How to Build a Rocking Band Website with WordPress (and All the Plugins to Fine Tune It)
Whether music is a weekend hobby, a part-time passion, or a full-time gig, having a website for your band is a good idea.
Everybody’s everything has a site nowadays so your band definitely deserves its own little home on the web. And while there are plenty of band site builders out there like Bandzoogle, FourFour, and Bandvista that make setting up a site super quick, I’m going to argue that these aren’t the best ways to build an online presence. In fact, I will be so bold as to say your time would be much better spent climbing the small learning curve to understanding basic WordPress and building a site from scratch.
If you’re not convinced, hear me out.
Why WordPress is the Perfect Platform for Bands
WordPress is a great platform for many types of sites across various niches but it holds particular benefits to bands and musicians. Why? Let’s have a look, shall we?
WordPress is flexible. You can go as simple or as complex as you like with WordPress, and that’s the true beauty of it. Whether you want something with an enormous number of features or just want a straightforward site, you can accomplish it with this CMS. Take They Might Be Giants‘ site as an example.
It looks very much so like a straightforward blog. But it has a nifty tour date calendar in the sidebar that makes it feel distinctly band-friendly.
WordPress can be tricked out. You can add features through plugins with zero coding knowledge. Check out Jay-Z’s blog, Life + Times.
It’s a blog, yes, but the design is something that’s truly unique and offers a little something different for visitors. To put it simply, this is not your standard blog site.
Updates are simple. WordPress is a blogging platform at its core. You can easily add new pages and posts, and with the addition of plugins, create and add event calendars, photo galleries, and more with just a few clicks.
Easy to integrate into a larger community. WordPress is designed for community building, making it super easy to build and communicate with a fan base. Jason Mraz’s website has a prominent community. Visitors can sign up for a membership that lets people customize their homepage, profile, and activity stream, and allows for forum discussions.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what makes WordPress so beneficial to bands, you can get started with the actual development of your site. Let’s start with the process of picking a theme for your site and go from there.
Pick a Theme
Picking the right theme for your band website is probably one of the most important things you’ll do. It establishes the layout, design, and primary functions of your site, which means you had better do some research before you settle on one.
Here’s a good selection of themes that include a design that’s appropriate for a band and/or features that fulfill a band’s needs like a built-in tour calendar, online store, or the ability for users to download MP3s. You certainly don’t have to select a theme that was designed with bands in mind but it can help eliminate some setup steps later on.
Amplify is a theme designed specifically for musicians that uses the AudioTheme plugin for displaying everything you’d ever need to for your band. For instance, you can show off your latest songs and albums, videos, image galleries, and more. You can also display upcoming tour dates and events with ease.
This theme also comes with Beaver Builder, which makes it easy to customize headers, backgrounds, menus, color schemes, and more. Additional features include full documentation, training videos, and one year of updates and support.
Amplify costs $75.
Speaker is a one-page theme for music sites—though it does have a multi-page option should you need it. It’s responsive plus it’s loaded with features that make it easy to promote your band. For instance, it comes with video backgrounds, multiple playlists, a masonry layout photo gallery, support for audio and video playlists, and numerous customization options.
It also comes with music industry-specific sections like a discography and tour dates. Other features include a parallax effect, Contact Form 7, Google Fonts, multiple blog post formats, video thumbnails, 27 social icons, WooCommerce compatibility, two lightboxes, documentation, and child theme compatibility. It’s also ready for translation and retina displays.
Speaker is built on the WolfFramework and is available for $58.
Promenade is a beautiful theme designed for musicians that offers a responsive layout and features that are intuitive for music-makers. This theme lets you showcase your newest, greatest, bestest content, whether that be new songs, albums, videos, or tour dates.
The homepage can be customized to suit your needs. For instance, it has a Featured Content area that allows you to highlight your top posts and information. You can also show off a featured image or a custom audio player. And just about every area is widgetized, so you can insert videos, tour dates, text, and anything else you like, wherever you like, with just a few clicks.
You can create track lists, add lyrics, and download links, and tabulature. Add record artwork and links to where people can buy your music. Add videos with a full width display. Plus, this theme is SEO friendly and works on the AudioTheme Framework for a custom music experience.
