WORDPRESS FOR MUSICIANS - UNDERSTANDING YOUR BAND WEBSITE
THIS POST IS LESSON 3 OF OUR FREE 'BAND WEBSITE' COURSE. CLICK HERE FOR MORE
In this post you’ll learn about the power of WordPress for musicians and why it’s the best choice for all those artists who are looking to create an artist website that can be the engine for their fanbase growth.
You’ll see why WordPress is the best CMS (‘content management system’) when you’re looking for a website builder for musicians.
Using some musician website examples built using WordPress you’ll see some of the variety of professional artist websites that WordPress can be used to build.
This post will also look at the basic uniform elements that all WordPress websites share so that you can develop a sense of what is possible for your artist or band website design.
In the last section we’ll demonstrate how some of these simple elements can be modified using the WordPress dashboard.
After watching the video below and reading through this post you’ll have a better understanding of how to approach the overall process when you make your own website following this series of posts.
Before we go any further watch the video below.
If you haven’t done so already you can download the entire checklist for how to make your own website as an artist or musician by clicking the button below:
CLICK TO GET THE FREE COURSE CHECKLIST NOW
That checklist, together with the other posts and videos on the ‘Band Website’ section of this site, are designed to get your band website up and running and humming along as the engine for your entire career.
Check out the band website page for more details.
Why Choose WordPress For Your Artist Website?
There are a lot of very compelling reasons why a musician, band or artist should choose WordPress to create a band website rather than using the other available band website builder systems.
But, perhaps you’re not even clear what WordPress is and why you need it?
WordPress is the ‘CMS’ (content management system) in which you build your band website. Almost all websites are built using a CMS these days rather than built from scratch using bespoke code.
A CMS takes pretty much all of the complicated code required to make a website work out of your hands and uses a framework and add-ons (called ‘plugins’ in the case of WordPress) to do that heavy lifting while you get to concentrate on design and functionality.
There are other CMS options as well as other website builders (including specific band website builder options that we looked at in this post), and they can deliver great results, but we still think WordPress is by far the best option for musicians.
So, once you’re committed to building a website using a CMS (and 99.9% of the websites you use on a daily basis have reached this conclusion before you!) then what makes WordPress your default choice?
Six Reasons To Choose WordPress For Your Band Website
There are more reasons than I have time to go in to here, but in short, these six reasons ought to be enough to convince you:
It’s Free And Open Source
WordPress is completely free to download and use. Yes, you need to purchase hosting, but the WordPress CMS software itself is free and always will be, no matter how large or complicated your band website might get. On top of that you can install it on any server and are not beholden to any one company’s terms, tools or layouts. It’s also ‘Open Source’ which means you can alter it to suit your needs and that many people provide free plugins and themes to help you do so.
Most people who use WordPress are neither designers, programmers nor coders. If you can type and edit a document in Word, you can use WordPress! WordPress is easy to install set-up and manage and updating your site and creating new pages and posts is very easy when you get the hang of it. It’s user-friendly and intuitive and most actions are one-click simple. On top of that it has an update function that enables updating of all installed elements of your site from the Dashboard as and when WordPress makes core changes to the CMS itself.
Flexible And Customisable
WordPress is very easy to customise using its in-built tools together with a vast array of Themes and Plugins. Themes are pre-built layout and design frameworks that you can install to control the look of your website and Plugins are additional bits of code that will add specific functions without you touching any code. Both Themes and Plugins are created by WordPress and third party developers and both paid and free versions are available. Themes and plugins enable you to build and customise any function you might need.
It is absolutely critical that your band website is fully responsive. Responsive design means that a website is built in elements that can be displayed equally well on any screen size from a smartphone, through tablets right up to huge monitor displays. This is about making a website that functions optimally on all screen sizes and offers the best user experience possible no matter the device being used. Although WordPress websites are not responsive by default, almost every theme will be and it’s very easy to make a WordPress site fully responsive.
Although it’s not a major concern for musicians in the way that it is for a business, WordPress is very SEO (‘search engine optimisation’) friendly. That means that the way it works is designed to make the content on your band website rank in search engine results. This SEO effectiveness is built in to WordPress and can be enhanced by using specific Plugins. This is not the case with most other band website builders. Clearly that’s something that you want to happen so that people can find your band online when they’re searching for you!
