Friend: I made this dope track and some of my friends love it but no one else is listening to it. I don't understand why I am not getting more followers?
Me: Do you have a website? Some kind of online presence so people can find your work?
Friend: No. Not yet.
The simple truth is this: no one will know about you if they can not find you (easily). A simple truth that unfortunately is missed by many aspiring artists. Your art may be analog but we live in a digital world that stretches far beyond our bedroom, studios, and community to other cities and other countries. Going digital whether you are a painter or you make beats, it is a crucial step in garnering a fanbase for your work.
This current generation, along with the one preceding it, have been bred to be digital natives. They discover their music, art, film, and fashion through social media, digital pop culture, and you guessed it...visible web presence. To find an audience, you have to go where your people go. Online.
Having a social media account is a great start but it doesn't go far enough to really solidify your digital presence. Why? Well Facebook is really a web of connected friends. So it limits your outreach to the people you know, and the people that they know. Unless you are found by some random act of serendipity, while having an ubiquitous name such as Jane Smith (disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with Jane Smith other than the fact that there are hundreds of you), it is highly unlikely your fanbase will grow. And you really don't want weird people having access to your personal details.
Twitter, on the other hand, does allow for strangers to discover you but not necessarily in a constructive manner. With so many unidentifiable avatars and robotic accounts, you may find yourself gaining followers but not fans. Since the idea is to promote who you are, what you create, and the direction you want to go, a web presence is one of the most effective ways of truly showing you are serious about your next step as a creative.
So what exactly is the purpose of having a web presence, specifically a website.
Urgh. That ugly word again. No, it doesn't make you a sell-out to want to "brand" yourself. It is not an affront to the purity of your creative craft. A brand is who you are, what you create, what you value and much more. Branding says "I am a photographer who enjoys capturing and manipulating images in a cinematic way." Branding says "I am a electro-hiphop artist who creates music videos." Branding provides an opportunity to share your breadth of knowledge, skills, experiences, and talents to any visitors who are questioning why they should pay attention to you when there are so many other creators competing for their limited bandwidth.
Yes. A website will involve you writing about yourself. Sip some tea. Put your big girl (or boy) pants on and get to it! The more a visitor knows about you, the more invested they are in buying your work or supporting you! Keep it short and sweet. No one needs to know what happened when you were 10 years old at camp unless it is pertinent to why you are creating. Let your visitor know who you are, why you do what you do, and your ultimate goal. You never know who is reading and who can help you reach your potential.
This is, if not the only reason, the main reason you should have a website. If you are particularly one of those creatives blessed by Apollo to possess multiple skills and talents; from producing your own music to sculpturing to making music videos; then you need a place to house all of that dopeness. If as a potential fan, I have to visit multiple online sites to find your work, you have already lost me. In an age of digital serendipity, attention is currency, and currency ain't cheap.
So proudly display all of your work. Most online platforms allow you to sync to YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter and more. This is the place to centralize all of your social media presence, creating a holistic picture of who you are as an artist.
For my illustrators, sculptors, painters, and self-taught visual artists, this is the place to show your work in a clean minimalist fashion. None of that 90s website background. Just as you go into a gallery and see your work displayed on a blank backdrop, so too should your work be displayed online. It doesn't have to be white but it does have to be clean and compliment your work. Invest in great photography! Enlist a fellow creative (preferably one with a digital camera) to capture your work in the best light and upload them onto your new website. The more we see, the more we love!
Don't limit your creativity to what is you do offline. Use your website as another way to show off your artistic skills. It also serves as another medium through which you can exhibit your personality. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words but a website does the talking for you!
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to hear great music at an open-mic gig or see a stunning illustration on tumblr without being able to find the musician or artists anywhere. Was this a stroke of genius that only occurs every turn of the century or is there a space where I can go to indulge in their craft? If the audience can find you, they will keep coming back! If editors can find you, they will write about you. If editors write about you, fans and agents will find you. It's a beautiful cycle worth investing in. That being said, please have a contact page. Let us know how we can reach you. Get an email specifically for your work. And please no "PrincessStarfighter69@yahoo.com", unless of course that's your stage name then by all means own it and knock them dead!
Now I see you backing away from the screen slowly. Please don't. Networking is a good thing. You know why? You get to meet other amazing creative people and do collaborations. More and more people find out about you and will pass on that knowledge to others, including potential editors, A&R reps, and agents. You just have to put yourself out there. Branding yourself allows you to create the story of who you are. And as you meet people, you can hand them details of where to find your work verbally or in the form of a business card. Those who are truly interested in you will follow-up by going to your website.
So with all that drama out of the way, where do you start? It is understandable that as an aspiring artist, you may not have the funding to throw towards some a movie production style website. So here are some cost-effective options:
I have mad love for this platform. It is misunderstood as a blogging medium. Tumblr can be easily converted to an effortless website. It comes with so many free templates, you simply have no excuse but to display your work in an impressive way. It provides you with a custom domain name (albeit, shackled to tumblr.com but beggers can't be choosers). Additionally, if you want to sell your work, well a cartel option can be incorporated; not to mention that it blends elements of Twitter and Facebook where you can share your work with both known and unknown folks.
If you can't bare to leave Facebook, then consider getting a Facebook page. It has the functionality of both a blog and website. Pages allows you to create a tab for each section of your work and connects easily to other platforms like Bandcamp and Reverbnation. You are only limited by your imagination. Similar to Tumblr, you can get a customized domain name and with its new "shopify" collaboration, you have a platform where you can sell your work. Simple.
This platform is like the elevator pitch for websites. A one-page digital site that links to all of your other social media and online presence. If you are not much for website building, this is perfect for you. Simply upload a stunning background, add a short introduction to yourself and your work, and link your creations. You'll barely break a sweat before lunch.
Another free platform out there and a favorite for creatives because of the ease of building a website, is Wix. It has a one-pager template as well as multiple pager options. Supports all sorts of diverse media and all you have to do is drag-n-drop. I think you are getting the trend now.
This one is surely becoming a household favorite. Your grandma could do this in her sleep while knitting. It comes in a variety of aesthetically pleasing templates and supports multiple medias. For the more advanced user you can get creative with coding. The price can be a sticking point but if you have the funds, go all out and create a space that you can call your very own! Domain name included.
Remember, if someone has to struggle to find out how to reach you, see your work, or know who you are, then you are not doing it right!