The Bottom Dwellers are an alt-country/classic honky tonk band I play doghouse bass for. We play all around Northern California and sell some CDs. This website helps us do those things pretty efficiently.
I build a lot of band websites. Most of the time, the goals of the record label don't jive with the goals of the artist. As a result, the usefulness of the site to the people who visit it suffers. Not this time. Since the Bottom Dwellers is my band, I got to make the rules.
Being a part-time band that doesn’t have any obligations to a record label, the Bottom Dwellers’ website has more purposes than simply selling CDs, ringtones, and t-shirts.
There are three types of people who visit band websites like this:
- People who want to book you
- People who want to promote you
- People who just want to check you out
These three groups of people have a few of the same reasons for visiting your site in common:
- They want to hear your music
- They want to see what you look like
- They want to know where you are playing
It makes good sense that these three things happen as soon as you get to the site. With one exception. Auto-playing music and video on a website isn’t helpful to people trying to be discrete when browsing your site at work. Not wanting to piss off fans, I put the option in the visitor’s hand to decide when and if music will be played.
One of my biggest pet peeves about band websites, is the shoddy attention to detail they pay to event dates. I know of no single band website with an acceptable event calendar. Since the Bottom Dwellers rely on performances for the majority of their income, getting people to come out to the show is very important. Therefore, it is very important to make sure there are very few barriers to get in the way of people coming to the show.
The typical band website or MySpace page (*shudder*) list the following information for each show:
- date and time
- venue name
The average citizen interested in seeing a live performance of a particular artists is most likely going to be familiar with the venues the artist typically plays in their town. In Sacramento, fans of Cake or The Mother Hips, pretty much know the drill when one of these two play at Harlow’s.
But couldn’t their fans also benefit from knowing how much tickets will cost? Or who the opening band is? Or maybe even a link to the website of the opening band so they can check them out too?
The Bottom Dwellers website lists the following information for every event:
- the day of the week the gig is on, so you know at a glance if it’s on a school night or not
- a link to the venue’s website for official venue relate information
- the actual street address of the venue on a single line so you can easily copy and paste it into your preferred map service
- a link to the venue on Google Maps because that probably is your preferred map service
- the phone number of the venue, so you can inquire about any last minute info like drink specials, bathroom cleanliness, or the color of the stamp you’ll be washing off your hand the next day
- some general information about what to expect, like who we are playing with, a link to the other band’s websites, special guests, drink specials, bathroom cleanliness, etc.
- flyers for the show – one big enough to print and hang on your work fridge or kegerator, and one small enough to hotlink on your blog or MySpace page.
- how much it costs to get in
- how old you have to be to get in
- a permalink to the event on our site so you can send it to your friends
- and just because we can, the number of times we have played the venue in the past
Anything less than this is just plain old disrespectful. Your fans simply shouldn’t have to visit any other websites to find out information about your gigs.
In addition to the above information, visitors are also encouraged to subscribe to the calendar RSS feed, and/or the monthly newsletter that is sent out to those who sign up on the website and at shows.
On the home page of the site, there is a mini-calendar that displays the gigs we designate as featured in the CMS. This mini calendar does not list private events like the calendar page does. We feel it’s important to let perspective bookers know when we aren’t available due to previous commitments. This is not something that needs to be on the home page, as this is usually accessed via non-search engine referrals or direct requests. This mini cal displays a callout when the event is “Today” or “Tonight.” And yes, it knows the difference between today and tonight.
Back to the music... A great way to ensure minimal repeat traffic to your band site is to build it in Flash. Even if people do enjoy the animating menus and loaders the first few times they visit your site, they aren’t going to want to deal with it every single time. Band sites used to make heavy use of Flash. Now MySpace has largely taken the place of band sites.
One benefit of the Flash-based band site is that the music can follow you everywhere. With HTML, you either have to use a frameset, or open the player in a pop-up window. I chose the latter on the Bottom Dwellers site. This way the music has the chance to stick around even if the visitor goes to another site.
Content Management System
All four band members have unique profiles that allow them to write news articles, post images to the gallery, and add gigs to the calendar.
The CMS also allows us to manage our master set list. There is a mobile phone friendly page of this master set list that has saved our asses countless times. We also have a mobile phone friendly page that displays upcoming gigs. This comes in handy on stage as well as at the merch table.
The site naturally has the expected band site stuff, like a photo gallery, bio, hi-res photos, and press kit. There are many more things planned for the future, but the site has already demonstrated it’s usefulness to the band and our fans alike.