WordPress is the number one CMS and website builder in the world and has hundreds of millions of users. If you hit a problem with your band website that you’re struggling to fix, there’s a never ending stream of additional help, advice and support you can find online, not least in the official WordPress support forums. On top of that, there’s a vast amount of resources and knowledge in articles and blog posts online that have been written by experts and that you can turn to in your hour of need.
WordPress Musicians Websites Examples
So, you’ve learnt above that a core reason for using WordPress to create your band website is that it is enormously flexible and totally customisable.
The majority of the customisation that you’ll undertake for your band website will come from choosing a theme that you feel reflects your band and image and then customising that template to the degree that you require.
We'll look at your options for choosing the right theme for your artist website in a future post.
But, for now, we’ll have a look at some examples of how artists have set up their WordPress artist website to illustrate some of the design and functionality options you should consider.
Of course, when you come to look at themes when deciding on your new band website it is imperative that you look at them on mobile and tablet as well as on a laptop or desktop.
Responsive website themes generally reorder the elements that make up a webpage and that can make a big difference to how a website looks on mobile compared to on a laptop or desktop.
It’s likely that more than 50% of your traffic to your website will be people using their smartphone so it’s critical that your site looks as good on a phone and tablet as it does on a laptop.
Just remember to look at all screen sizes before you commit!
Bearing that in mind, for the purposes of looking at your options, the examples below are all desktop layouts so that you can compare them easily.
One Page WordPress Band Website
This example of a band website built using WordPress follows a lot of the principles that we’re covering in this series of posts.
Primarily that means placing email list sign-up forms in prominent positions across the website.
This website follows what is usually called a ‘One Page’ or ‘Static Page’ layout. That doesn’t always mean that all the content of the website is on the one page, but rather that a lot of core information is displayed on the home page which scrolls down with defined sections giving separate areas for different topics.
For example, on this site for the band Adult Cinema, you’ll see a an email sign-up form at the top and as you scroll down, there are sections to list their social media profiles (using icons), a short biography, some video clips, release info and so on, with a second email sign-up form (yes, that’s two on the one page!) at the bottom of the page.
Each of these sections and other content are accessible on further pages or post areas as well as on the one-page home page, but this layout is very effective at getting a lot of information about a band and their music in one place and putting it across quickly.
This band website uses the Brooklyn Theme from United Themes which you can get here.
Music Specific WordPress Theme
There are a lot of WordPress themes that are specifically designed for musicians, artists and bands.
In this example for a record label and management company you can see that a theme created especially for musicians can be very easy to use when building your site.
The developers understand what you as a musician want on your site and what you want it to do, so within these themes you’ll often find numerous variations on the theme giving you immediate choices of how your site could look together with bespoke code so that you can have things like music players, video sections, pages for tour and gig info and so on.
The theme used for this site has been recently retired but a theme that provides similar musician specific design and functions is the Croma theme from Iron Templates, which is one of our current best rated options. It’s a fantastic theme for any band which you can get here.
WordPress Theme With Slider
A slider is an area on a website page that can feature more than one photo, video or text area through which you can slide or scroll so that each one is visible in turn.
You’ll know these from your own experience and they are usually characterised by arrows at either side of the screen to allow you to scroll through the slider screens.
Musicians often like using a slider for the header area of their home page, as you can see in this example from Josh Garrells, since they allow a lot of information about current releases, tour dates or merchandise to be displayed in that prime real estate at the top of the page. And, each slider allows a click through to the relevant page or post for more information.
The rest of the home page of this website follows the one-page layout but it’s good to see that there’s a prominent email sign-up form just below the slider area.
This site is built on a theme called Trades from ThemeCanon which comes with the Revolution Slider plugin bundled for free. You can find the Trades theme here.
Simple Artist Website Layout
Some of the best musician websites take a very simple approach to design and layout.
Although this website for singer songwriter Lucy Zirins is built using a very clever and extremely forward thinking (and fully responsive) theme, she has chosen to go for a very simple and clear layout that gets across her music and story very effectively.
