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U2

How to get more traffic to your music website

No traffic here...

No traffic here...

If you’re in a band, the chances are you’ve got a website. You either designed it yourself, convinced a gullible friend to build it, or got ripped off by a cowboy web designer, but regardless of how your website came into being, you’ve got a problem with it. Nobody’s looking at it.

This is because the supply of music websites far outstrips the demand for them. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians, all over the world, with music sites. But only a tiny proportion of the owners of these sites are popular musicians that people have actually heard of (and are therefore in a position to search for). So the vast majority of music sites languish on a server somewhere, with online tumbleweed (whatever that looks like) slowly passing by them. By virtue of the fact that you are reading this, you probably own one of them.

So how do you generate more traffic to that music site that you lovingly created? Well, as ever, we’ve got a few suggestions.

1. Forget about the music

Yes, you run a music site. But if you’re an unknown musician, making your site exclusively about your music isn’t going to drive traffic; nobody has heard of you, and consequently nobody is searching for you or your music. However, if you feature content on your site that is searched for, then you stand a much better chance of getting a significant number of visits.

Think of it this way: nobody is that interested in reading about how that gig of yours in the Rat and Parrot went; but they might be interested in what you made of the most recent U2 album. There might be one person entering ‘Sexy Susie’s gig in Rat and Parrot’ into Google (your mum) compared to hundreds of thousands whacking ‘No line on the Horizon U2 review’ into the search box. Consequently, if you’ve blogged about the U2 record, you’ve got a significantly better chance of coming up in search results than if you have written and posted a glowing review of your last album on your site. Ergo more visitors to your site, even if they are aficionados of tax-avoiding Irish bands.

Ah yes, you say, but then my site just becomes a U2 reviews site. Well, no, not really. Your site can become a place where you and your bandmates share your views on a range of topics that are of genuine interest to you - and more importantly, other people. You can share your views on sex; religion; politics; photography – whatever. So long as the content you post on your site is engaging, and you are passionate about the topics you write about, you can start to attract decent visitor numbers, simply because the internet is a huge place filled with content-hungry searchers. And obviously, you can feature the content you’re really trying to put in front of people – you and your music – alongside any of your posts about sexy religious politicians who dig photography. All of a sudden, through intelligent blogging, you have a captive audience.

2. Remember the tagging

Any time you post new content on your site, always tag it well. Assuming your site is built on a relatively modern platform (such as Wordpress or Squarespace), or you are integrating a blogging tool like Blogger into your site, you should be able to easily add labels to your content which will help it crop up in search – and drive traffic. If, for example, you write a blog post about your favourite Star Wars film, you shouldn’t just leave it there – you should add a series of tags which accurately describe the content – “Jar Jar Binks”, “George Lucas”, “daft Ewoks”, “camp robots” and so on.

Whilst on the subject of tagging, you should ensure that your site in general (i.e., not just the page where you post articles) is optimised for search. There are countless articles you can read online about SEO (search engine optimisation) but in a nutshell, you need to ensure that your site title, meta data, headers and copy all contain information that people are likely to be searching for. Again, because nobody is really going to be searching for you, you should use descriptions which involve well-known artists that you are influenced by. For example, instead of having a site title like “Official website of Sexy Susie”, you should have one that includes the main artists that you are influenced by – for example, “Official site of Sexy Susie – an artist influenced by David Bowie, James Blunt, Kiss and Cliff Richard” (an unfortunate combination perhaps, but there you go).

3. Share your content, and get others to share it too

When you do create your hugely engaging article about Bono’s leather pants, make sure you share it. Post a link to it on your Facebook page; whack it up on Twitter. Submit it to content sharing services like Stumbleupon or Digg; and encourage readers to do so too by adding a ‘sharing’ call to action at the bottom of each article – “Like this article? Please share it on…” etc. Using a free content-sharing tool like Addthis can help in this regard. Even one share – whether by you or another person - can actually result in an article going viral, so make the most of all the copious sharing opportunities that the Web 2.0 gives you.

4. Allow users to subscribe to receive more content

At the end of each Bono article, explain to users how they can get more of your content. Usually this involves asking them to subscribe to your blog posts via email, subscribing to an RSS feed or following you on Twitter / Facebook. If you have a blog, you can use Feedburner to allow people to sign up to email or RSS updates – it’s a free tool from Google which makes all that sort of thing a doddle. The more people subscribe to your updates - using any of the above methods - the more return visits you'll get to your site, meaning you'll have more eyeballs encountering your latest gig listings, online store and whatnot.

