The Internet Is The New Phone Book

Originally published as Crafting Your Online Identity on ArtsHub.

Musicians need to manage a parallel online life as part of their marketing strategy.  Create your virtual identity over the summer break with these tips and tools.

Creating an online identity, or second self is an effective way to promote your work and develop a two-way relationship with your audience.  As an active musician, it’s inevitable that information about you and your music will wind up in YouTube videos, a bio on a concert website or tagged photos on a colleague’s Facebook page. Connecting with your audience and growing your network in this way is valuable, but you will often have little to no control over the way this content is framed and presented. Creating and managing your own online portfolio puts the story back in your hands. 

Importantly, creating a second self allows you to maintain a clear distinction between your personal and professional online content.

Managing websites and social media has never been easier, so the real challenge in creating your online self is to develop an authentic voice that will resonate with supporters. 

Before considering a strategy for your online self, it’s worthwhile evaluating your professional goals. Great artist websites share facts, stories and a journey, so reflecting on your ambitions can give you a starting point for the content, language and look of your design.  Consider what you hope to accomplish, how you hope to achieve this, the time frame for achieving this, who you are trying to reach and what information you want to convey to your audience.  

Your Website

Your website should contain the most comprehensive and up to date information about you and your work.  A great way to generate ideas and develop a set of personal preferences for your website is to view other musicians’ sites with an analytical eye for their domain name, architecture, content, images and design.  Free templates from sites such as WordPress and Squarespace make it simple to create a basic but professional website.  

Young Australian Pianist Alex Ranieri’s site is no frills but is up to date, easy to read, easy to navigate  and gives you a sense of Alex as a unique individual.  

Utilising low cost or free design tools will not only give you a great looking website but will start to develop branding which can be used consistently across your website and social media accounts.  Word Swag, Instaquote and A Beautiful Mess are three great apps that can easily turn your smartphone images into stunning visuals that integrate seamlessly to your social media pages.  Audio clips through sound excerpts or links to YouTube videos are really important. Apps such as GarageBand (iOS) or Hi–Q MP3 Voice Recorder (Android) are easy and inexpensive. You can also create useable audio files on your smartphone, this short CNET video shows how to record better sound on your handset. Even a 30 second clip is useful if it highlights your repertoire interests, musicality, technique or ensemble playing.

Social Media

Social media provides a range of options to share short, dynamic information that can direct your audience to your website.  An active and engaging social media presence can build your community and promote your performances, but maintaining a multi‐layered online presence can be time consuming. It is important to settle on a realistic and sustainable model for this area of your work from the outset.  

Some classical musicians who are winning at social media are Cellist and Composer, Zoë Keating who has amassed 1.18M followers on her Twitter feed @zoecello. Not afraid to have a laugh at herself, Zoe shares a very personal insight into her life in a way that other musicians, less notable (or talented) would ever dare to provide.  Nico Muhly’s Instagram feed shows us that even rising superstar composers live life in much the same way as everyone else.  He shares candid snaps of his life and his work.  Brett and Eddy from Brisbane based TwoSet Violin regularly post funny home-made 10 second clips on Facebook, a simple but effective strategy which has built them a loyal fan base. and allowed them to expand their well crafted brand into merchandise and a teaching school. 

We’re serious in our love for music. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
— TwoSet Violin

The emergence of the social web has made blogging almost redundant.  Requiring a substantial investment of time and energy, blogging is unlikely to be of benefit unless you have a specific area of interest which can generate regular content.  

Get Busy Now

5 Minutes: Take snaps of interesting angles in your practice room as the starting point for your image bank.
30 Minutes: Check the privacy settings of all Facebook posts and images so that all public content is a suitable representation of you and your life.
1 Hour: Make it a date night with a friend to create separate Facebook pages for your professional lives.  Do your homework and find some great examples in advance.