Archive for the ‘html’ category

I Don’t Know html. How Do I Build a Website?

November 4, 2010

ARTIST: Eric Downs of Yours Truly (Pittsburgh, PA)
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could suggest a few things for me to research in regards to building a website. I’ve researched options like the cost of domain registration and hosting fees, but outside of that, I’m relatively oblivious. Do you think you could provide me with some guidance?

ANSWER: Hey Eric. Yea I think the biggest hangup preventing artists from owning their own website is not know html code.  Yea its easy to get someone to design a site for you, but you still need to be responsible for maintaining it.  Here are some great options.

1. Bandzoogle. I’ve heard really great things about Bandzoogle. Artists have told me its great because it helps you design a site without needing to have any html knowledge.  BZ handles all hosting and you can claim your desired domain name through them.  The minimum fee is $9.99/ month. This is more costly than registering a domain and buying annual hosting space on your own…but the ease and user-friendly approach of BZ is what sells the idea.

2. WordPress. Everyone uses WordPress. Believe it or not, many of the sites you visit today are created with WordPress. You have to register your own domain and hosting. And it’s definitely necessary to have some html and css knowledge to establish your site. But once everything is in place, updating your pages is easy.  Wordpress has thousands upon thousands of themes (i.e. designs) that you can pick for the layout of your website. Here are two ways to go about using WordPress.

  • Consider having someone do all the setup (if you can’t), then go in and do all the tweaking. My sister’s band,  The Peace Project,  just did this with their site, but you might never know it’s WordPress. She added and updates the content when she wants.
  • Consider having someone do the setup and design. Maybe you can’t find a WordPress theme that you like. Create one. This is a bit more work and would also require a third-party if you don’t know how to do this. I had someone custom make a design for my website, Css and html knowledge that I didn’t have was required. But it feels great not having to worry about using html when updating

Good luck with your website! I hope it goes well!
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The Wonderful World of Widgets

September 16, 2009


Under Spinning Lights

Under Spinning Lights

What’s the easiest way to increase traffic to your sites?  Widgets. Don’t know what a widget is? Check out this post from back in February: Creating Content – Giving People Something to Talk About #2

I think we all often underestimate the power of little, seemingly insignificant things. Many people haven’t seen the value of incorporating widgets into thier sites or just haven’t thought too hard about it. Last week I finally got around to incorporating a Twitter widget into the homepage of my website and noticed that the number of people following me on twitter climbed faster than it ever had in the past.

Widgets Give Meaning to “The Power of Suggestion”
Incorporating widgets into your website doesn’t require html knowledge but would make things a little bit easier.  There are so many websites out there that offer widget codes for every social network.  For example, Facebook offers a widget that you can work into your website…which will ultimately direct traffic to you facebook page, help you to add fans, and keep people in the know about what you’re up to.  Many of your fans probably already have facebook pages, but aren’t connected to you- not becuase they don’t want to, but because it hasn’t crossed their mind.  And this is why using widgets is important. The power of suggestions.

Long Island pop/punk band Under Spinning Lights gets 5 stars for their saavy incorporation of the twitter widget into their myspace page. If you scroll down on the left, you’ll see how they’ve set up twitter accounts for each band member and set up each “twidget” by the band members face, thu creating an opportunity for fans to follow one or all of these guys.

Also check out how the’ve incorporated social networking icons into the green bar at the top of their page.  They either got some help or one of them is a design genius.  In any case, the page is clean and they’ve given their fans a opportunity to discover them on a various other sites including purevolume, buzznet, and Amazonmp3.

Some Help
Now if you don’t have html knowledge, here are a few sites that will help you create simple widgets for you page(s).

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An Interview with Allison Weiss

September 2, 2009
Allison Weiss

Allison Weiss

The first time  I came across Allison Weiss’ myspace page, I knew she was a musician after my own heart. Grassrootsy first covered her back in July in a feature on Kickstarter.  And after reading more about Weiss, it was apparent that she is one of the hardest working independent artists you will ever come across.  I mean ever. And believe me, it will pay off! In fact she’s already scored tons of top-notch gigs and an interview with Billboard Magazine.