Promenade is priced at $79.
RoadRunners is still another one-page theme that offers convenient features for musicians. The design is responsive and flat, and includes custom post types for events and artists, making it easy to update info on the fly.
A few notable features of this theme include custom fields to insert maps to venues, CSS animations, shortcodes, Contact Form 7, and the ability to customize each section of the homepage. These sections include a header, about us, events, artists, testimonials, gallery, contact form, blog, and more.
RoadRunners is currently available for $43.
Soundboard comes with lots of features catered directly toward musicians, which helps take some of the work out of setting up a band website. It has dedicated sections for things like images, videos, a discography, and tour dates. The idea is to provide all the information your fans would want in one convenient location.
The homepage has custom widgets for your latest news, tour dates, latest album, new photos, and videos. You can show off your album artwork, song titles, lyrics, and buying options. You can even display an audio player so visitors can get a preview of your songs. It even comes with compatibility for the JW Player.
Other features include the Nivo Slider, custom colors and backgrounds, 7 page templates, 5 custom post types, 7 custom widgets, a 960 grid system, translation readiness, shortcodes, cross browser compatibility, Pretty Photo Lightbox, dummy content, and more.
Soundboard will set you back $58.
Just like its name suggests, Music Pro is a theme designed for music professionals and can easily be used by bands, record labels, and even music magazines. It’s responsive and comes with compatibility with four plugins: Wolf Socials, Wolf Music Network, Wolf Shortcodes, and Wolf Gram.
Some noteworthy features of this theme include three skins, custom backgrounds and logos, custom colors and fonts, multiple playlists thanks to jPlayer, a discography, a built-in review and rating system, compatibility with the PayPal cart system, three homepage sliders, photo galleries, video galleries, video thumbnails, and eight post formats.
It also comes with a top bar message that you can customize to greet your visitors as well as social share buttons, a contact form, shortcodes, SEO, unlimited sidebars and widgets, drop-down menus, 14 custom widgets, demo content, documentation, and support. This one’s pretty all-inclusive, don’t you think?
You can get Music Pro now for $58.
JamSession is another theme that’s ideal for musicians and bands. The design is modern and flexible so you can rework it to suit your specific needs with ease, particularly with regard to your preferred musical genre. Yes, country singers and DJs alike can make use of this one!
Some features include a responsive design, a customizable menu, unlimited colors, a touchable slideshow, a masonry layout, and custom post types for events, photo galleries, videos, and discographies. It also has a post type for albums, with which you can add custom album information, purchase options, and a music player. Other features include a full screen background, contact form with reCaptcha, a maintenance page, social network support, documentation, free updates, and more.
Get JamSession now for $58.
Enable MP3 Downloads
As a musician, you’re going to want to share your music with the world. One way to do that is by offering your songs on your site as downloadable MP3s. There are many plugins available that make setting this up easy—whether you want to offer your songs for free or for money. Before I get to that, however, I think it’s important to note that you can add downloads without adding anything else to your site.
According to Support Everything WordPress, you can add downloads with just a couple of clicks. Seriously, all you need to do is click where you want the download link to appear, click Add Media and select what file to upload from your computer. From there, all you have to do is write a description of what you want the link to say.
Something like “Download my hot new jam” might work. Then click Insert into post. That’s all there is to it.
This can work quite well if you only need to offer a couple of downloads on your site. If you want to take things to a more professional level, however, a plugin solution is likely your best bet.
Here are a few of my favorites:
If you only plan on selling your music digitally, you might want to check out Easy Digital Downloads. This plugin is easy to set up and offers numerous built-in features for your convenience like discount codes, analytics, API, multiple payment gateways, data exporting, and more.
A plugin designed specifically for letting people download your music is called Music Store. It’s perfect for selling any audio files and processes the transactions through PayPal. It’s compatible with all browsers and devices and includes an audio player for previews.
The audio player supports multiple formats including MP3, WAV, WMA, and OGA. It also allows for social sharing. The plugin is free but you can upgrade for additional features like the ability to sell collections of music, a shopping cart feature, discounts, coupons, and the ability to insert products as a widget in your site’s sidebar.
