In today’s global economy, competition is tough. Performance standards are constantly rising, and it’s taken for granted that everyone is consistently improving their craft. Career opportunities that were once a given are now scarce and given to those that truly stand out.
One of the common pitfalls experienced by recent music school graduates is expecting jobs to fall into their laps because they now hold a degree. The reality is that most of these graduates are forced to take jobs in non-related fields to pay the bills, and performing on their instrument (the skill they paid for a degree to develop) turns into a hobby. I have nothing against jobs in an unrelated field, especially considering my current position as CEO/CTO of Dream City Music requires much less baton-waving than I experienced in my Orchestral Conducting Masters program. It’s just a shame when this transition to music-as-a-hobby is not a conscious or intentional decision.
So how can a musician (or anyone for that matter) gain a competitive advantage in a crowded field?
You must have a professional online presence to succeed. In fact, you are actively doing yourself a disservice by keeping yourself private.
Many musicians, entrepreneurs, and modern professionals earn valuable exposure and partnerships by having a combination of the following online presences:
- A website
- An updated and active LinkedIn account
- A Facebook page (used professionally)
- An Instagram account
- A Twitter account
- A YouTube channel
Musicians will specifically benefit from having Soundcloud and Bandcamp accounts.
There is an extraordinary amount of use cases for each of these media, but I’d like to emphasize the versatility and branding advantages of creating and maintaining a website. Most of the previously-mentioned formats are comparable to having a booth at a trade show – you have limited control over their customization, and your space for content is extremely limited. On the other hand, creating your own website is an opportunity to insert your DNA into every aspect of the design and execution.
When choosing to create a website, it is important to brainstorm a list of goals you want your site to accomplish. A good way of thinking about this is to consider, “what action(s) do I want my visitors to take after viewing my site?” Some examples of commonly-used goals are:
- I want visitors to call me to discuss hiring my services
- I want visitors to donate to a cause (Kickstarter, Patreon)
- I want visitors to buy something from my online store
- I want visitors to attend a concert or event where I will be performing
- I want visitors to become more aware of me and trust my expertise
Thinking in these terms is often a new experience to the uninitiated, but it is extremely important to define your goals (even better if they’re SMART goals) to stand out from the competition. Once you’ve established a set of goals (which may change over time), then you can plan a user experience where every aspect of your website works towards achieving those goals. Even better, with the right set of tools powering your website, you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts which can then inform any changes you might make. (Some of you may recognize the Build-Measure-Learn loop from Lean Startup, and you’d be correct!)
Building a Website
Creating a website is a practical art form (one that I am continually improving upon myself) that comes in many forms and degrees of difficulty. There are many subtopics within this particular area (domain names, self-hosting vs. pre-built platforms, content management systems, custom coding, search engine optimization [SEO], and more), and each of them deserves at least a post by itself. In my next series of blog posts, we will begin down the path towards building and launching your own website with a particular emphasis on musicians. I will attempt to keep the technical level at beginner to intermediate while using technologies typically considered intermediate to advanced. The reason for this is that most of the technologies geared towards beginners tend to be very limited in capability, and also much more expensive.
Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to leave comments or suggestions below!