Six Tips to Improve Your Website
Making big changes to your website can be daunting; it’s much easier to remove what’s not working than to create new material. Here are six simple subtractions that composers can make to improve their websites.
1. Don’t create separate pages for “Works” and “Media.”
Having one page for a list of your works and another for recordings of those same works creates an unnecessary extra step for anyone looking to hear your music. This information belongs together; if you separate it, you make it harder for people to find the music they’re seeking. If they can’t easily find that, they’re more likely to click away from your site. A “List of Works” or “Compositions” page should either embed a recording on that same page or link directly to a recording. If you don’t have recordings for all of your works, that’s fine, but do keep recordings on the same page as their corresponding descriptions.
2. Get rid of MIDI recordings.
I’ve written before that it’s the job of conductors looking at your music to not need a MIDI-generated recording. Do include score samples of your work on your website as a PDF or Issuu link, but get rid of the MIDI. Computer-generated demo recordings only detract from the musicality of your score.
If you’re concerned that some people will still want a recorded representation of your work — even a poor-quality one — you can still make them readily available by linking to your contact page: “Want a demo recording of this piece? Let me know.”
3. Take out dates (in your bio).
Dates of compositions can stay, but remove any mention of specific years in your bio. Listing events from several years ago with dates included can make it seem as though you don’t have any more recent achievements to include. Of course, you do want your most impressive accomplishments listed in your bio regardless of when they happened; leave out the dates, and your bio will appear timelessly relevant.
4. Remove — or rethink — your calendar.
Some composers have efficiently-maintained calendars with lots of upcoming performances. When done right, this can make you look very busy and important. The reason I suggest removing a calendar from your site, though, is that if you do include a calendar, you’ll need enough upcoming events to keep that calendar consistently filled. This can be a challenge, setting you up for busy-work and endless maintenance. Even if you have a lot of upcoming performances in the near future, you’ll likely have stretches where not as much is happening.
Many composers don’t religiously maintain their websites, and much like a bio with stale dates, a calendar full of old events can make it seem as though you’ve had no more recent performances. If you’d like to include a list of upcoming performances on your website, first ask yourself: Who is the calendar for, and what purpose does it serve? If you’d like more people to attend your concerts, you might be better off sending a targeted email to people in the area inviting them to come.
In lieu of a calendar, consider a “news” page with information that will remain evergreen even if you go a month or two without updating your website. Another option: give an overview of your most important performances from the upcoming season, spanning many months ahead and allowing you to simply remove old performances without having to constantly add new ones.
5. Scrap anything that you feel is not your best work.
Let’s imagine you win a Pulitzer this year, and suddenly the entire new-music community is clicking on your website. What pieces or performances make you feel a little insecure? You can list every piece you’ve ever written or performed on your C.V., but on your website, curation is important. It’s better to have fewer pieces than to list ones that you feel are less than stellar. If you regret removing a piece from your online catalogue, you can always add it back later.
6. Avoid any wording that sounds forced.
As you’re looking over your website for things to remove, take down any wording that doesn’t sound like you. If you’re insecure about your own ability to craft words convincingly, write a first draft — it’s okay if it’s not perfect — and then ask a few savvy friends and family members to proofread and refine your writing.
When it comes to having a well-maintained website, the easiest trick to keeping everything up-to-date is to set aside an hour per week (or month) to review your website. Usually, there will be at least one small adjustment that you can make quickly, such as making a minor revision to your bio or removing something that feels outdated or unnecessary.
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Originally published on the MusicSpoke Blog.