A few weeks ago, my friend asked me if I could help him build a website for his band, A Northern Drawl. They've already got a MySpace page and a Twitter account, but they wanted another presence on the web that they had more control over.
Rather than just setting them up with a blog and saying "have fun", I wanted to make sure it would be something useful. My friend and I went out for coffee, and talked about what they'd be using it for and what they wanted.
Some of the initial things that we agreed the site needed were a way to advertise their upcoming shows and a way for people to contact them for bookings.
My roommate Micker ("a sustainable designer") gave me some ideas on how it should look, and I used Artisteer to put it together (well worth the $50 if you ever design Wordpress or Joomla sites).
I also convinced them that it would be great for them to post any tracks they record and make them available as a free download. As a band that is still building up a fan base, giving away MP3s for free is a great way for people to easily learn about the band without having to put down any money. Its also a great way for existing fans to share the music with their friends, potentially growing their fan base.
A newsletter plugin (via Satollo) was also added, and I've encouraged the band to tell people to sign up for this newsletter. Rather than just sending all their posts like Feedburner might, a news letter plugin like this instead allows them to capture the names and email addresses of their fans so that they can send them more personalized, relevant updates later on.
While all you social media types that read BlogCampaigning might be hip to the RSS scene, I don't think the average music fan is, and I think a newsletter like this will be a good way to reach their potential fans. Later on, I'd like to expand this newsletter function so that it captures which city the subscriber is in, as well as their name and email address. That way, the band can reach out to fans in different regions when they go on tour.
They asked me if I could set the site up so that any updates they made on the blog would be posted to their Twitter account and MySpace page, but I advised against this. It isn't because I didn't feel like doing it (setting up a feed to Twitter is easy, one to MySpace a pain in the ass), but because I think they'll have different audiences on each of the different sites. As a new band, they've got a huge opportunity to start connecting with fans, and automated messages across different social networks isn't the way to do this.
I also added a plugin that would enable users to vote on the comments. In my discussions with the band, one idea we came up with was that before a show they could ask their fans which song they should cover. Fans would be able to make suggestions via the comments, and then vote on the suggestions that they wanted to hear. Its a great way for the band to get feedback about what kind of music their fans want to hear. I think it is also a great way to draw people to shows, as people might be more interested in going if they think that the band is going to play one of their favourite songs.
Once the band makes merchandise, I'd like to add some sort of system so that people can order it from their site. I'm sure that as the band's needs change, so will the site, and I look forward to working on it with them for the next little while.
If you've got a few minutes, check out ANorthernDrawl.com, and let me know what you think of the design. I'm particularly interested in hearing what you think of how the background image shows up on your monitor. I certainly wouldn't describe myself as a "web designer", but I do like making and designing sites like this.
They haven't started posting anything yet, but if you like Pearl Jam-inspired alternative music, it might be worth your while to subscribe their RSS feed or follow A Northern Drawl on Twitter to get updates from the guys. They frequently play shows in Toronto, and are worth checking out.
What sort of things do you expect your favourite artists to have on their websites?