I’ll be honest here, one of my pet peeves is not just bands, but businesses in general, who trade out of a hotmail.com email address as their only online contact point. It doesn’t take a great deal of time OR money, or for that matter expertise, to get yourself set up with a decent looking website and email address on your own personal domain name, and it’s just another in the list of things that make you look more professional.
Any number of places will sell you a domain name. It shouldn’t cost the earth – in fact, if you’re quoted more than the price of a pint or two per month, go find someone else. The two services you need the provider to supply for you are email (in the form of ’email forwarding’ or webmail), and web, either ‘domain forwarding’ or web hosting.
‘Email forwarding’ allows you to set things up so email@example.com ends up in your normal mailbox. (In fact, for most implementations of email forwarding, any address at yourdomain.com can be forwarded to your mailbox.) Usually, it’s just a matter of changing a setting on your domain providers control pages. Typically, they’ll give you more flexibility in handling addresses (the techie term is ’email aliases’) so you can, for example, set up aliases for every member of your band at yourdomain.com, and then dump any other addresses in your mailbox (and filter for spam first) They’ll look great on the business cards!
Most domain providers will also give you the option of webmail: this has its pros and cons. On the good side, you can read your email anywhere you have a web browser: on the downside, if (like me) you prefer reading your email in a mail application or on your phone, you won’t necessarily be able to.
Moving on to web: many providers will offer an ‘instant website’ service, where you can build a site from a given template that they host for you, in next to no time. It’ll look ok, and if you don’t have much time or design skills, it’s fine. At the other end of the range, if you have access to, or can afford, the services of a professional web developer, you can have a unique all-singing all-dancing site that’ll be exactly what you want. There is, though, a useful intermediate solution…
One of the best ways of getting repeat traffic on your site is to keep updating the content with things like gig updates, news etc. In short, a blog. Both Blogger and WordPress will allow you to create a free blog, and provide a lot of tools for making it look the way you want it with themes and widgets and other stuff. I’ll cover this in more detail in subsequent posts, but the important thing is that they both allow you to point www.yourdomain.com at your blog once you’re done. (WordPress charge for this, but there are other ways of doing it with WordPress). Your domain provider will almost certainly tell you how to configure this at their end, and Blogger and WordPress both give you the necessary information on what you need to tell your domain provider to get it set up. The key thing, though? Once you’ve got it, keep updating it: make it newsy, informative. Dangle ‘carrots’ by posting teasers for upcoming content to make people come back. Add galleries of gig photos, live videos. (I’ll be posting something on how to make really rocking live videos soon, by the way… (see what I did there?))
One key thing, though? Before you start doing this, have a think about a logo, an image, a set of colours that ties together your website, your business cards, your bass drum skin, your merch… It doesn’t have to be complex, and there are any number of online sites where you can play with logo design. Pulling everything you have together so it matches in terms of what the pros call ‘branding’ is yet another step in that quest to look like you have your act together.
In summary – it really isn’t that hard, or that expensive. Give it a shot, ask around for help.