This post is continuing a topic that I’ve written on earlier Developing an Online Musical Identity. In this previous post, I discuss why we should all have an online identity:
In today’s world, the internet generally, and social media specifically, is our platform for defining who we are. As professional or semi-profession musicians and music teachers, we are announcing ourselves and our services much like we would if we, in another age, put a sign outside a storefront or took out an ad in a newspaper.
The goal of developing a social media identity as a musician or music teacher is to show the world who we are and what we can do. Ultimately, we have one eye on booking that next job or enrolling a student into our studio. Social media allows us to interact with potential clients who are not necessarily geographically local.
Let’s start by talking about developing a website.
Your website is your introduction to the world. Having a website is like hanging out a virtual “open for business” sign.
Musicians, or should I say “classical” musicians and music teachers tend to lag behind some of the other arts in having an online presence.
I’ll admit that I didn’t have a professional website until just recently. Oh, I’d developed websites for my school’s program and I’d created personal websites for my photography, but it wasn’t until Oxford University Press asked me for my professional web address to help publicize my upcoming publication iPractice: Technology in the 21st Century Practice Room that I realized that I didn’t have a professional online presence!
Musicians still book a lot of gigs through word of mouth, but not having an online pretense limits your reach significantly. It’s become common to “google” people and you’ll want to make it easy for people, whether they’re supporters or a prospective employer to find you.
Use your website like a virtual, multi-media business card.
Go ahead and start with a free website building account on a platform such as WordPress or Wix, but bear in mind that it will pay to upgrade the account to look more professional. The tools available these days help you have a professional website. You can now focus attention on the design, not how to code.
If graphic design isn’t one of your creative skills, let the experts handle the formatting. Freely, use the templates provided by the various platforms. Take a look at some of the templates over at Wix.
Regardless of the platform you choose and whether you decide to pay for the website or use the free tools available, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when developing a website:
Before you can even start creating a website, decide on who you are as a musician and/or a music teacher. This might be philosophical discussion that you need to have with yourself. Decide on a clear message and a clear identity.
Take a moment and write down all the things you do. Do you have a studio? Do you teach online? Do you perform certain genres of music? Do you perform alternative genres? Do you conduct?
You’ll want to find a place on your website for all the facets that speak to you as a musician – just not all on one page!
If you have both a teaching and performing identity, they should be kept separate on your website. You may even elect to have two different websites to keep the identities distinct. This also applies if you perform diverse genres of music. A classical violinist for instance may also be a fiddler on the side. Decide which of these identities is your primary performing identity and make the bulk of your website about this genre. Add a separate page for the fiddling identity. Create at least one separate page for each facet of your musical identity and use the menu feature to allow your visitors to see who you are.
Write down who you are in less than 5 words. These key words become your tag line. Here is an example:
The trend these days is for minimalist and clean with lots of white space. Add just a little text, avoid long text paragraphs. Most people won’t read much beyond a couple of lines of text.
The exception to this is your About Page. This is where you can write a couple of paragraphs about yourself, your experiences, and your musical philosophy. You may wish to include a repertoire list or a list of performing experiences, but make these separate pages. Visitors who are really interested will click over to these pages rather than cluttering up your primary pages with long lists.
Always keep in mind that you want your visitors to be able to navigate your site and find information quickly.
Use Lots of Photos
Social media is a very visual place. Use photos of yourself playing and teaching. If you don’t have a lot of these, start making them!
Professional headshots are a must if you want to be seen as a professional musician, but don’t forget the candids.
You’ll want the highest quality photos you can so paying a photographer or finding a friend with a photographic eye is best. However, there nothing wrong with including candids shot with a cell phone – a lot of social media is full of these everyday or backstage photos.
Just make sure that you have permission to post from anyone shown in your photos. For instance, if you show a photo of you and a student, make sure the parent is ok with you posting the photo or take the photo so the child’s face is obscured. If you’re backstage waiting for a concert, make sure your fellow musicians are ok with you posting the photo. As long as the photo shows them in a good light, most people won’t mind their photo online – but it’s important to ask!
There are also a number of free photo sharing sites like Pixbay. You’re looking for photos that have a CCO – Creative Commons license. These photos are freely available to use. You can also pay for stock photos through services such as iStock and Adobe Stock. It’s fine to use a few of these throughout your website for visual impact. I use a lot of stock photos when I don’t have enough of my own.
Don’t Forget the Music!
Including short videos and audio recordings of performances makes complete sense for a musician. Choose short clips to use – probably no more than a minute or so – and choose clips that sound good and show off your abilities. Good quality audio is a must if you want people to listen to the clip.
Many of the website creation platforms allow videos to be shared from YouTube or Soundcloud. Audio-only files can also be added to YouTube. Recordings don’t have to come from concert performances, backstage or practice room recordings are ok. Short teaching videos are also appropriate for musicians with a studio.
The difficult bit is selecting the excerpt. To allow your files to be accessed quickly, they can’t be too large that’s one reason a minute is just fine for the excerpt. If you want to get fancy, use Audacity, a free music editing program, to record a short intro. and use the fade in and fade out features to make the clip more professional.
If you don’t have a lot of recordings of yourself playing or teaching than it’s time to start making them! These are a must for a 21st century musician.
Contacts Made Easy
Make it easy for your visitors to get in contact with you! On every page, add your contact information. I don’t know how many webpages I’ve visited and had to search for an email address or a city where the musician is based.
Many of the webpage building platforms allow you to add a contact box or a separate contact page. At minimum each page should include either a contact box or your email address.
You can also add your phone number if you’re comfortable. If you’re worried about having your personal information out there, start a new Gmail or Yahoo email account dedicated to web communication. You’ll want to check this account frequently or have the mail forwarded to your main account, but then you don’t have to give out personal information. You can also get a free Google voice phone number and have it forwarded to your home and/or mobile number.
Clean & Update Frequently
Keeping your website clean is just like cleaning up your house for visitors. Show your best side and check in once in a while to update and clean up your site. Websites date both in design and content quickly.
Make it clear what types of experiences you’ve had and what types of opportunities you’re looking for. If you don’t really want to teach, probably omit this from your website even if you have a few students already. If you get opportunities from your webpage, you don’t want them to be unwelcome opportunities – so don’t invite them!
Check links periodically to make sure they still work and especially if you’ve included upcoming performances, make sure the dates are updated and link into the venue. If you can get the venue to link back to your website, that’s even better!
This post is running a bit long so I guess I had more to say about developing an online identity than I’d thought. I’ll save a later post for using social media like Facebook and Instagram more directly in developing an online musical identity.
Think about who you are as a musician and what image you want to project. I know this seems like marketing – and it is! Use lots of images and limit the text. Keep the website clean and updated and make it easy for people to find you and contact you! You never know when someone will stumble upon your webpage and what opportunities may be right around the corner!
Written by Jennifer Mishra, 2018
Head over to iPractice: Music Technology in Action for all the latest in integrating music technology into your studio or classroom.
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