Optimize This! – Music Success in Nine Weeks, Week 3

Big sigh of relief!! I finally did it. I have been imagining setting up my artist site for many months now. By “imagining” could it mean that I have been sitting on my gluteal muscle pack in rapturous reverie, “visualizing” the glory of my new web empire? Why yes, and what a productive endeavor that has been. (Not!)

Hats off again to Ariel and company for this blog challenge. I echo the sentiments of the others in my cohort who have expressed gratitude for the fact that this challenge has provided the stimulus to finally “get ‘er done”! I could say that it has turned out to be our motivational stimulus package. And perhaps, unlike other stimulus packages, this one seems to be working. (Oh no, did I get political there? Or just frustrated? Does it make a difference if I told you I voted for the guy and have no regrets?)

But I got off topic. (So uncharacteristic of me.) (That was sarcasm.) (I have now doubled up on my parenthetical comments.) (Make that a triple, or quadruple.)

Back on topic, I have learned many things while researching website options. Part of my criteria is that I didn’t want to have to design one from scratch, even though I have the ability. So, who to use? I looked at HostBaby, Nimbit, and others, and finally settled on BandZoogle. When I say “settled” I mean “settled”. There appears to be no ideal packaged solution. But in the interests of imparting hopefully useful information, I include a list of solutions I considered and I what I think about them.

  • Your own website  – This provides one with complete control but is a lot of work. If you know a good web design service as well as an artistic type who is good with Photoshop or Illustrator and is a wiz with CSS layout, then this may be the best option, but it will cost you by the hour.
  • Nimbit – I got mildly excited when I saw the Nimbit demonstrations at the ASCAP Music Expo, and I think it is second to none for campaign management. But it is something that you fold into an existing site; it is not a website solution in itself. And I really don’t need a cadillac right now. I am more at the rickshaw level.
  • WordPress – My songwriting site, KelSongs.com is using WordPress and I like it a lot. But this is a simple site where I create a blog post for each new song I release. I want a solution that can support more than one blog and can track fans, manage email lists, etc.
  • BandCamp – I signed up with Bandcamp and have my one freebie song on it. I love the fact that anyone can share the song on their social networking sites, and downloading the song requires an email address. Yes!!
  • ReverbNation – I signed up with them because I was looking at them to provide the free download widget, but the widget is slow to load up (especially on Internet Explorer) and not real attractive. But, I most likely will use their widgets for other applications. As far as hosting a website, they use Bandzoogle.
  • HostBaby – Like other off-the-shelf web services, they provide you with hundreds of templates to choose from and have direct integration with your CDBaby account if you have one (which I do). But I wanted to support more than one blog, they charge $19.95 a month, and they would still take $4 off the top of any CD merch I sell.
  • Bandzoogle – They also provide you with lots of templates (although not hundreds), and give you a lot of things you can put on your site, as well as full HTML control for different elements you want to put on their page. You can also put as many blogs, widgets, or whatever as you like. I for one, wanted more than one blog. The downside is that there are some design elements you can’t control at the page level and it’s hard to come up with a truly professional looking site.

But at the end of the day, I settled with Bandzoogle. I had to pull a few tricks to control things like column width when placing elements side by side. In order to have finer control of such things as spacing, I had to do some HTML and CSS coding, which I know how to do, although I have minimal artistic skill when it comes to styling stuff. I went with the “design your own template” option and it seems to be working pretty good, although I wish I had control over the size of the header on each page. Instead, once you set it, it is the same size on every page, regardless of which image you use. The other thing that concerns me is that the page is quite slow to load in Windows Internet Explorer but is lightning fast in Safari. (Anyone know why?)

For my free song download widget thingy I used the one from Bandcamp. It looks nice, has this really cool visualization feature, and they give the user a variety of audio formats to download your song in. And they make it really easy for visitors to share the song virally. Consequently, Bandcamp is now managing my email list. I don’t know if this is the best move, as I haven’t done a comparison of the list management and analytic features of Bandzoogle vs. Reverbnation vs. Bandcamp vs. Fanbridge, etc. I think I will wind up having to manage multiple lists and merging them into a master list. We’ll see.

