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Five Mistakes Band & Label Sites Make
Merlin Mann | Dec 6 2004
Admittedly, this is well off our usual fare, but please indulge me in a public service message on behalf of music fans across the Internets—five mistakes that band and label sites make (and a few tips on how to fix them). One data point from a fan.
Too much Flash
Okay, I get it. You’re creative. Awesome. But you’re totally wasting my morning as I helplessly wait for your designer’s dancing sausages to finish loading. Perhaps worst of all, most all-Flash sites prohibit your fans from creating deep links to artist, album or song pages. Your fans are trying to drive people to the cash register, but you insist on making them watch a puppet show before they can even enter the damned store.
Tip: Use Flash like you would cilantro—sparingly and for a single high-impact effect. Nobody wants to eat a whole bowl of cilantro, and nobody wants an animated death march when they have a "passionate task" to complete. Also, build your pages to make it super-easy to link to anything. Use sub-page anchors, and clearly identify why they’re there.
Crappy or non existent mp3 metadata
If I load up the mp3 of your big single and it says it’s "Song" by "Artist" on the record, "Album," you’ve completely blown it already; I have no way to ever find you again. Ditto for file naming. Remember: people often download dozens or hundreds of songs at once, so it’s really unlikely they’ll remember where
Tip: Fill every possible field of ID3 data with rich, correct information. This is the digital version of an album cover, so give the kids something to read while they’re rocking. Basic track info is a no-brainer, but also consider adding cover art, track number, composer credits, genre and year information, and—duh—add a link to your web site and email address in the comments field. Posting an MP3 without metadata is like Safeway ordering the hair-netted sample lady not to tell hungry customers which aisle those nummy chicken fingers are in.
Too artsy, too fartsy
People are visiting your site because they want to learn more about bands and music—not to have a guided tour of your designer/brother-in-law’s Photoshop brush collection. Don’t be cute with the design, section naming, or navigation. Don’t make your visitors solve a Rubik’s cube to pull up your lyrics page.
Tip: Let the music be the star of the show and provide fast access to what your visitors really came for: 1) mp3s/downloads, 2) lyrics/discography, 3) show dates, 4) contact info, 5) where can I buy this (preferably pointers to buying online for immediate download). Photos, old setlists, and diaries—anything that paints the personality of the band—are all great, too, of course, but they’re still secondary to posting and updating the holy pentagram of items above. Save the artsy stuff for when you inevitably quit music to take up oil painting.
Chances are good that fans coming to your site arrive with something extremely specific in mind—often a fragment of lyric or the name of one obscure song. If your site contains more than a handful of pages, provide a clearly labeled search box (or link to a search) on every page, and test it. Make sure your search works and drives visitors to your most popular pages without the need for pecking around.
Tip: Google has a free service for providing site search. It’s not perfect or 100% timely, but it works, and it’s free, and it’s better than nothing.
One-way communication (served one way)
Your fans are not empty vessels or just (ugh) a street team; they have things to say too. Provide a clear contact email address (plus separate ones for press and booking inquiries if you’re all famous and whatnot) and consider having a fan message board and mailing lists for tour and release updates. Read your email, and answer it.
Tip: Consider creating RSS feeds for your most frequently updated stuff (Sloan’s site does this very well).
Just in general? Don’t let your web designer build a portfolio piece on the back of your fans and your business. Ask your fans what they want, watch how they use your site, and then give them what they like without a lot of hooptedoodle.
Got a bee in your bonnet about music sites?
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