So you have Facebook fan page. That’s great, fantastic. You’ve got your own YouTube channel where you upload all your music videos. Congratulations. You also post on Twitter, stunt on Instagram, stream on SoundCloud and do all this other great stuff online.
Now let me ask you a question, do you own any of those sites? Do you have any say on how any of those sites operate?
Let’s say Facebook or Twitter suddenly decides to switch up their rules tomorrow and make it harder for you to promote your music, what would you do?
What would happen if YouTube changes their policy next year to make it more difficult for independent artists to upload their music?
The latter point is actually a very realistic possibility – check out this Forbes article YouTube Is About To Delete Independent Artists From Its Site.
You don’t own shit. You’re just renting from them. You’re at the mercy of Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp or whatever site you’re using to distribute and promote your music.
What independent hip-hop artists need is their own website; an online property that they 100% own, control and manage. Think about the website as your central hub and the other sites as marketing channels that drive traffic back to it.
Benefits of having your own website
So aside from having an online property that you fully control, what other benefits are there for an independent hip-hop artist to have their own website? Quite a few actually.
Keep your fans updated – Facebook and Twitter are great tools to keep your fans in the loop with what’s going on but there are limitations. Obviously Twitter’s 140 characters can be restricting at times, especially if you want to go into detail about an event or new music.
Additionally when fans are following you on Facebook or Twitter, you’re sharing their attention with hundreds or even thousands of other artists who are posting updates as well so you’re constantly fighting to capture their attention.
With your own website, it’s all about you and what you want to post. Whether it’s a 30-second video or a 3,500 word article about your upcoming project, having your own website gives you full control on whatever content you want to post for your fans.
Sell your merchandise – It’s more important than ever for independent hip-hop artists to diversify their revenue streams. We can all see what’s going on with the music industry and in particular, the rap game.
Although 2014 wasn’t the worst year in hip-hop history, despite what people like to think, it was a pretty bad year from a commercial point of view.
There weren’t any platinum sellers and the highest first week sales came from J. Cole whose 2014 Forest Hills Drive sold 361,120 copies.
Compare this to 2013 where the highest first week sales came from Eminem whose The Marshall Mathers LP 2 sold 792,000 copies in its first week and almost hit double platinum status.
Unless they’re Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z or Eminem, a hip-hop artist probably won’t be making most of their money from music sales; it’ll most likely be from touring or merchandise. Just ask Tech N9ne who’s independently built up a hip-hop empire by putting out amazing live shows and selling out merchandise.
Having your own website gives you a great opportunity to not only promote your tours but also to sell your own merchandise.
With so many great e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and Bigcommerce available these days, it’s very easy to add an e-commerce function to existing websites. Within a few minutes of setting it up, artists will be ready to sell branded t-shirts and sweaters to fans on the website.
Collect audience data – How much do you really know about your Twitter followers? Do you know where they live? Their age? Their gender? How valuable would it be to know that 35% of your fans are males, 18-24 and come from the UK?
Having your own website gives you access to Google Analytics – a very advanced tracking service that gives you all sorts of information, including their demographic, age, how they got to your website, whether they were using an iPhone or Macbook, whether they were using Chrome or Safari and much more.
This sort of data is invaluable for independent hip-hop artists who need to know as much as they can about their audience.
Another added benefit is that you can capture the emails from people who visit your website and market to them with a regular email newsletter. This allows for consistent contact with your fans which only serves to strengthen your connection with them.
How to set up your own website
Ok, so here comes the technical part. I’ve only provided a brief overview of the steps involved in setting up a WordPress website to give you an idea, there are plenty of detailed guides out there to help you through the full process.
1) Once you decide on your domain name (which will most likely be your name), you need to register the domain host your website. WordPress has a list of requirements you need to look for when looking for a website host which should help you find a suitable one.
2) Download and install WordPress – full guide right here. After this is done, your website is pretty much up and running, you just need to start customising it to suit your brand.
3) Check out ThemeForest to look for a theme for your website. Look for one that’s clean, easy to navigate and simple to customise. Make sure you test out what the theme looks like before making the purchase.
If you don’t want to buy a theme, WordPress has plenty of free ones but personally I think spending a bit of money on a premium theme is worth the long run.
4) After applying your chosen theme to the website, you should start installing some of the basic plugins. WordPress has over 30,000 plugins available to choose from – each one enables you to customise your website as to how you see fit.
If you’ve ever visited a website that had a cool feature like their Twitter stream on the sidebar, it was most likely a plugin.
5) Final and most important step – start posting content on your website!
Why it’s important to keep your website up to date
Ok so you’ve set up your website, now you need to keep it up to date with regular content. This is the most important thing about having your own website and will be an essential aspect of your marketing plan.
Providing your audience with free, high quality content like tour videos, photos and blog posts will help you cultivate and expand your fanbase by connecting with them and staying engaged.
This sort of marketing is called “content marketing” and although it’s not a new technique, it’s recently gained a lot of traction with brands like Red Bull and Coca-Cola around the world.
When Lil Wayne was dropping free mixtapes leading up to Tha Carter III that was considered a form of content marketing. Weezy was building a strong fanbase by giving away free content and was rewarded when the album hit platinum status in a week.
Decide on a schedule and stick to it. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and consistency. Rather than posting up 50 shitty articles a month, post up 5 great pieces of content a week and stick to that rate – your audience will appreciate the regular updates.
So that’s pretty much it. Hopefully you’ve learnt how important it is as an independent hip-hop artist to have your own website and you’re now on your way to setting one up.