So that about wraps it up for me, in almost 1000 words. Now it’s on to milking the social media cow. Can you say MOO?

Oh, and silly me! Here is the URL to my new site: http://kellycarpentermusic.com. Enjoy and give me feedback, please. And download yourself a free song.

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17 Comments

Filed under Music Success in Nine Weeks Blog Challenge, Work

17 responses to “Optimize This! – Music Success in Nine Weeks, Week 3

  1. Merrilyn

    of course, I LOVE the picture you have chosen for this post:-D

  2. Hey Kelly,

    Chris, founder of Bandzoogle here.

    The two things you mentioned here, layout flexibility and email for media widgets for external sites are both active projects, and at the top of our list for upcoming releases. We’ll keep you posted.

    I’d have to disagree about the “not professional” part; check our sample sites page for dozens of examples of great looking sites, both just template only and some with extra CSS added. If there is something that you are really looking to achieve, we can help you tweak the design manually. Just email me and I can help out!

    • Hey Chris,

      Thank you so much for reading my blog post. I am touched. Yes, poor choice of words of mine on “not professional”. That is most likely due to my lack of web design skill more than anything else. And I have been slowly tweaking things and am growing more satisfied. I chose Bandzoogle for having the best combination of flexibility and ease of use. But as always is the case, the tradeoff for ease of use is lack of control on some things.

      Since I used the “design your own template” option, I was wondering if there will be an option in the future to tweak some of the underlying CSS. Please let me know.

      Thanks again for commenting. I would recommend Bandzoogle to anyone who doesn’t go with a full custom solution.

      Take care!

      Kelly

  3. Oh, and your site showed up in <1 second on my PC in IE8. If it isn't for you, email me and we can troubleshoot.

  4. Hey Kelly,

    Ariel here- checking up on your blog.

    You’re a doing a great job. I really liked reading your list of solutions you put up. That’s the kind of thinking I like to see! Hang in there!

    Ariel

  5. Pingback: 2010 in review « This Kelly Carpenter

  6. Wow, crazy to find out that this post is one of the most frequently read posts on this blog site. Thanks for reading it. A few people have asked for a followup. I’ll take a look at how things look one year later.

  7. Looking forward for the follow-up, Kelly… it was great to see Chris and Ariel also making an appearance. I’ve made sites for others, and for myself I’ve done so many incarnations it seems my brain has now turned into Teflon – nothing of these new media networking social-majigger seem to make much inter-connectivity mapping-sense to me. I can’t figure it out, and always feel like I’m standing on the edge of an expansion of the possibility of exposure for my music… but after a few hours of reading feature plans, etc my brain turns to mush again.

    Anyways, I’m going to come back and read your next installment on this when it comes out.

    Regards,
    Andre Lefebvre
    http://www.andrelefebvre.net
    http://www.soaking.net

    • Hi Andre, Thanks for your comment. I am sure so much has changed in the past year and I want to do a reassessment or at least share my experience with the tools I have been actively using. Stay tuned!

  8. andre

    Hi Kelly..

    “…cough cough…” any update? :)

    • Yeah, I know. Lame. The key word in my response was “want”, as in “I want to do reassessment”. So much potential locked into such a little word. Perhaps I should blog about it.

      What I do plan to blog about is the 3-month PR campaign I won. In there I’m sure I’ll learn some more about what’s hot these days as far as platforms. This should kick in fairly soon, I’m waiting for my bio to get written.

      BTW you should really get that cough looked at. :-)

  9. Sounds good! Thanks for the update…
    I’ve been exhausted by the sheer number of options out there (Barry Schwartz has something good about choices on TED
    http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html )
    Looking forward to read about your campaign…
    Regards,
    Andre

  10. Pingback: What Type of Platform To Use for a Music Website | Solveig Whittle

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