Another downloadable music plugin option is called SoundCloud Master. It works with SoundCloud to allow for WordPress integration with the music social network. It can be customized for any color scheme and can play both single tracks and full album sets if you’d like.
You also have the option of displaying cover art via the TechGasp Bang! Artwork setting. With easy setup and an included widget and shortcode, you’ll get up and running in no time at all.
Feature Your Discography
While your fans will undoubtedly want to know where you are going, as in where you’ll appear next on tour, they also want to know where you’ve been. And a big part of that is highlighting all of the music you’ve created to date. This is called a discography and it details every album and every single you’ve ever released.
You can create one by hand, of course. It wouldn’t be that difficult. Just list out your albums, their songs, and include the album artwork. That’s really all there is to it. But if you want to make your discography a bit more dynamic, with a playlist function, download links, and vendor links, you might want to consider a plugin solution. Here are a few worth checking out:
As its name suggests, Simple Discography offers a simple way to insert a discography onto your site. With it, you can create albums that contain music tracks you specify. You can include as much or as little information as you’d like. For instance, you can add the album title and description, cover art, song titles, publication date, and the length of each song.
It also includes a shortcode for inserting your album list, a widget for your album list, a drag-and-drop interface, and a responsive design.
Simple Discography is free.
The Artistography plugin allows you to create a portfolio for music, photos, and videos on a single page. It basically creates and “artist page” that can be used to feature all of this relevant information. It’s more geared toward record label, artist directory, and music festival sites, but I can still see it being used on an individual band’s site as well.
It create a series of jQuery tabs on the page for highlighting artist info. It also uses soundmanager2 to display an audio player. It can even be synced up with PayPal so your visitors can purchase you music seamlessly.
Artistography is free.
Sell Your Merch
While bands make a living playing and selling their music, a good portion of their income is from merch. You know, T-Shirts, hats, pins, buttons, and the like? Yeah, all that stuff that would normally be sold outside the venue at a concert can (obviously) be sold online, too, and is something you’ll need to offer through your band’s official site.
You can use any e-commerce service or plugin to add merchandise for sale—MarketPress included!—but there are a few out there designed with the specific needs of bands in mind—or at least complement those needs well—that I think are worth mentioning here.
FoxyShop is a highly useful shopping cart plugin for WordPress. It connects to the FoxyCart hosted shopping cart service, which allows you to manage inventory from that service within your WordPress dashboard. That means you don’t have to go to an external site to manage your latest T-shirt offerings.
This plugin comes with the ability to add unlimited images on each product and uses a popup slideshow. It also has widget support, drag-and-drop product sorting, sale pricing, support for digital products and subscriptions, and internalization support.
FoxyShop is free.
If you use WooCommerce, you might be able to make use of the WooCommerce Custom T-Shirt Designer plugin. I only mention this because t-shirts are such a huge part of most band’s merchandise offerings. What’s cool about this plugin is site visitors can upload their own designs to create a truly custom shirt right on your site. This is great if you’re offering a basic shirt design—with your band’s logo, let’s say—and then let people embellish as they see fit.
It comes with all sorts of customization options for the shirts along with plenty of features on the admin side of things like custom colors, button settings, the ability to enable different design panels, and more.
If simplicity is the name of the game for you, then Cart66 is an excellent e-commerce plugin solution. It allows you to set up an online store very quickly. With it you can sell tangible and digital products, process credit cards, manage orders, offer promotions, and more. You can also tax by state, zip code, or order, add custom fields to products, modify the currency, customize your email receipts, integrate with an affiliate program, and even insert your products onto any page or post.
Cart66 Lite is free or you can upgrade to the professional version for $30/month.
TheCartPress is another simple shopping cart system to set up that works with PayPal and Authorize.net. You can expand its function with additional plugins as well. Some standard features include charge tax, product categories, the ability to sell physical and digital products, a table weight rate, and related products.
It’s a pretty useful free plugin that can serve as a decent alternative to paid options.