Her home page is made up of five simple areas that reorder and display differently depending on whether you’re viewing on a computer or a phone ( it being a responsive theme), but the simple layout showcases her, her music and includes an email sign-up.
Personally, I’d add a further sign-up in the an additional area under the header but above the other content area with an offer for a free download to really push that email list, but overall it goes to show that simple can be very effective.
It’s also worth pointing out that many themes can and do display inner content pages and posts in what most of us recognise as a ‘blog’ layout, with a content area on the left and widgets in a sidebar on the right. You can see this in the ‘News’ section on this site and we’ll look at this type of layout in more detail later on in this post.
The theme used on this website to build this simple layout is a very popular visual page builder called Divi which you can find here.
Custom Design Artist Website
Although we recommend that you should use an existing theme for your artist website, some choose to have a bespoke design made from scratch.
The truth is that you can achieve the same result (or as near as dammit!) by choosing a great theme and, if necessary, doing some minor modifications just to colour and layout, which should not be beyond anyone!
That said, you can see from Peter Hollens impressive and professional artist website how much can be achieved using WordPress.
The elements here that stand out as custom coded are the non-standard placement of buttons and text, which is hard for a theme to offer given the variability of what each user might choose.
If you’re in the market for a bespoke wordpress website, be careful who you choose and what you spend. Many web designers will offer a bespoke website and then modify a theme you could have bought and customised yourself. If they are offering a truly bespoke design then the cost will be far higher than buying a theme (usually well into the thousands of dollars or pounds).
If you’re looking for a theme that offers a lot of the same style, design and functions as Peter Hollens site, take a look at The FWRD theme here.
WordPress Website Anatomy
As you’ve looked at the examples of artist websites above we’ve mentioned various terms that are commonly used to describe different parts of a website.
In order for you to be able to plan out your music website it’s important that you understand some of the terminology and how the standard elements of a WordPress website fit together.
In this section we’ll look at the anatomy of a WordPress website and how that affects the layout you can build.
What Is A Home Page?
The home page of your band website is usually the main page a visitor navigating to your website from a search engine will see and is normally the page located at the bare URL of your domain name.
It’s what we consider to be the main (or, yes ‘home’) page of the site.
The primary purpose of the home page is to put across key information about your website (and in the case of musicians, you and your music) and to provide clear navigation options to get to other more detailed sections of your website.
The home page can be designed however you like and limited only by the options in the theme that you choose.
It (and all the pages and posts within your band website) are made up of four areas -
This is the area at the top most part of the site layout. In some themes it will only encompass the navigation bar but in some (those with a ‘hero’ image as well) it can include a content area usually taken up by an image.
This is the main central area of any website page. It will display either the page or blog post complete, or an index or archive listing that will display all posts or a specific category blog post excerpts. It can also contain pre-defined sections of content, as in a ‘one-page’ website layout.
The Sidebar is the column that can appear on either side or your web page, in which you place widgets to display additional information. In most responsive themes the sidebar is repositioned under the content area when viewed on mobile – which is well worth remembering as you build your site.
(Note. Sidebars can be removed from a home page and inner pages in most themes so you can make use of a full width content area when needed.)
This area at the bottom of a web page can contain anything but is most often used for further navigation links (to lesser used pages) and icons.
By and large, most websites choose to have either a static page (also called a ‘one-page’) home page or a ‘blog’ layout home page, although the latest WordPress page builder themes allow you to build almost anything you can think of.
We’ve looked at a one-page or static home page above but as you can see in the simplified diagram above, this is usually a scrolling single page where the content area is cut into sections that summarise the inner pages of the site.
A blog style homepage will look more like the very familiar (and generally more old fashioned) blog layout with an excerpt of the latest posts as the central content in the main area of the home page with a sidebar containing widgets to the right or left.
Both styles of home page will have a header and a footer. Either both the header and footer or just the footer can then be carried over to all the internal pages of the site.
The other common element to almost every home page is some kind of navigation menu - generally found across the top of the home page in the header area.
We would suggest that you try to have an email sign-up form at the top of your home page just below or in the header (and another somewhere else on the home page does no harm) and also showcase your music in one way or another prominently.
