Artist Advice: Why An Online Presence Is So ImportantWalker Lukens. Photo: Courtesy of Artist/Facebook
In today’s music world, it seems like those who take what they’re doing seriously all have some form of strong online presence. Having all of the earmarks of what successful bands utilize used to be pricey and difficult to obtain on a more professional level, but nowadays there are templates and low cost payment plans that make it simple for anyone to look more professional than they actually are. Social media accounts, a slick looking website, and a presence on all music platforms goes a long way in how your act is perceived by most who encounter you. As a guy who looks at more band profiles than almost anyone, doing things correctly goes a long way with me, and it’s something I notice more than you’ll ever realize. The truth is that promoters and people who make a living off of music notice it, too. Look at Walker Lukens. Lukens seems to have all of the correct assets as an artist like multiple social media platforms, streaming and pay music sites, and even a website that makes the Houston born Austin transplant look so much more professional than many newer artists today. Couple that with his new EP Never Understood getting all sorts of praise, having all of his “online ducks in a row” shows that a strong online presence can never hurt for the moment when the world recognizes you for your art. Here I discuss some assets every band should have, as well as the one thing every band needs to steer clear from doing.
As far as must haves, we should start off with social media platforms, because at the least, they’re free. If you take your band seriously, you should have an account at pretty much every social media platform, because you are trying to grow your brand, if you will. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are all used by touring acts today and they’re all great ways to share what you’re up to. You can also have a Snapchat as well, though there’s not a lot of proof that Snapchat is a good advertising tool. That said, the fact that it’s free and you could attempt to do sales on merchandise in a limited blast alone makes it worth at least having an account there. Keep in mind, just having these platforms isn’t enough. More successful bands post no less than once a week, sometimes with gaps depending on group activity. If you’re a local band, you should at least post something every two weeks, keeping it light and close to your audience. If you have all of these accounts, minus Tumblr, you can post in one place and have it pop up on each account if posting to each independently is too tedious for you.
Bandcamp. Photo: Courtesy of Website
As far as digital music platforms, I feel like every band needs nothing less than a Bandcamp account. Bandcamp takes the lowest percentage cut from artists, big indie labels like Dischord, Merge, and Epitaph all have Bandcamp accounts. Setting up a Bandcamp is really simple, you can set how many free listens someone gets, but the fact that most acts move crazy amounts of physical and digital merchandise through the platform alone make it the most ideal place to sell your music and offer it for streaming. Good things can come from Bandcamp, like finding acts to play with in other cities or having out of town acts hit you up when they’re rolling through your city as well. As far as pay/streaming sites like iTunes and Google Play, I feel they are both important, though Bandcamp is the easiest and most fair of the three. You should remember that the whole world uses their phones for playing music today, and they either use Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, so being at music lover’s fingertips can’t be a bad thing.
On streaming platforms like Soundcloud, Spotify, and Pandora, all of these, as well as Tidal, are great ways to get your music out to the world, but whether or not you use them is up to you. If you’re not certain as to whether having a Soundcloud account is for you, you should consider having at least one or two tracks on the popular platform, at least for discovery for those using it. Soundcloud is now offering a paid platform, though royalty payout amounts have not yet been made public by anyone who has received them, so keep that in mind when signing up. Spotify has bizarre rates for streaming, all of which are covered here. If you’re on the fence, it’s the most popular streaming service, so keep that in mind and use the same rules as above with Soundcloud, and maybe just place a couple tracks on it for discovery. Remember that with Spotify you need to register with them under your artist name, not the album title or song title, as it can get lost in the search engine. I don’t use Pandora or Tidal, but I know that the pay-only service Tidal has the largest per stream royalty payout rate, so keep that in mind when considering signing up.
Squarespace. Photo: Courtesy of Website
I feel like anyone and everyone can and should have a website in today’s music landscape. In all honesty, I feel like bands should already have their own apps and control their world further, but that’s an argument for another time. Have there been bands who don’t have a website but have still been successful? Absolutely. However I’ll let you in on the biggest reason to have a website: web search. The Google platform is so strong today that their search results are factored into predictive text on all platforms and their search engine results are calculated into how others determine what you’re typing in. If you have a website, your name will pop up quicker and faster in other search engines if not based off of anything else than someone typing it in somewhere else. Platforms like Squarespace, Wix, and even Weebly offer very inexpensive sites with templates that make having a website with an attached webstore extremely simple, as well as affordable. You can take things to the next level by using a MerchDirect website if you want, though the previous three will do just fine for bands starting out.
What you want to avoid is relying on a one-stop spot like Reverbnation. While there are plenty of successful musicians with Reverbnation accounts, there aren’t too many where that’s all they have. I feel like Reverbnation is a nice place for a band to start, but it’s also not the only platform you should use. For starters their player loads too slowly, it features a really cheesy interface, and honestly, anytime I see that’s all an artist has, I immediately take them less seriously. Usually when I see a band with only a Reverbnation account for their music, and then maybe a Facebook, I feel like they’re very “green” as far as musicians go or that they aren’t taking being a musician very seriously. Now, I’m just a music writer, but if I feel that way, you should ask yourself what those who want to interact with your band think about it, too. If you insist on only having a Reverbnation account, I’d like to recommend that you sign up for a MySpace account, too, as it’s about as revolutionary of a platform.
Of course, these are all just suggestions. Every band needs so many assets today that getting all of these things can be a bit overwhelming. Alongside photos, press, videos, a solid recording and a killer live show, an online presence can seem like a bit of an overkill. But aside from remembering that you aren’t trying to regain fans, but instead garner new ones, all of these things should make your act appear more professional while making things easier in your life as an artist.
If you like Walker Lukens, you can catch him November 26 at the Orange Show for the 9th Annual Saint Arnold’s Foam Riser. The 21 & up event has doors at 7 pm, and tickets for $20 with an opening set from Houston’s VODI.