The WordPress Ultra Simple PayPal Shopping Cart is really straightforward to use. It simply adds an Add to Cart button to your site. You can insert it on any post or page. You can sandbox it with PayPal to test it and you customize various aspects of the checkout process like price variations, text, and CSS. Plus, it comes with a shortcode for easy site integration.
This plugin is totally free.
Add a Tour Calendar
One of the most important things you can include on your band’s website is a calendar of events. Letting your fans know where you’ll be playing next is essential for boosting ticket sales and keeping your most loyal followers in the loop. Many calendar plugins exist but here are a few catered toward musicians that should help your fans stay abreast of when you’ll next be in their neck of the woods:
Gigs Calendar is absolutely as straightforward as they come. This plugin makes it simple to display a calendar with all upcoming gigs listed. It’s easy to set up and update and easy for fans to use. You can even configure it to showcase information about each venue with a map for each location and links to where tickets are on sale.
This plugin is free.
GigPress is another option for adding an events calendar to your WordPress site, only this one tacks on a whole host of features that are custom tailored to musicians. Once installed, this plugin makes it possible to manage your upcoming and past tour dates and then display them on your live site using shortcodes, a widget, or PHP template tags.
This plugin makes it possible to add different articles, venues, tours, and even related posts to the widget. Plus you can sync it with RSS and iCalendar feeds, so your fans can easily add your tour dates to their personal calendars with ease. With plenty of customization options, blog integration, and the ability to import and export data to and from CSV files, the sky’s the limit in how you present your next gigs to the world.
Events Manager is another plugin that makes it easy to display your latest gigs in an intuitive and aesthetically pleasing fashion using shortcodes, pages, and widgets. You can manage individual events, set up calendars, and even create new locations and venues. You can let site visitors search for events based on location and you can even display events on Google Maps. Finally, you can accept bookings for events with this plugin with price, date, payment, and other options using PayPal, Authorize.net, and even via phone or email.
Events Manager comes in both free and premium versions. Premium adds pro support forums and extra features and add-ons. For one site, you can expect to pay $75 and for up to 5 sites you will pay $150.
Offer Audio Samples
Yes, we already talked about how to offer downloadable MP3s on your site for free and for sale, but what we’ve yet to discuss is how to offer audio samples. I mean, your site isn’t going to fully represent your band unless it has audio clips of your music on it, now will it?
I’m not saying visitors should be bombarded with your tunes as soon as the site loads. That’s just annoying and greatly reminiscent of those auto-play MIDI files from the 90s. Don’t do that! What you can do instead is offer an embedded audio player that has your music cued up. Give visitors the option to play your songs and you might just win a few fans for both your music and your savvy site design.
Here are a few plugins that make adding audio samples simple:
If you want to build a playlist and display it on your band’s site, you might want to check out Cue. This plugin gives you this ability via a template tag, widget, and a shortcode so you have plenty of options for integrating your music directly onto your site. You can use songs in your media library, add new ones, or link to external tracks if you’d rather.
The interface is drag-and-drop and is responsive, so it’ll look great on any device. This plugin actually stacks on top of the built-in media functions in WordPress using the MediaElement.js. It also comes with AudioTheme integration, so if you use such a theme, you can automatically add tracks to your playlist from your discography.
Cue is free.
MP3-jPlayer is another great audio and playlist option for your WordPress site. It’s responsive, built on HTML5, and includes plenty of customization options for color, fonts, images, and titles, as well as the height, width, volume settings, and miscellaneous style items. Set it up to play a single track or multiple tracks. Have it pop out of your site, play in a widget, or work for downloads. It even integrates directly into the built-in WordPress media options with a drag-and-drop playlist builder.
It relies on native short codes to expand your site’s music functions. You can add an unlimited number of music players to your site’s pages, posts, sidebars, and even template files if you wish. It supports multiple music files, works with Icecast and Shoutcast, and is compatible with most browsers, and multisite.
MP3-jPlayer is free.
Another audio player to considered is the aptly named HTML5 jQuery Audio Player. This plugin adds a stylish music player to your site that supports single tracks and playlists and can be inserted with a shortcode. Customize the look and feel, add cover art, download/purchase links, and ratings. It works with all major browsers and devices, supports MP3 and OGG file formats, and offers Easy Digital Downloads integration.