I'd go as far as to say that having an email sign-up form at the top of your home page (as in the layout on the left) is the single best thing you can do on your band website to ensure that it's doing its job - building your fanbase!
Don't underestimate the effectiveness of aggressively encouraging potential fans to sign up!
Also note that the sections we’ve listed in the one-page layout and the widgets in the sidebar are simply suggestions. You can put whatever you think your fans will be most interested in on your static home page and in your widget in the sidebar if you choose that layout.
It’s really important to realise that you can mix and match these different layouts.
So, you could have a one-page (or ‘static’ page) as your home page with a lot of core information about your band presented in sections down a simple home page (as in the diagram). But, you can also have a blog layout in your news or blog section of your website and full width pages (with no sidebar) in some of your main pages (that are linked to from your navigation menu and your home page sections) for things like a discography or biography.
And, critically, this is not difficult to do. The theme that you choose and the basic framework of WordPress will allow you to create these different layouts easily.
Posts and Pages in WordPress
Apart from your home page, all of the other content on your artist website will be either a ‘Page’ or a ‘Post’.
Pages - Pages are the static pages within your site that have permanent or semi-permanent content on them so that they don’t change often, or at all.
Pages should be linked to from the Navigation Menu and, for a musician’s website, they will generally be pages such as your biography, your discography, , your live shows, an EPK (‘electronic press kit’), a store and a contact page. They will additionally be pages for your music and video, depending on how you decide to display these.
Some pages will need periodical updating (for example, when there is a new release to add to a ‘Music’ or ‘Discography’ page) whereas others will be built once and perhaps nerv updated (such as your ‘Contact’ page).
Posts - Posts, on the other hand, are individual pieces of content that we all would understand as blog posts. Regularly created pieces of news or information that will be used to get the latest goings on with your music in front of your fans.
In most WordPress themes a post will have a date and comments (although these can be switched off) and they (or excerpts of them) will be displayed sequentially on the home page (if you choose that layout) and in a ‘Blog’ or ‘News’ section of your site.
For musicians, you might choose to create a post for each piece of news about you and your music - so when there’s a new release or a gig. Or you might decide that part of your marketing strategy for your band includes something more like blogging and you’d therefore write regular updates about your story, your scene or just general musings on topics that you think your fans would like.
It’s worth noting that some of these posts might contain information that needs to be added to a page as well. So, a post announcing your next gig would mean you’d have to make an update to your Live page as well.
Lastly, as mentioned above, pages and posts will usually be displayed in a blog style layout, even if your home page is a one-page layout since most themes allow for a more traditional layout for inner pages on your website. This has the advantage of being able to ensure fans who read your posts always see additional information in the sidebar widgets.
This is optional and can be switched off so that all pages and posts have a full width content area with no sidebar.
Basic Editing Of Your WordPress Artist Website
Firstly, nobody expects you to build your artist website using one of the default themes available in WordPress!
You might well choose to use one of the free themes that you can find by accessing the ‘Appearance > Themes’ section in your Dashboard, but most musicians will choose to use a premium theme.
Bearing that in mind, it does no harm to try out some basic WordPress customisation using the default WordPress Twenty Seventeen Theme that we showed you how to install in the last section of the video in the first video tutorial in this series.
If nothing else, it will give you confidence that you’ll be able to tackle customising the theme you finally settle on.
You’ll also find that it will help you familiarise you with the anatomy of a WordPress site that you’ve just looked at above.
Using Widgets in WordPress
If you’re following along in the video above you’ll have seen that our example site (http://yourgreatband.com) had the Twenty Seventeen theme installed and I’d created a very simple two line post in the last video.
On our site, the theme is set to have a blog layout on the home page meaning that you can see a series of widgets in the sidebar on the right.
Widgets are simply small blocks of code that perform a specific function and that you can drag and drop into ‘widget-ready’ areas of your site. Don’t worry, you don’t even see the code!
WordPress makes it very easy to make site wide changes to the header, sidebar and footer by using these widgets. (Conversely, the content area is controlled at a post or page level).
For, example, in order to change what appears in the sidebar you can simply add, delete, edit or re-order widgets.