Grassrootsy asked her some questions about herself and her music marketing techniques.  Read on!  Read everything! (and post your thoughts below)

1.) What’s your story?
I started writing and playing music when I was in high school, but didn’t really do a lot of it until I came to college. At that point I started playing out all the time. I hit as many open mics as possible until I had gained enough exposure to land some coffee house gigs, and in time I moved up to playing clubs in my town. Eventually I reached the point I’m at now, where I play regionally every weekend and tour during my breaks from school. I’m currently a full time student and part time musician, though it feels like full time. I’m pretty much constantly thinking about writing, performing, and promoting my music. It’s second nature. It’s what I’m most passionate about. I’m working as hard as I can to get to full-time status. As soon as I finish school I plan to work as a freelance graphic designer in order to pay for my musical endeavors. I already do this now of course, I just intend to do it even more intensely.

2.) It looks like some really great opportunities have been coming your way. How did you score that interview with Billboard Magazine?
The Billboard thing was definitely amazing for me. My friend Rosie Siman has always been a huge supporter of my music, so when she befriended Billboard editor Bill Werde, she made a point to bring him out to one of my shows in New York. I guess he liked what he saw, because he ended up coming to the next one a couple months later and he only had great things to say about my performance and my music. He then set me up with an interview for the Underground section of their website. It was pretty surreal to see myself on the front page of I never thought I’d be so close to the Jonas Brothers. Bill has been really awesome to me and supportive of my career. He’s also a total badass in general and I’m proud to know him.

3.) What do you think is the single most important thing an artist should do to promote themselves better?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. When I first got started, some people criticized me for my “shameless” self-promotion techniques. Four years later, the same people are now asking for my advice. It seems pretty simple, but the most important thing is to scream your name from the rooftops. If nobody’s ever heard of you, how will they hear your music? Make sure they know you exist. Do it with honesty, charm, and style and you’ll earn the trust of people who will support you for a long time. Also: get a mailing list. Make people sign it. Announce onstage that you’re giving away a CD to someone who signs the list, pass it out into the crowd, and then announce the winner right before your last song. Those email addresses are almost as valuable as album sales, because each one is a potential attendee at your next show and a potential fan.

4.) What is your biggest frustration with your fellow musician?
Nothing bothers me more than a musician who swears off the internet. It’s a new age. Unfortunately, its about more than just writing great songs. You have to be organized and you have to be on top of things and you have to be putting yourself out there in the real world and online. There are so many opportunities for musicians on the internet, to see someone swear it off is heartbreaking. It’s so easy to use Facebook and Twitter, I don’t understand people who refuse. Plus its really fun when you get the hang of it. I enjoy social media almost as much as I enjoy writing and performing.

5.) According to the Grassrootsy Reader’s Poll, the biggest frustration among readers is trying to build their fanbase and finding a supportive music community. How do you do this?
I love people. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I live for human connection. I want to meet people and I want to know them. I don’t put barriers between myself and the people who listen to my music. Aside from really personal stuff, I pretty much talk about anything on my blog or my twitter. I think that honesty and openness allows for more of a connection between band and fan. Also, I’ve never really sat down and tried to determine who my “target market” is. I mostly just put myself out there and go with the flow. I wish there was an easy answer to this question, but I think if you’re making good music, touring, and promoting yourself, the supportive community will come in time. Overall I think it’s important to remember what it’s like to be a fan of a band and how much fun it can be to really love someone for their music. I treat my fans the way I’d like to be treated by my favorite bands. It’s the golden rule, after all.

6.) If you could suggest one tool that every artist should familiarize themselves with, what would it be? Why? (i.e. html, photoshop, video editing, other…)
Honestly, social skills. I strongly believe that if you’re going to be a DIY musician, you can’t be a mysterious hermit. You’ve gotta have the guts to be outgoing and positive and ready for adventure. There are a million people out there trying to do what we’re doing, and it’s the go-getters who will succeed. It’s scary but true, and you’ve got to be willing to jump right in and join the fight.

But if you’re looking for a real answer…nowadays it’s essential to know enough HTML to edit your own MySpace profile. It’s a terrible waste of money to pay someone else to make simple changes you could do yourself. Look up tutorials online. There are millions of them. Make yourself a cheat sheet with codes used most often and eventually you’ll learn it. Video editing is also a great skill to have and with programs like iMovie, it’s very simple to learn. If my mom can do it, so can you. Having the ability to document your own tours and experiences and put them on Youtube can be really beneficial to the promotion of your own career. The real answer to this question is “All of the above.” The more many tech things you can familiarize yourself with, the better.

