You've released your first EP, booked some dates, and you're ready to generate some buzz for your band. With all of that accomplished, it sounds like you're on the right track! But there's another thing to mark off your checklist: is your website press-ready?
Yeah, we know it's all about the music. But reality check: the media is busy; they're inundated with tons of releases from bands just like yours. (Okay, maybe not as devastatingly talented as you, but how much can you tell from a press release?) In my work as a local magazine editor and as a freelance music writer, I sift through hundreds of such emails daily. If I click through to your website, I want to see all the info I need ready and waiting.
Making a journalist's life easier pays off: it means you're more likely to have your show (and maybe even a photo) included in a publication's calendar, more likely to get your name in front of readers, and more likely to get the reviewer to a show. Here are five things you must have on your band's website.
1. A well-written biography
You can write this yourself or, if that's not your strength, reach out to a local school's journalism program. A talented student might be willing to write your bio for the experience or a small fee. Be sure to include information such as how long you've been playing, greatest achievements, and influences. It's hard to tell what a band sounds like from the written word, but these are all jumping-off points. Many publications will include a snippet of this bio with their calendar listing, so be sure you're crafting a memorable image rather than merely telling the reader how many albums you've released.
2. Upcoming tour dates
This seems obvious, but many bands fail to keep their calendars up-to-date. Some music journalists will pop into area shows to get a sense of whether a band is worthy of future coverage. Don't assume we'll check your Facebook or Twitter if shows aren't posted on your site. Make it easy for us to find you!
3. Music samples
You don't have to make your entire album available for streaming online. We know you want people to buy your product; you've got bills to pay, after all! But if we can hear how you sound, we're more likely to pay attention. It can be a streaming single or merely 30-second samples of each track, but give us a taste of your sound.
4. High-resolution photos
I've compiled entertainment calendars for nearly a decade, and in that time, I've published dozens of photos of bands I've never heard of. Why? Because the photos were readily available and interesting to look at. Here's a bonus tip: in addition to making these photos downloadable (include your photographer's name, if you like – we're happy to give credit where it's due), offer both vertical and horizontal options. A page designer may have space for only one or the other, and by offering both, you're increasing the chances that we include your band instead of another.
5. Links to your social media accounts
These days we use social media to promote every piece we publish, and if we know where to find you, we'll tag you and therefore make your band more visible in the process. If you share the post in turn, we all win.
Looking for more advice from top-notch music journalists? Check out our "Ask a Music Journalist" archives.
Carla Jean Whitley is the author of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music and managing editor of Birmingham magazine in Birmingham, Alabama. She has written about music, especially Alabama bands, since 1999. Connect with her at carlajeanwhitley.com.