Many of the widgets that are available by default will display links or content from other parts of your site, such as ‘Categories’ or ‘Recent Posts’, but a ‘Text’ widget can, in fact, be used to add all sorts of content (not just text) such as images, videos adverts and so on.
To control which widgets are being used on your band website, open the ‘Appearance’ section in the left hand menu of your Dashboard and select ‘Widgets’.
You’ll see a grid of available widgets and a box showing you which widgets are in use in the widget-ready areas - usually the sidebar and footer.
Simply drag and drop widgets from the grid on the left into the widget area you want.
In our example we’ll add ‘Categories’ and ‘Recent Posts’ into the two separate Footer areas, but you could easily add these to the sidebar if you prefer.
Save the changes to both widget areas and then refresh the page to see the widgets appear on your website.
That’s how simple it is to add and edit widgets on your website.
Editing The Header Of Your Artist Website
The other basic editing steps that are shown in the video in this post demonstrate how to make simple changes to the header of the example website by adding a different image to the header area and adding a logo.
Not every theme that you will choose will have a header area with an image and in many the header is strictly speaking just the navigation bar. (Don’t worry too much about this as all will become clear depending on the exact them you choose and I’m necessarily trying to cover multiple options as simply as possible!)
If your theme does have a header media area (as in our example) you’ll want to show a strong image of you or your band and you’ll probably also want to add a logo.
If that’s the case with your theme, in the Dashboard, again select ‘Appearance’ in the left hand menu and then ‘Header’
This will open a new edit page entitled ‘Header Media’. (Note that you can also access this same ‘Customize’ screen by selecting ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Customize’ from that main Dashboard menu).
You’ll see that this theme then has the option to ‘Select Video’ or ‘Add New Image’ to the header area.
It’s possible that the theme you choose will allow a video clip to run in the background of a header area (although this is actually more likely to be in a slider area or a content area right under the header). If that’s the case, some require you to upload a video, as with this theme, and some will allow you to use a video hosted on YouTube or another video site.
One tip when using video is not to use a full length video of a song (as it will play in the background with no sound) but rather edit something together that is ten or twenty seconds of you or band looking great on stage or somesuch.
In this example we’re just going to change the default image in the header.
Simply click ‘Add New Image’ and then follow the next few steps to upload a new file.
We’ll assume that you haven’t yet uploaded any images to your new band website, but, in future, any images you’ve already uploaded are stored in your site and can be accessed by clicking ‘media Library’ in the top left corner.
Clicking ‘Select Files’ will allow you to navigate to your computer to search for an appropriate image to use. You may have prepared and cropped a photo of your band to an appropriate size already, but, if not, this upload process allows you to crop an image as you upload it.
Once uploaded, you’ll see your new image showing in your ‘Media Library’.
Either ‘Crop Image’ or Skip Cropping’, depending on the image you have uploaded, and you’ll immediately see your new image displayed in the header area as you’re taken back to the Header Media screen.
In this particular theme (and in many themes you may choose to use) you can upload multiple header images and if you select ‘Randomize Uploaded headers’ a different header image will be randomly displayed each time someone refreshes or moves between pages. This might be a great way to show different images of you or your band in different situations.
Once you’ve uploaded a few headers, simply click ‘Save & Publish’ to make the header changes live on your website.
Adding Your Logo To The Header Of Your Artist Website
Now that you have an image (or images) that represent your band in the header of your site, you can also add a logo and edit, add or delete the default tagline.
In this theme you need to click on the back arrow on the top left to take you from customizing ‘Header Media’ to the sub-menu for all Customizing.
Then scroll down and select ‘Site Identity’.
As stated above, this ‘Customize’ screen is also always accessible by going to the main Dashboard menu and selecting ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Customize’. You’ll see that below ‘Site Identity’ you can find various other options for further customization of this basic theme, including such editable options as colors and menus, but there’s also a setting to change to a ‘Static Front Page’ or home page as we’ve been looking at above.
Clicking through from ‘Site Identity’ opens a new screen where you’ll get the option to upload a logo.
Simply follow the steps as before to upload an image of your logo. Ideally that will be a ‘.png’ file so that it has no background and will sit on the header image properly.