Allison Weiss Online:

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Statistics Rule the World

August 24, 2009
Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot

Its true. Mass media is governed by statistics. Why are commercials for electronic devices and video games more likely to run during sports games? Why do so many grocery and makeup product commercials run during Oprah? How come a network like BET is more likely to show a black family in a car commercial than CMT?  Do I really need to answer those questions? 🙂

It’s all about knowing your target demographic and using the information to your advantage. You’re not going to hear an ad to buy tickets for the symphony on your local hard rock station. So, with that said, here are some thoughts on statistics.

First, I highly recommend that everyone reading this start an account with Statcounter.

Statcounter is…
“A free yet reliable invisible web tracker, highly configurable hit counter and real-time detailed web stats. Insert a simple piece of our code on your web page or blog and you will be able to analyse and monitor all the visitors to your website in real-time!”

Website owners copy/paste the html code provided by Statcounter into each page of their website. This allows them to track what pages are most frequented, what time of the day most people visit thier site, what day of the week generates the most traffic…etc. Last year Iwrote an extremely detailed blog about Statcounter. Check it out: Drawing Traffic to your Website(s)  

Using Statistics to your advantage:

  • See who’s talking about you. One of the great advantages of having statcounter or a similar data retriever is that it lets you know who’s linking to your website.  For example if XYZ music blog has written about you, and someone links to your site from their page, statcounter will tell you.   Use this information to contact XYZ. Thank them for the write-up.  Or hold onto their information and contact them for a full write-up when you’re promoting a big event or CD release.
  • Find out what people care most about. What links are people clicking the most? Are they going to your iTunes? Are they going to your YouTube? As a user (for sending weekly music emails), I use their stats service to see what type of events generate the most interest to my readership. At this point, I’ve nailed down that my fans frequent art festivals, coffeeshops, and listening rooms more than bars.  This tells me to push these types of events harder. This tells me to go after these types of venues/events.
  • Keywords.  You might be surprised at what keywords in google cause your website to pop up.  WordPress stats for this particular blog tell me that  “Melody Gardot” and “Meiko” generate the most traffic for this blog…because Grassrootsy featured both artist earlier in the year. Go figure! 

In short, statistics are powerful, because they help you direct your efforts and find the most effective way of reaching your target audience. Don’t take them for granted. 

Other Statistic-related Grassrootsy posts…


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A Couple Things Every Artist Should Have #3

June 29, 2009 Chris McDonald aka Sale the Salesman

 To read the first two posts in this series check out:

A Couple Things Every Artist Should Have #1
A Couple Things Every Artist Should Have #2

A YouTube account
Soul/Electonica artist Chris McDonald has the right idea.  In anticipation of his forthcoming CD, Life of a Salesman, McDonald puts together 3 minute comedic video shorts featuring himself as Sal the Salesman.  Check em out. Not only is this an excellent way to build hype, but videos allow you to engage with your audience in a way that you just can’t do via audio or photo.  Consider opening a youtube account and posting a new video every 2 weeks (every week if you can).  It will pay offf…and will be the best/fast/easiest way for fans to get to know you better.  p.s. videos don’t necessarily have to be about your music…maybe something that just shows of your personality.

The Simplest, Most Straightforward merch store
When it comes to making money, don’t mess around w/ the potential to pull in supporters.  If your information is confusing, cluttered, or too much, you’ll miss out on sales, and web traffic.  Keep it cut-in-dry…especially on myspace.  Check out Mary Bragg’s music store.  Also visit her store on her official site.  It’s incredible and a perfect example of offering perfectly clear/concise information! Her store is powered by IndieKazoo. Check ’em out. They’re fabulous.

A header banner image on your myspace
Why not? Alot of artists are doing it these days and its just a great way to welcome ppl to your site.  Include an image of yourself or your band at the very top of your myspace. Visit Transmissor’s page for an example.  Why are headers important? Considering that it’s the first thing a person sees when they get to your page, a header is your chance to catch their eye and tell them your most important fact….like the an upcoming major show, or the release of a new CD. Visit Tommy and the Whale’s page for an example. 

To learn how to put up your own image on your page, check out this post on 10 Fun Websites to Create Your Own Free Banner.


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Getting People to Sign Up For Your Newsletter

May 14, 2009
Joel Rakes

Joel Rakes

The Newsletter is the single most important part of being a musicians (ya, i’ve only said that 10,000 tims in this blog).  Can you imagine what would happen if major artists didn’t have newsletters? They’d make only a fraction of their normal income.  For example, I get Death Cab For Cutie’s emails in my inbox all the time…and that’s the only way I find out about new CD’s, tour schedules, new music videos, and blogs.  Without that newsletter I have nothing to prompt me to visit the website.  Withought that newsletter, there’s no way for me to excited about their upcoming releases, or first dibs on concert tickets…etc.