This plugin also gives you the ability to turn on and off autoplay, feature star ratings, and more.
Compact WP Audio Player is another free plugin that adds an HTML5 and Flash hybrid player to your site. Embed MP3 files into your pages and posts using a simple shortcode. The player itself is compact and attractive and supports MP3 and OGG files. It’s responsive, works on all major browsers, and can be paired up with your download links and/or purchase links to offer convenient song samples.
The last audio player plugin I’m going to talk about here is called Audio Album. It builds on top of MediaElement.js to group together audio files into albums. It comes with a basic stylesheet for customization. This plugin doesn’t create playlists but it’s an ideal way to group together audio files you’ve already uploaded to your site into cohesive albums, which can be really helpful for site organization.
Include Music Videos
Whether you’re a brand new act or industry veterans, it’s a good idea to embrace video as well. That might mean slickly produced music videos. Or, it might be live tour footage. Regardless, including videos of you performing in some way on your site can work wonders for boosting engagement with your fans. The more content you provide, the longer they’ll stay on your site. And the longer people stay on your site, the more likely it is they’ll complete whatever task you’d like them to, like buy your music or merch.
You actually don’t need any extra tools to feature videos on your site. WordPress comes with video support. And if you have Jetpack, the Shortcode Embeds module allows you to embed videos using a shortcode. Of course, if your videos are hosted on a particular site or even self-hosted, and you want more customization options in how they are presented, you might want to try a plugin solution. Here are a few options befitting of any band:
The Advanced Responsive Video Embedder plugin makes it simple to embed videos from just about any source onto your site. It uses responsive sizes, lazy load, thumbnails, and shortcodes to keep videos from causing site bloat. You can customize how videos appear easily with custom URL parameters. It works with all the big sites like YouTube, CollegeHumor, and Vimeo, but also with other sites like Blip, MyVideo, and twitch.
You don’t get much simpler than the WordPress Video Plugin, but hey, maybe that’s what you’re going for? This plugin adds a filter that lets you embed videos from 66 different video sites. That’s it!
Another really simple and free plugin is called Video.js. It works by expanding on the basic functions the Video.js HTML5 video player offers by allowing for video embedding on any page or post. It also has a Flash fallback option for those viewing your site from a browser that doesn’t support HTML5.
WP Video Lightbox is the final video plugin I’ll be discussing here. It allows you to embed videos as normal on your site, only they appear in a lightbox overlay, which can be nice for adding a little bit more style and dimension. It can be used to showcase images as well and works on the iPhone and iPad, too.
Showcase a Live Gallery
If your band makes a lot of public appearances and tours regularly, it’s important to include an image gallery as well. Fans will want to see those awesome live shots whenever new ones are available. WordPress comes with a gallery feature built-in but you might want to upgrade the look a bit with something a tad more fancy. Though many image gallery plugins exist, the following sit atop the heap:
Gotta start with the most popular gallery plugin, right? With over 12 million downloads, NextGEN Gallery makes it easy to upload and display numerous image galleries on your site. With it, you can batch upload files, import meta data, rearrange images, edit thumbnails, create albums, and more with just a few simple clicks.
You can pick between thumbnail display and slideshows on the frontend of your site as well, both of which offer plenty of options for size, style, transitions, controls, and lightbox effects.
NextGEN Gallery is free but a Pro version is available too, which includes more responsive galleries, lightboxes, deep linking, social sharing, e-commerce support, and more for $79.
Flickr is a popular photo sharing platform, especially for people who frequent live shows. Using the Slickr Flickr plugin allows you to display images and galleries from your Flickr account as well as from your fan’s accounts in a more stylish way than what Flickr itself offers.
Embed galleries into posts, pages, and even text sidebar widgets. You can sort photos by title, description, or date, add captions to photos, set up autoplay slideshows, and more. It works with many different lightbox plugins and can even be used to display single photos.
Slickr Flickr is free.
