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Your band's webpage sucks! (and what to do about it)

No, seriously. It does. I was looking at it and thinking "who the hell designed this? A preschool kid?" That's not fair though as many kids that age know how to use the Net pretty well so that makes you and your website look even crappier than it does. And it is crappy, believe me. It's time you faced facts and did something about it, so suck it up and listen here.

I've been thinking about this problem with band websites for a while but it really stuck out when I was going through the Austin American-Stateman's helpful listing of SXSW bands. In a great public service, they not only list the bands but also link to their sites so you can listen to them. But that's where the problems begin.

If you go to a band's MySpace page, you get the tunes right up front, at the top of the page, usually playing automatically. It's easy and no fuss. And I say that as someone who hates MS owner Rupert Murdoch and thinks that he's evil and destroying now only the publishing biz for his own gains but also trying to do the same with the online world (if Google or Microsoft don't beat him to it).

But compare the MS experience to when you set up a band page of your own and try to dazzle people with it. You're wasting your time. People are running around the Net looking for goodies and if they have to stumble around your page, you've lost them. You just scared off someone who could have been a fan and a booster. How dumb is that?

Back to SXSW, I was going through the listing of 'A' bands, trying to be adventurous and sample a few bands I hadn't heard of before. There were indeed some good ones there (roots reggae singer Cherine Anderson, soul/R&B singer Maya Azucena, techno band Acid Girls) and some bad ones too but the thing that kept cheesing me off were some of the bands' pages. They were a mess and worst of all, you couldn't find the goddamn music, which is the whole point. Usually, it's stored under "Media" or if they're smart, they're just call it "Music." But even then, it wasn't easy to hear anything.

Let's pick on a couple of bands as an example and hope that they get their sh-t together by the time you read this and update their site. First, there's Avatar. They look like a metal band with the short beards and knotty hair, right? Only problem is, when you go their media page and click on the links, you get errors for the songs. Not good promo, right?

Next, try out Nicole Atkins' website. Where's the music there? Beats me- I gave up after trolling around 'Cinema' and 'Gallery,' plus the pages still take a long time to load on a high-speed connection. If you don't make it obvious for websurfers where to find your music, you've made a crappy website and you deserve to be ignored.

Another example is Greg Ashley's site at his label- there's a nice bio, photo and discography and... no music. Not even a link. Who's gonna take your word that this is someone worth listening to if you can't listen to them at all?

Artifact Shore is another good example of what not to do- just look at their empty media page with the "Coming Soon" tag. Who's gonna remember to come back there if they don't know the band already? It's a stupid waste of time. You only find out about their MySpace page if you think to click on their "Contact" link. Not too smart, boys...

Some bands are brainy enough to know up front that wandering web surfers want to find music quickly so they have a nice convenient MySpace logo/link parked right on their homepage, like this site for Augustana. Hell, they even start the music playing when you come to their page too. Bravo!

Again, there's lots of things I hate about MySpace (the music is usually the last thing to load on their pages and that can take a while) but they do know how to deliver the songs to you and that's what counts. Another good service for that, and one that SXSW has pushed too, is Sonicbids. Take a look at Astral Heights' SB page. Click on their Audio button and you get to hear five of their songs- nice, easy, simple. And it beats the hell out of you trying to drag someone through your site just to hear what you sound like.

So what's a band to do to make their music easy to find and hear? Forget the stupid splash/intro page that takes forever to load and have a nice big button or link that just says "MUSIC." Link to a MySpace and/or Sonicbids page you set up there. Better yet, if you have the server space, post your own songs and videos on your site so that you can keep people there and get them interested in everything about your group. Just don't waste their time playing 'find the songs.' Nobody wants to do that and you're better off staying with their day job than chasing off potential fans.

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