By Steve Oppenheimer
In this era of independent artists and DIY marketing and distribution, the Web site has become a key tool. If you know what you’re doing, you can create a site that not only presents your band’s music and image but also sets those elements in an environment that communicates the feel of what you’re trying to do — if you know what you’re doing.
It seems like everyone is a Web designer these days. If your band broke up or you recently left your day job, you might be designing sites.
You would think, then, that the Web would abound with lovely, practical, full-featured, and properly functioning sites. It doesn’t. Although you’ll find many cool sites, you’ll also suffer with even more poorly designed sites that are a pain to navigate or that fail to deliver key information. Having a good guitar doesn’t make you a good guitarist; similarly, having good Web-authoring tools does not necessarily result in carefully planned and well-implemented sites.
Some Web authors lack an eye for design and a sense of what makes a site user-friendly. Some don’t completely grasp what Web tools can do. Once you start trying to add streaming media, you’re in danger of getting lost in a tangle of problems. If you don’t think things through, even a simple home page can turn into a mess.
The good news is that this issue will help you cut through the tangle and fire off your music into cyberspace the right way. Our cover feature, “Web Music Launchpad,” is an overview that leads to six stories in this special Web-focused issue. “Construction Site” teaches you the basics of site authoring and gives tips many veteran Web authors overlook. “Special Delivery” gets you started creating streaming audio and downloadable audio files. “Desktop Musician: Web Audio Action” provides more advanced information about getting sound files to stream or download properly.
To learn about third-party music sites where you can promote and deliver your tunes, read “Working Musician: Keep It on the Download.” Our monthly “Web Page” column introduces Standard Music Description Language (SMDL).
By the time you’ve completed those stories, you’ll be well prepared to start exploring your authoring software. Before long, you will be able to roll up your sleeves and author a practical, useful Web site for your band and other musical productions.
Conceiving and executing an attractive and user-friendly site involves more than understanding the technology. You need to spend a lot of time browsing the Web, seeing what others have done well and what they have done poorly.
To some extent, what constitutes “good” design is subjective. You’ll probably need to go through a lot of trial-and-error tweaking, especially in your first efforts. As with music, get opinions from a lot of people, but follow your own judgment in the end — unless you’re working for someone else, in which case the customer is the boss, whether you think he or she is right.
So enjoy the issue and relax: Web authoring and creating streaming audio aren’t easy, and the process gets tangled at times, but it’s nowhere near as thorny as you might think. Happy Web weaving!