The internet can be a daunting place and there are so many indie sites, it's difficult to know where to start and to find the sites that will actually be useful. What is the point of setting-up a site if there is no traffic coming in? If you set up too many sites, there is no way to manage them effectively and they will become outdated and useless. I have come across many sites in books and magazines which are only one year old, but no longer exist. I have also googled many indie sites and when you actually get to the site, they have disappeared. This becomes very frustrating and a big waste of time.
An artist may also spend a lot of time setting up a "great looking" site only to find it doesn't meet their needs and they're back to square one. I know! I have spent the last 1.5 years registering and evaluating every indie site I have come across and I will continue to do so to provide indie artists with the best possible information. In analyzing indie needs, I analyze sites from the point of view of an artist, a fan and music professional looking for information. I have found that there are eight types of sites that are important and which also reach the threshold of manageability to allow you to get all the features you will need to support your career. Keep in mind that one site may offer a combination of several of these:
1. an indie site where you can interact with other artists, preferably one strong on your specific genre. This will allow you to be critiqued by artists who are working towards similar goals, keep-up-to-date on music styles, develop new fans in the form of artists, collaborate and find out what is happening in the industry regarding events and news
2. an indie site that has radio and a charting system. This will allow your music to be streamed on site 24/7 for anyone checking in. The site should have a live radio talk show where you can join in on the chat and find out what people think of your music. These shows are usually saved as a podcast and can be used as a promotion tool for your own music by adding them to your other sites. Most chat/talk radio have a weekly show and play the site's top songs and new songs that were submitted during the week so there is always a good chance that your music will be selected several times if you download music frequently
3. an indie site that has internet TV. Internet TV is an interesting way to let your fans not only hear your music, but see you up close and personal playing and being interviewed. There are several options for creating your video and it is only limited by your imagination. One option is download a video of you performing at some event. Another option is to download a video you've created that not only includes "one song" but also an interview or a spoken blog about what new and exciting projects you are working on. You could also do a video mashup of your various videos.
Some sites include the option for a pre-scheduled interview that can be arranged in advance by contacting them directly. A pre-arranged interviewee would interview you from one of several studios scattered throughout the country. Many of the internet TV sites are moving to Pay-On-Demand TV and the site management selects the best submitted videos to be on their front webpage and to be on the pay-on-demand channel. Again, these shows can all be linked to your other promotional sites.
There are also internet TV sites that for a very reasonable amount, will expose your video on various cable channels reaching a fairly large audience. For additional fees, some sites will even send your video viral and encourage viewers to download your video from their site for a small fee which is shared by the company.
4. an indie site that acts as an EPK (Electronic Press Kit). It's important that you have a site that looks professional, is straightforward, has NO advertising and is easy to maneuver. Some place nice and peaceful. The importance of these sites are for A&R people, record labels, producers and project organizers to listen to your music. They don't have time to filter through all kinds of blinged, eye candy visuals. They are there to listen to your music only to determine if you have the potential to meet a certain project.
5. an indie site that is fan-based. This site is directed specifically at your fans. You will want to have ALL your albums and singles loaded onto this site. This site must contain the ability to have paypal (or similar) so your fans can purchase your music. You will spend a lot of time blogging on this site, keeping your fans up to date on your shows and activities; maybe have a newsletter. The site must have a store where fans can not only purchase your music but purchase band merchandise as well. Ideally, the site should take no more than 15% of sales. The site should have "street teams". These teams will help promote your music in the form of putting up posters, selling merchandise at shows, selling tickets, etc. They are the fans who are located in the community you will be performing in.
6. a podcasting site. You should have your own podcasting site where fans can come and listen to a selection of your music. It can be like a radio station or it can include your interviews and spoken blogs as well. Many sites have a large space for music information so the listener can read all about you and the specific podcast. You should be a bit crazy and very interesting here, let your wildside go. The importance of these sites are to gain fan exposure, but more importantly DJ exposure. DJs are an excellent source of getting your music heard on radio and in clubs. Most DJ's have a podcasting site with their favorite mixes. Befriend the DJs, get to know their style and work towards getting some of your music on their mixes. Most are very helpful and will answer your questions if you send them an e-mail.
Many DJs use these mixes for their radio shows and in clubs. Many DJs also sell their mixes during performances. When an artist creates a song, many get stuck on just one way of doing things. There IS power in re-mixing and artists should consider this avenue a little more often. Consider having some of your music re-mixed into another genre, maybe electronica or a dance tune and see how far it takes you on the clubbing scene. There is always more than one way to do things.
7. social media sites. You should aim for no more than two to three of these sites. They are important but can be very time consuming, after all, you still need time to create music
8. a music distribution site. If you want to get the cash flowing from your songs, you will need a site to distribute your music. You can have a dedicated site at one of the many music stores or on any of your sites that offer paypal depending on whether you are interested in digital music distribution or album distribution. The most important thing is to make sure you have "traffic" coming to the chosen site.
In looking for indie sites that represent your needs, keep in mind that a responsive site owner should be at the top of your list. There is nothing more frustrating than setting up a site, even paying money for certain options and then not being able to connect with the people who run the site. I believe in active site management. This means management who will write the occasional blog and keep the artists up to date on their site and activities. This means a comment on an artist's song when they join the site and not a form welcome letter, even an occasional thorough evaluation of an artist they find superior.