At the moment, there are countless ways out there to promote yourself. You have media streaming sites like youtube, independent and mainstream bloggers, social networking sites like myspace, facebook, and twitter, and even music-specific streaming/social networking-ish (yes networking-ish) sites like Last.fm, and Isound.com. You also have the option of creating your own website to cater to your needs.
Whatever you decide, there are advantages and disadvantages to both options. By using an already established network, you will most likely receive more traffic, but is it really worth it? You also have to take into consideration that these sites may not be perceived as being professional when compared to a personalized website. With a personal website, you also have to worry about maintenance issues. Some questions that may arise are: where will I store the site, what domain names are not already taken, how much will bandwidth cost, how can I prevent people from hacking into my site, how will I bring people to my site? I shall try to touch on all of this in this article.
Often times with the established networks, the cost is lower when you use a lesser version of what they can offer in full. Often times they limit free users by having bandwidth limits, lack of advertisement on their page, or a lack of various features such as blogs, biographies, sales, etc... Even when you do pay for your page on these sites, you do not get nearly the same amount of quality that is possible with a personal website. In my opinion, the only advantage to these sites is that they offer a quick glimpse of what you have to offer. They also have the potential to receive more traffic, but at the same time, how useful is the traffic? There are many automated bots that go through these sites as well, so some (or many) of your clicks may be results of these. Some people even use bots to their own benefit on purpose, but that is a whole different discussion.
Now, when you have a personalized site, the sky is the limit... almost. Do you go with old-school html, flash, or java? These are some of the formatting choices that you may have. Most professional sites are a combination of flash and html, a completely flash-based site is becoming more popular these days as well. With these sites you have complete control over the content and appearance, you can even have your own email address if you want. Of course, more responsibility and maintenance comes with these. But that can be a good or bad thing, depending on your own personal preferences. You will want to register the domain with the government that has control over whatever domain you choose (.com, .org, .net, .mus, .co.au, .jp, etc...). There are many sites that will do this for you in a simplified way, but you can also do it directly with the government agency in some cases. Domain fees are generally cheap, especially if you host the site yourself. You can pay as little as $2.99/yr for your own website if you do some research. If you go through a third party to register, do some research on the company, especially if they advertise $2.85 or something around that price range. On average in reality you will see $6.99-12.99 for quality services. Often times these more expensive companies offer some hosting solutions, but in my experience it is best to host your site with your own hardware. That way you can avoid bandwidth fees, which can be quite hefty. Bandwidth fees often result in anywhere from $35.99 to $1,500/mo. Why so much? If you have three gigabytes of bandwidth and you exceed that amount, you will either temporarily have to have the site taken down, or pay fees related to overuse. Despite these things, having a personal site can be a great thing for a musician or their representatives. You can offer as many or as little services on the site, such as: blogs, forums, streaming music, streaming video, etc... You also get much more potential for quality, because YOU are in control. The downside is that you will have to find ways to bring traffic to your page. Often times this may cost a lot, depending on your goals. But there are cheap ways of doing so, advertising with google or getting search preference can be cheap ways to get traffic to your site. You can even go all out and advertise across internet forums or blogs. Heck, you could even have both a myspace (or other site) AND your own site. By advertising your site on your myspace, you could get traffic to your personal site and cut down the cost of advertising for it.
Basically, it really comes down to how you want to present yourself and your music. If you want to have increased exposure and low cost, go with a myspace or similar site. If you want to have a more customized and professional appearance, create your own site or hire someone to do it for you.
- Derek Jenkins