Setting Up A Musician’s Blog

Blogging can be a very valuable for musicians. It helps you engage with your existing fans… they get to know you better and their feelings about you become more personal, so they are more likely to support you, simply because they like you, or feel a bond with you.

This support includes buying your music and merch, coming to your shows, and talking about you, online and in real life.

Blogging can also bring in new fans from around the internet, through commenting on other blogs and doing guest posts.

Royal typewriterYou do need to be able to write quite a few words if you are going to make blogging work without it becoming a burden (unless you just want to post images and videos) – one thing I’ve found is that songwriters are often good writers and not likely to be lost for words!

So if you think you’d like to give it a go, here’s some information about setting up a blog…

Choosing a blog platform

Some of the more commonly used blogging platforms are WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr and TypePad. A web search for ‘blogging platforms’ will give you a longer list and quite a lot of info.

You may be tempted to have a fancy Flash website, and these can have a ‘news’ section which acts as a blog. I’d suggest you stay right away from these – you may think that your website is your ‘calling card’ online and must be as arty as possible, but these types of websites simply don’t engage people like a professional blog can. They look nice but when a visitor has admired it, what happens next?

WordPress, self-hosted
I’d say that without a doubt a WordPress.org blog, which is self-hosted, is the best option for a professional blog. ‘Self-hosted’ means you have to buy the hosting yourself and fiddle around inside your hosting account to get the blog up and running. Rendezvox is a self-hosted WordPress blog.

I’m suggesting WordPress.org is best because people have made a huge array of high-quality themes (skins) and plugins for it, and it has a very large community using it, so if you are having a problem or want to know how to do something, a Google search will find answers e.g. on a forum. Your theme may even have its own forum.

Many of the plugins are geared towards getting more people to read and interact with your blog, one way or another.

Also, the all-important comments section works really well in WordPress. I can’t say for all blogging platforms, but I do know how frustrating and messy it can be trying to leave a comment on non-wordpress blogs.

WordPress also has lots of functionality i.e. lots of settings so you can make it do what you want. This abundance of functionality extends to the themes people have made for self-hosted WordPress – with the better WordPress themes you have extra settings to make your blog do what you want.

The other big reason for musicians to choose WordPress is that you can easily create a whole website with it, with all your pages such as About, Music, Store, Videos, Gallery, Press, Shows, Contact, and such, as well as the blog. You can do this with both hosted and self-hosted WordPress, and some other platforms also have pages.

The downside
The downside of self-hosted WordPress for those musicians who are not tech heads is that you have to buy the hosting yourself, install the wordpress script yourself (the hosting company usually makes this easy e.g. click on the big ‘install WordPress’ button), regularly update WordPress, your theme and your plugins to avoid getting hacked, and do regular backups. As well as find your way around the fairly extensive interface, with all its options, and learn what the options mean.

If you don’t think you can do it yourself, I really do think you are best off getting someone to set up a self-hosted wordpress blog for you, and teach you to use it. If you still think that is beyond your capabilities and not something you are interested in learning, you can use a hosted blog, such as Blogger or WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org).

Hosted blogs
For hosted blogs like Blogger you just sign up and off you go… you choose your theme, attend to a few details and options, write your post (article) and hit ‘publish’. I think WordPress.com is the easiest and most pleasant to use of these, but it has limitations as far as types of advertising and code you can put on it.

Hosting

For hosting a self-hosted WordPress site I personally prefer Dreamhost. It costs around $9 a month, handles WordPress installation really well, and has a good support system.

Also, unlike hosts that use cPanel (e.g. Bluehost, Hostgator), with Dreamhost you can add other websites “parallel” to your first website (lots of hosting companies, including Dreamhost, let you host an unlimited number of websites for your $10 or so a month).

This means that if you later add other websites with different domain names such as a sales page (squeeze page), a website for an album, websites for your other musical projects, or a friend’s website, these websites won’t be buried amongst all the folders of your WordPress installation, but rather have their own separate folder in your hosting account.

Privacy
Dreamhost also gives you the option of free whois privacy on your domain name, if you register it with them. If this is double dutch to you, type the URL of your website or a friend’s website into this page: whois.domaintools.com

Then hit ‘lookup’ and have a look through the info you get – are you seeing lots of personal information such as name, street address, email address and phone number? If so, there is no privacy on that URL – this information is available to anyone who looks for it, including spammers.

How to get a self-hosted WordPress blog

So if you have decided to go with self-hosted WordPress, here is a brief outline of the steps:
1. Buy the hosting (and your domain name if you don’t already have it).
2. When you are sent your login details, log in to your hosting account.
3. Look around for script installs – in Dreamhost look for ‘one-click installs’, under Goodies.
4. Find WordPress and follow the instructions, to install it.
5. You’ll then be given login details for the WordPress interface, or ‘back end’. Log in and start looking through the sections and settings, starting with the Dashboard. See how your embryonic blog looks on the public web, too.
6. In the back end, find the Pages section, write an About page and click the Publish button.
7. Find the Posts section, delete the example post and write your own post introducing your blog, and publish that too.
8. Look in the Appearance section and find Themes, and change the theme (skin) to one that you like – there will most likely be some themes already sitting in your account, and there are thousands more on the internet. Remember you can change it again any time – you may like to get a designer to make one for you.

If you are a beginner and need more guidance, search for “install WordPress”, together with the name of your hosting company. There are detailed instructions all over the place. When searching, avoid complicated manual methods – look for something like ‘one-click installs’, and keep away from super “beginner” installation types that say you won’t have access to files.

Also, if you get stuck send a support ticket or email to your hosting company.

Cheers – Robin

Photo of typewriter by |vvaldzen|

About Robin

Robin is a web and marketing consultant and an occasional sound engineer.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips Robin! I think if I had that cute typewriter in the picture I would be writing blogs day and night! 😉 The step by step points are really helpful. x

  2. Thanks heaps to you Liesl! – I’ll try to arrange a typewriter like that – you are a really good writer, so I hope you do LOTS of posts.

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