages (E.g a gallery page, a videos page, a audio page etc) but that’s really down to your personal preference and how much media you’ve got.
- Contact Page.
Whether or not you’ll be able to reply to all your fans personally, you’ll want to be able to at least hear from them. They can give you feedback, tell you what they want to hear, let you know when something on your website isn’t working (Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen) and much more. These are the people who are supporting your music career, so at least let them have access to you in some form.
Anything on top of those four pages is optional, so it’s down to your personal preference.
And That’s How To Build Your Own Website
And that’s it, if you’ve followed the ’How To Build Your Own Website’ guide you’ve now made a top quality website with the potential to rake in loads of money! So that’s it right? Wrong! Now that you’ve made your website and are ready to start taking payments, you need to get people to actually visit your site. While you can make sales from your existing fans, you really want to get your site ranked in Google so when people search for certain terms your website comes up. We’ll go into how to do this in a future post, but for now just promote your site as much as possible.
So, how’s your website turned out? Do you have any questions about any of the steps mentioned in this guide? Is there anything else you want to add? As always, please let us know in the comments. Please share this post on your favourite websites and let other people know how to make their own profitable musician website. Thanks,and congratulations on learning how to build your own website.