If you’re a recording artist or author, what do you see as the purpose of your website? To educate? To inform? To advertise?
Think again. While your site might do those things well, they alone are not enough. Your site must be a multi-dimensional representation of who you are as an artist.
If it isn’t that, it is a failure.
Maybe your art is about your personal life. Or about the universality of human experience. Regardless, it is informed by who you are. And that — its connection to you and no one else — is its sole point of differentiation.
Your website should convey who you are as an artist and why it matters.
No one cares much about the ways in which you are the same as other people. While those things might make you more familiar or “relatable” to your audience, they ultimately will undermine your ability to make a lasting impression. As an artist, it’s all about what you bring to the table that isn’t available elsewhere.
Who you are as an artist is not who you wish you were, or who you pretend to be, or who others say you are. It is who you actually are, at your core, warts and all. Whether you are comfortable with it or not, it is a powerful thing.
Your website isn’t just a way for people to find the coffeeshop you’re performing at Saturday night. It isn’t just another communications tool. It is an extension of you and your art.
As the artist, it is your job to make it as powerful as what it represents.
1. Understand your motivation.
Consider why you create art. Maybe you want to bring people together, or to help them think differently. Or you want to rock the boat. Or entertain in an artful way. In any case, you do it for a specific reason, or for a combination of reasons. Know what those reasons are.
2. Articulate your vision.
Think about where you imagine your art taking you (and your audience) over time. What would “success” look like to you? Critical recognition? Popularity? Personal satisfaction? In a perfect world, how would it go? Envision the path you would take. Plot it on a little map in your mind.
3. Identify your message.
Examine what you are communicating through your art. Is it aspirational? Fatalistic? Hopeful? Humane? If you could get people to understand one thing you were trying to say, what would it be? Hone in on that message. Write it down in as few words as you can. Refer back to it if you lose your way.
4. Use #s 1-3 — motivation, vision, and message — as building blocks.
Conceptualize your website. Identify language and visual imagery that reflect your motivation, vision, and message. Don’t get distracted by technical bells and whistles, or by what other artists are saying or doing. Any aspect of your site that does not clearly support your identity does not belong in your design.
5. Translate your concept into form and function.
Assemble a creative team to cover the bases of website construction — copy, graphic art, navigation, code, SEO, hosting. Give it your full attention. You might be able to do all of it yourself, you might need help in some areas. Whoever is involved, take the time to ensure they understand your motivation, vision, and message. Then (and only then) think about adding your MP3s and bio and photos and gig schedule and social-media links and cute pictures of your cat.
Your website is your avatar. It is a virtual you. When it comes to reaching your audience, it is as fundamental to your art as you are.