Web 2.0 – part 1

I’ve had a few emails from musicians who didn’t really know much about the tools and ideas I talked about in my last newsletter. I thought I was well behind in this new movement but it seems there are many musicians, especially in the jazz world, who aren’t sure what is going on. I’m going to explain a bit more about the way things are moving as I understand them, and give some ideas as to ways of using this new technology to our advantage. I will also send you in the direction of some great blogs and articles which I think are really worthwhile reading. Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, wrote about sharing the workload and not trying to do everything yourself. Likewise, I don’t recommend that you give up half your life to learn HTML or coding but I do think it is imperative that we all have at least a basic understanding of how we, as ‘indie’ musicians, can use many of the tools now available for our own benefit. I’ll split this up a bit, so this first post will be just outlining some basic points and then later I’ll go into more detail about some of the tools at our disposal. So, let’s get started.

Web 2.0

This refers to what many people are calling the new version of the web these days. At one time, you had a website. It was like an online brochure with a bio, some photos, maybe some mp3 files of your songs etc. It was static, it didn’t do anything. It was there, people visited and went away and that was it. Sometimes you would update your ‘GIGS’ page and hope that people would come back every so often and have a look. ALL of that has changed. There is nothing static about it. In fact, if your site stays the same for long nowadays, people will stop visiting all together! The web is an interactive ‘world’ where you can meet, talk to, sell to, buy from and communicate with almost anyone in any country. It is possible for you to build up your fanbase, book and publicise tours, sell merchandise (such as cd’s, downloads, t-shirts etc) and generally make a living without the need for backing from a record label. And all these tools, while seeming to complicate life, are actually making this much, much easier for us. Most, if not everything, on the web is interconnected. More on that later.

Blogs

Most of you have heard of blogs by now. They’re like an online diary, which you update regularly. And there lies the wonder of them. If the web is no longer static, and people are looking for new information and changes to your site, what better way than to use a blog? Your site content will change every few days so people will always be coming back for more, the search engines will always register your new blogs (if you’ve set things up properly) and therefore keep your site close to the top of the search results. A great many site you see these days are based on blogs. My current blog is run by WordPress and the new site will be built using the WordPress blogging software but there are many more to choose from. I would really recommend to all musicians to get a blog as opposed to a web site. Try to post often about the band, yourself, what you’re up to, how the recording is going, what you think of the price of bananas etc. You give another view of yourself to fans, a behind-the-scenes look, and can create more of a relationship with them. They will feel more involved and therefore have an interest in coming back.

RSS

How do you tell people about your new post? How can you let your fans know when you’ve updated the site with new gigs, or new photos?

One of the key tools in blogging is RSS. It stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication and it creates a document that is a summary of content from your site. This document (feed) can be fed into various feedreaders , the one I use is Google Reader. The feed basically means that your fans can sign up to receive updates via a feedreader or email. Every time you update the site, the people signed up via RSS will receive the new post. At the moment I am signed up to about 15 sites. I don’t have time to go to each of those sites everyday to see if there is any new content, so I open up my Google Reader and it tells me who has updated, where. I can see the headlines from the new posts and if anything looks interesting, then I’ll go to the site and have a look. It is very important for you to have this on your site. It makes life easier for your fans and helps you publicise new material. However, a lot of people are still uncomfortable or unsure about how feeds work and how to use feedreaders. Therefore you should also have an option to subscribe via email. I use Feedburner for both of these. Visitors can sign up for an RSS feed or via email. They still receive new posts when they come out but they arrive in their inbox. Chris Garrett recently posted on this saying that 45% of his subscribers were via email. Now, his blog is aimed at bloggers, people who know how all this stuff works. So for us lesser mortals, who’s audience is probably less clued up on this, we MUST have an option for email.

So, I’ve explained a bit about the new web, and about how blogs can work better for you that a traditional website. In the next post on this subject, I’ll tell you about the programs, plugins and networking sites that we can use to increase our business and how we can interconnect all of them to make our lives easier and more productive. If you have any comments on any of this, maybe how you’ve been using the web to your benefit, or if you think blogs aren’t the best option, then I’d love to hear from you.