Photo Gallery has a simple name but a bunch of advanced features for displaying your band’s photos with style. It comes with many different tools for adding and editing images right from within your site. Add descriptions and tags, create galleries and albums, and set up slideshows. Some of the layout views include thumbnails, mosaic, and masonry. You can create customizations for the embed shortcode, and use the file manager to upload, rename, reorganize, and generally manage your images with just a few clicks.
This plugin also comes with four different widgets including Dynamic Photo Gallery Tags Cloud, Tag Cloud, Photo Gallery Slideshow, and Photo Gallery, all of which allow you to add different photo-related features to your site’s sidebar.
Photo Gallery is free but the Pro version includes more slideshow and lightbox effects, more album views, image commenting, social sharing, support, and updates for $30 to $60.
The Gallery plugin allows you to setup numerous image galleries on your site with just a few clicks. Add as many pictures as you want, include descriptions if you’d like and display them all on a single page or on individual pages. It supports high-quality photos, and is very simple to use. It’s basically a step up from the standard WordPress gallery features without a bunch of fluff.
The premium version of Gallery includes more lightbox settings options, image cropping, button URLs, social “like” button support, pagination, image gallery slug customization, and customer support for $20 per month.
Include a Newsletter Signup
Keeping in touch with fans is an essential part of running a band website, and maintaining an email newsletter is a good way to do that. With it, you can notify past visitors when your site has been updated, when you’re launching a new album, offering new merchandise, or announcing new tour dates. Of course, you need to get your fans to actually input their email addresses and sign up for your newsletter for it to be effective.
I’m not going to talk about how to boost email signups here—that’s a post for another day—but a few newsletter services you might want to check out include MailChimp, Constant Contact, and AWeber. All of these subscription services offer professional-quality tools for getting a leg up on list building.
Offer Facts & Figures
Check out any band’s website and you’ll notice a section, often a dedicated page (and sometimes several pages) that details the band’s history. I’m talking about a full-fledged bio that includes background information on each member of the band, a historical account of how the band got together, a timeline of major milestones, and more.
You can also offer a list of facts, trivia, or FAQs to help fans get to know you and your music a little bit better. Here are a few other things you might want to include:
- Record sales.
- A list of all the countries you’ve played in
- Information about your backup band and road crew
- Demo songs
- Exclusive photos
- Other behind the scenes info.
When someone is really into a band, he wants to know everything about it. Whatever information you can provide, whether that’s pictures, factoids, or demo songs goes a long way toward satisfying that thirst for knowledge.
Don’t Forget Social Media
No matter what industry you work in, you need social media. I feel like I say that in every post I write here for WPMU DEV but it’s the truth! And it bears repeating.
Social media for bands is an essential cog in the marketing wheel. I mean, look at an artist like Amanda Palmer. She ditched the traditional record label thing years ago and has a bigger following than ever thanks to her persistent engagement on social media. Most of this has to do with her determined effort to interact with fans.
She posts on Twitter all day long and uses the platform to announce ninja gigs—impromptu shows she puts on in whatever city she’s currently in with little notice. But lo and behold, after a few hours of announcing it on Twitter, people show up at the performance.
Concentrated effort on social is important but site integration plays an essential role here. Displaying social feeds on your site offers twofold benefits. It acts as fresh content on your site and it lets visitors know how they can keep track of your latest music and shows.
There are many social integration plugins out there and I’ve talked about them at length in the past. So, here’s a quick list of those I find particularly helpful:
- RebelMouse: Adds a shortcode to your site that lets you create a single stream that pulls together all of your social media feeds on one page or post.
- ShareThis: Adds share buttons and social sharing analytics to your site.
- Social Media Feather: A simple social plugin that adds stylish sharing and follow buttons to your site.
When you’re putting together a new site, no matter what it’s subject matter, there are a few things you need to consider. Your hosting. Your domain name. Your theme. But once you get down to the specifics, you need to think about what your audience would expect from a site on your given topic. For bands, fans have come to expect very specific things from websites centered around musicians. That means music playlists, album artwork, image galleries, music videos, band bios, and a way to buy your tunes.
If you can check off the main components outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to building a cohesive band website that gets vital information out there about you, helps your fans stay in touch with you on the road, and gives people a way to listen to and buy your music.Tags: