Your Web Presence
I just finished reading a blog by Gerald Klickstein, author of the Musician's Way, regarding the importance of musician's building websites to promote and sustain their career. In the blog "Build a Website," Mr. Klickstein states "All musicians need websites to present their work to the world and build relationships with fans." While it is true that building a website can be helpful, I don't believe it is of paramount importance in today's market. Building a presence via social media is much more important. Let me explain.
You can build a gorgeous website with all the bells and whistles that Mr. Klickstein suggests and it can flounder in obscurity forever. Unless you understand SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), keywords, meta tags, meta descriptions, site maps and a multitude of other web specific technologies, your website will just be one of millions and millions of websites in the internet universe and every few people will ever see what you have created.
Don't get me wrong, websites can be extremely useful, but only for connecting to people you have met personally. You have to hand your business card to an individual directly and give a sales pitch to get them to follow up and take a look at what you have to offer on a web site. (Suggestion: Add a QR code to your card to allow them immediate access to your site via mobile device.) If you already have performances lined up and are meeting lots of people face to face in the industry, then your website could be very useful. (But you could achieve the same results with a good social media profile page.) However, if you think that lots of people you don't know will somehow magically visit your website, you are very mistaken. Here is why....
Remember that thing called "SEO?" Without SEO, the giant search engines, like Google, will never know you exist. For example, type in the words "classical music" into google. The first couple of items that show up are "paid" links that companies have paid google to place at the top of the list. (For a term like "classical music" those links are quite pricey, by the way.) After that you will have 262,000,000 links that are somehow related to the search term "classical music." After the paid links, the rest of the links appear in order of relevance. This relevance is determined by the meta tags, keywords, etc. that Google has found on your website. And by the way, if you have not submitted a "site map" to Google, then good luck with them finding your site relevant. SEO is so complex that there are companies who will manage this for you, but the fees will be hefty.* You could manage your own SEO. There are lots of great articles on the web about keywords, meta tags, etc. But remember, if it was easy, there would not be big companies making millions of dollars a year out there offering to do it for you.
Now, let me make the case for using social media to build your career and web presence. Social media allows you to connect to both people who already know you and reach out to a new audience and build a following among people you have not yet met. It requires very little understanding of technology and you don't have to worry about SEO, SEM, etc. It is important, however, to employ a "multi-level" marketing approach to achieve maximum success. You have to establish your presence on the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, but you must also create a presence in niche communities that are dedicated to music in general and classical music specifically. Why? Just like your web page will only be one of 260,000,000 in Google search results, you will only be one of 800,000,000 on Facebook. When you join a niche community (hey since I built it, I recommend www.ClassicalMusicCity.com) you become one of thousands instead of millions. If the profile page for the community is well designed, visitors can find a "clarinet player/teacher with a Master's degree in Music who lives in Colorado" with the click of a mouse. In other words, your visibility goes way up in a niche community because the search is greatly narrowed to a very specific group of people with a common professional emphasis. Of course, as the CEO of ClassicalMusicCity.com, I think our niche community is the best because we understand the classical music community and created a site to meet our specific needs.
Also, I can't emphasize enough the word "professional" when it comes to your social media presence on the web. For most people, their Facebook profile is full of friends and family. Do not mix business with personal in social media. Make sure you create a separate page for your business life on Facebook. The same with Twitter and Linkedin. A professional social media campaign will not contain pictures or references to your kids, dogs, cats, vacations, etc.
It is also extremely important to continuously work your social media outlets. Again, the good news is that this takes no special technical expertise. Just talk about your upcoming concerts, share your thoughts about your professional life and ask questions. Do this on a weekly basis for best results. Just one hour a week can make a big difference. If you just create a profile and then never participate, your success will be extremely limited. We made this a bit less time consuming for you on ClassicalMusicCity.com because you can automatically link your Facebook page and your Twitter accounts. Post your content on your ClassicalMusicCity.com page and it will simultaneously post on those accounts too.
Finally, there is the issue of balancing the needs of self-promotion via the internet and social media vs. going to rehearsals and spending time in the practice room. Classical music organizations like schools, orchestras, etc. can also feel the sense of being overwhelmed by fulfilling their mission and now feeling the compelling need to stay on top of social media. ClassicalMusicCity.com is responding to this dilemma by offering social media management for classical musicians and organizations. You can outsource your social media management to CMC and continue to keep your focus on what you do best. For more information on this service, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org To join our niche classical music community, go to http://mycity.classicalmusiccity.com.
(Caution: there are two brands of SEO. One is called "white hat" which represents the "good guys." The other is called "black hat," which of course represents the "bad guys." You can find "black hat" SEO very cheaply, in fact check your spam box and you will find lots of proposals. However, once Google catches you trying to game using "black hat SEO" the system, your site will be blacklisted and your life on the web will be over.)