You can also either edit or toggle off the ‘Site Title’ (probably your band name) and tagline (stating ‘Just another WordPress site’ by default) by selecting the options in the left hand menu.
If you’re uploading a logo you should probably turn off the Site Name and usually there’s no need for a tagline. That may be different if, for example, you're building a website for your wedding band. In that case you might want to change the Site Title to ‘New York’s Best Wedding Band’ and your tagline to something like ‘ Pop and disco hits from New York’s most professional wedding band’.
Of course, there might be any number of other messages that you could choose to get across using these two text areas, but for most working bands, the right choice will be to just use your logo.
When you’ve uploaded your logo and made those choices on the additional text areas, simply click ‘Save & Publish’ at the top of the screen and then refresh the site to see your new header and logo in place.
That’s how easy it is to make basic edits to the look of your band website.
The theme you choose may have different options and some of the editing will usually take place in a custom area for that specific theme, which will be added to your Dashboard when you install a new theme.
However, in most cases, editing will follow these simple steps.
Deleting Unnecessary Plugins In WordPress
The last step shown in the video in this post is returning to the main WordPress Dashboard and deleting some of the options that are accessible direct from the Dashboard.
WordPress offers two things in particular as default Plugin installations at the current time, and, if you’re following this band website series of posts you won’t need them as we’ll be using different options.
The two options we’re going to delete are both Plugins. These additional pieces of code are added onto your WordPress website to make certain additional functions easier to do without you needing to touch code.
There’s a further post all about Plugins that you should delve into at a later stage here [FUTURE LINK].
For now, all we need to do is delete these two Plugins.
‘Optin Monster’ is a system for creating email sign-up forms but we'll be using Aweber and ‘Marketplace’ gives access to a marketplace that sells Plugins and Themes. That is unnecessary as you’ll want to always have the option of sourcing a theme and all your Plugins elsewhere.
It’s good practice to delete Plugins that you aren't going to use so your website doesn’t load unnecessary code and just to keep your Dashboard tidy!
To delete these two plugins go to ‘Plugins’ on the left hand side of the Dashboard.
Simply click through and you’ll see the two Plugins at the bottom of the list on the next screen.
Click ‘Deactivate’ under each one and after the screen refreshes you’ll get a new option to ‘Delete’ under each one. Click ‘Delete and you're done.
Detecting Any WordPress Theme
The last thing covered in the video for this post is how to detect what WordPress theme any site you might be looking at is using.
As you take time to build your band website you will undoubtedly be searching for themes and looking at the websites of bands you know and like.
It’s easy to find out if they are using a theme that you can use or one that is custom developed for their website. In most cases you’ll find that every site you look at turns out to be using a free or paid theme that is available for you to use from a theme developer or marketplace, and we’ve got a great little tool that will help you find out what theme any website is using.
Simply copy the URL of the site you want to find out about and go to http://www.wpthemedetector.com/. Paste in the URL and this site will tell you the theme that’s being used and all the Plugins that are being used on the site.
Make a note of it and then search for the theme to find out whether it’s free or premium (paid), but also note any Plugin info that looks like it helped the owner of the website create a professional band website that you'd like to emulate.
Your Band Website and Growing Your Fanbase
So after two mammoth posts and videos you now have a website launched and you know a bit more about how WordPress works.
But, the whole purpose of having a band website is to be able to use it to drive the growth of your fanbase and to use it as the engine that allows you to build a financially viable career as a musician.
That’s what this series is all about.
Sure, we want you to end up with a beautiful band website that you’re proud of, but, at the risk of repeating ourselves too often, your band website is all about engaging your fans and building your email list so that you can build a real fanbase.
So, in the next post we’re going to look at the absolutely key step of setting up your email capture system, your email list and your squeeze page.
Don’t forget that you can also download the full checklist to keep on hand as you go through all these steps (which also covers the set up of the email list and squeeze page).
Download the accompanying checklist by clicking below:
CLICK TO GET THE FREE COURSE CHECKLIST NOW
Once you've dealt with the steps in these first two videos you're ready to move on and start building the system that will collect the emails of your fans.
So, if you haven’t already you need to grab your domain and hosting and launch your artist website.
Then move on to the next step.
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