Monetise?

Finally, if you are really good at writing content, and you start to get thousands of hits to your site as a result, you could consider a) giving up music and becoming a writer or b) monetising your blogging talents through selling advertising space alongside your blog. The easiest way to do the latter is to use Google’s Adsense service – you just sign up for an account, copy and paste some code into your site, and you have sold your soul to Google in two easy steps. But it might pay for some recording time for that next album of yours that nobody’s going to buy.

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Using Youtube cover versions to raise your band's profile

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Go to Youtube and search for your favourite song by your favourite band. Assuming the band is fairly well known, and you’re not searching for some obscure nu-metal-shoegazing-two-tone-grime artist from Skegness, you’ll probably find an official video by that band that has had thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of views.

What you’ll also find in the search results is a bunch of cover versions – by unknown artists – of that song. Or, alternatively, unofficial videos that fans have put together which combine the original band’s track and a bunch of random pictures of flowers that they scraped from Google Images.

What’s interesting about those ‘alternate’ versions is that however shoddy, they will have had a huge number of plays – certainly if the band being covered is extremely well known (think Beatles, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, U2 etc.).

This highlights the fact that that there is a clear demand for this kind of content. And it presents independent and lesser-known artists with a great opportunity to raise their profile; after all, people may not be searching for your groundbreaking but unheard of act on Youtube at all – but you can be sure that somebody’s looking for a Cheryl Cole song every 5 seconds. Youtube lets you piggyback on Cheryl. Or any other number of famous popstars for that matter.

So, what do you need to do to have the best chance of a Youtube hit? Here’s some quick tips on how to get attention with a cover on Youtube – and make the most of any attention you get.

Pick the song you’re going to cover wisely

Firstly, ensure the song you’re covering is by a band that have a decent following and that people will be searching for. However,  it may be worth picking a slightly less-well known track by that band – for example a B-side or an album track – as there are probably fewer covers of that song by other artists to compete with (but still a lot of demand for the track, particularly if no other cover version of the song exists on Youtube).

Record a decent version of the song

Don’t be tempted to just slap your cover down quickly on a dictaphone – record the track you’re covering in an interesting, meaningful way that will genuinely appeal to people. You may get a lot of plays on Youtube thanks to people stumbling across your cover, but if your version of the song is rubbish then there’s little point in it being there – you’re not going to make any new fans.

Make an interesting video

Again, don't just sit in a bedroom and play your song into a webcam. If you can make an interesting video to accompany the cover - something simple but with decent production values, and - the holy grail this - 'viral' potential, you're far more likely to increase the likelihood of people sharing it on social media.

‘Tag’ the track correctly

Ensure that you’ve got the right keywords in the song title. It’s really important to get the original’s band name and the song title in the title, or you haven’t got much hope of appearing in Youtube’s search results. If you just have the song title and your band's name, but not the original artist's, this whole covering lark is generally a pretty fruitless business.

Capture data

Accompany your cover version video with a prominent link to a data capture form where people watching your video can subscribe to find out more about you. This usually works best when it’s incentivised – offer a free download or other juicy content in exchange for the email address.

Get the track up on iTunes

With the web, you just never know when something’s going to take off. If you’ve recorded a great version of a track, and it’s getting a shedload of plays on Youtube, you might as well be making a few quid from it.

Legal stuff

As for whether or not it’s legal or not to put cover versions on Youtube, it seems like a bit of a grey area. We had a trawl of Youtube’s legal section and it was pretty vague regarding covers. However, we did find the following statement:

Recording a cover version of your favorite song does not necessarily give you the right to upload that recording without permission from the owner of the underlying music, e.g. the songwriter (this statement can be found on Youtube’s Copyright Education FAQs page).

So the impression we get is that the original songwriter of your cover has to object to it being up on Youtube before it will get removed. If he or she does that, you’ll probably get a ‘strike’ against your account. Multiple strikes may result in your account being deleted, so if you’re planning on uploading a truckload of covers by litigious songwriters to Youtube, you may wish to proceed with caution. The Youtube copyright information is available at http://www.youtube.com/t/copyright_center for those of you who want to peruse.

Now, off you go to create your own very special Justin Bieber-style Ne-yo monstrosity.

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