Musformation How We Do: Our Design For A Small Indie Label Website Part 1 Strategy

drugfrontwebsite screen shot.pngIn case you didn’t know (which you may not have since we don’t really brag about it) Musformation has a whole other part of it called Musformation Services where we do work for bands and labels. We do Publicity, Marketing, Strategy, Campaigns and pretty much anything you could think of for artists. One of the things Musformation web developer Jackie Brennan and I recently did is to come up with a design for good friend Dean Rispler’s new label Drug Front Records. After the jump we will discuss the ideas that went into the site and why we choose some of the things we did. We will devote a couple articles to some of the ideas behind why we choose every little element of the site and try to get a good discussion of some of the options out there for designing both artist and band websites.

In order to understand why we choose each element of the DFR site we need to understand what DFR is. Dean is a veteran producer and has also spent a long time playing in some fantastic bands and working at record labels over the years. He decided to form a record label that could raise the profile of some of the projects he works on. The label has the idea that it will put out releases from a lot of bands and cater to each one’s needs. Since many of the bands will not be full time touring bands, budgets and expenses will be different from band to band. The label could have as many as a dozen releases in the next year and just as many artists, so it was very important that the site could be easily expandable without having to pay web design bills every time a new band was to be added.

Because many of the bands on the label will be bands with a lower profile and fighting for every fan they get we wanted the site to be about getting information to a new listener and or cursory fan. We found there to be no need for any fancy flash animation and instead wanted to focus on getting people any information they would want to know about each of the artists. One of the main ideas behind the site is it would not only serve as a way to get press out on what the bands on DFR are doing but also we would try to drive traffic to the labels own store that is powered by Google Checkout (more on this later) to get a higher profit margin than iTunes, Amazon, etc.

At first we considered using a solution like BandZoogle or FourSquare to do it ourselves but since this was a site for a record label we were going to want some more customization. While both of those services offer amazing deals for artists when we looked at some of the things we wanted to be able to customize things along the way and utilize some third party services we didn’t see working out with either of those services.

We knew that we wanted to base the label and artist sites off a blog template. We choose Movable Type as our platform, since it is what we use for Musformation and we knew it was solid. We spent a lot of time before we started this blog researching the various options between WordPress, Drupal and many others and settled on MT. While I think WordPress still has some great features, we really like some of the expandability that Movable Type offers but there is no doubt that the initial setup needs to be done by someone who gets code (that would be Jackie, seeing as I barely know HTML). In the end I liked how easy it was for a lament to add third party widgets, and some of the SEO tricks we had learned along the way.

As mentioned above I had a big concern that we are able to swap in and out widgets from any site we want. The world of widgets is expanding everyday and I definitely want to be able to take advantage of some of the latest ones. Seeing as I didn’t want the label paying Jackie every time they had a new release it was very important that cloning and copying widgets over would be easy and customizable from artist to artist since some of the planned releases involve bands who will never tour and some who will be touring and promoting extensively. Recent times have seen new widgets come out and I know there is even more coming down the pike that we will want to take advantage of. Since Dean and I both don’t get HTML and are the one’s who will be doing this it is important that we can copy and paste code and at most have to alter a font color or widget size. 

My other strategic concern is that the site should be a newsfeed. This is why we wanted it based off a blogging format. I wanted to make sure we were able to easily spit out RSS, sync to all of our social networks once we post (more on that later). I wanted the bands to be able to use the artist sites as their own newsfeed/blog if they wanted and could point their domains to it if they wished to do so. It should be a definitive and up to date source that is easy to update and can be the hub that all the social networks link back to. I feel we accomplished all of this by using MT. Next time we will start to get into some of the small details of why we choose what we choose and how they affected some of the strategy decisions.  

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.