You’ve heard me say it so many times on this blog, but you NEED a sign-up sheet at all of your shows. You need it on your merch table. You  need to pass it around.  Its better for people to sign you newsletter than to buy your CD.  An email last alot longer than $10.  If you get an email address, you have the chance to start a “relationship” with your fans.  The lines of communication are open and they will undoubtedly bring more income your way (wether that means buying your CD later, or paying to come to many future shows).

Now here’s some fresh information.  Here are some ways to build that newsletter other than what has already been mentioned…

Be Clear
People are hesitant to sign up for any type of newsletter these days…for the simple reason that there’s so much SPAM out there (see Email Marketing – A Few Things You Should NEVER Do). At your shows, take the time to tell people what they’ll be getting in their inbox.  Tell fans you’ll only email once a week or once every two weeks. If you have fans in several states, make sure they know you will only email them if you’re coming to their area.  And tell people they will be able to opt out of your emails if they decide they’re no longer interested.  And then…prove it.  Send meaningful information in your emails so people know they didnt sign up for crap!

Offer Incentives: Free Song(s)
Philadelphia Singer/Songwriter Joel Rakes has something he called “Free Refills”.  Any person who subscribes to his newsletter automatically gets free, regular downloads of new songs.  Promos like this are extremely effective. When people know they are getting something that others aren’t priveleged to, it adds value to the product.

Also check out the Getting Others to Help You Promote Your Music post for details on NoiseTrade.  Noisetrade not only collects a persons contact info in exchange for free music, but also requires that person to recommend 5 other friends who might like your music. 

Use that html code
Most Mailing List Providers help you generate email signup forms (html code) for your website. Put that code on your myspace, and on your website.  It might even be possible to put the form on every page if it works with the layout of your website.  If anything, its important to put the signup form on your homepage and/or themost trafficked page of your website.


If you have other tips or things you’ve done to build your list, please suggest them.

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Getting Others to Help You Promote Your Music

April 20, 2009


Jenny & Tyler

Jenny & Tyler

Getting outside help is hard!  The truth is, if we could simply get 2 people to tell 2 friends, to tell 2 more friends, every artists music could potentially take off. But its not that easy. And even if it did work, only a percentage would become die hard fans.  So here are a few ideas for ya…

Recruiting  a Street Team
They exist!  There are people out there who do love your music enough to help you get the word out about shows.  In most cases, you just need to give it time.  You won’t develope hardcore fans like this overnight.  And its likely that these hardcore fans will come when you’ve made a connection with them at a show or online (i.e. random conversations and seemingly pointless banter).

So how do you find your street team?  I think Fanbridge offers the best solution so far. Fanbridge gives people an option of subscribing to a “fan” list and a “street team” list.  In other words, “street team” subscribers will receive additional correspondence from an artist about what they can do to help get the word out.

Another option is to create a Facebook Street Team Group.  Facebook is becoming the leader in effective communication to large audiences. Once you have your group created, you can easily correspond with all members. Lets say you’ve created a facebook event for a show in Philadelphia: Use facebook to figure out which Street Team members live in Philly. Talk with them and make them “administrators” of the event. This will give them the ability to be more hands-on in getting the word out.

Street Team members are also more likely to organize events in their cities and bring you in to perform.


Using Incentive
Try to give Streem Team members incentive for helping you…stickers, posters, a free CD, put them and one of their friends on the VIP list for a show…etc. It means alot to fans when they know you appreciate their support.

Speaking of Incentive, I recently split a show with Nashville duo Jenny & Tyler and came across NoiseTrade on their website. Noisetrade is  an application that allows music listeners to buy your music or reccommend it to 5 friends.  If they choose to reccommend instead of pay, they get the songs for free but at the same time, an artists music gets passed on to 5 new potential fans.  It’s a cycle that keeps on going and going and free music is great incentive for people to spread the work about your tunes in this framework.  NoiseTrade has an initial startup fee but I’ve heard great thing about the program so definitely check it out for more details.


Using html
If you check out last months post, A Couple Things Every Artist Should Have #2, you’ll find that one of the easiest ways for others to promote you involves offering banner code.  This doesn’t involve any work other than the initial setup.  Site visitors can snag the html code and put your bannner on their own page(s).  Here’s an example for grassrootsy.  And yes! Feel free to copy/paste the below code on your site! 



 Visit to get an idea of how this will look on a music page.


If you have any other ideas, please suggest them in comments.

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