While there are many sites that you can use to host your music so others can hear it (see last month''s column, “Avoiding Gotchas When Putting Your Music on the Web”), streaming music from your own website often takes more work. Here''s how to do it well.
The first thing you need to know is once music is on the Internet, people can capture the music and save it. Knowing this, you may want to carefully choose which songs to put on your site, only put up samples, or add a short audio bumper at the front of the song (perhaps announcing your website). This can make visitors more likely to buy a non-bumpered version.
Sites such as ReverbNation offer widgets that enable you to stream music from their servers to your website.
Next, prepare your music by encoding it well and filling out the ID3 tags. For more information about doing this, see our column from the October 2010 issue, “Format and Function." The key fields include the art, artist name, album name, and track name. You should also add website and contact information so listeners can find you.
Once you have your music ready, there are two main ways to get it on your site. One is to use widgets from sites like ReverbNation or YouTube. This has a few advantages. First, it''s easier to upload and you don''t have to worry about hosting. Second, these tools often have features such as tie-ins to your mailing list or subscription channels so that your fans can stay connected to you long after they''ve played your songs. Third, these tools do a decent job tracking statistics, so you can see how often your songs are played.
Using YouTube has some advantages. Even if the video is just a still image of your album cover, people are more likely to play videos than just listen to songs. Also, unlike traditional Flash-based players, YouTube works on all mobile devices.
If you don''t use a widget tool, you will need to solve two problems. One is to find a way to host the MP3 file so it can be streamed. If you have a web host, upload the song file so that it is available as a URL.
Once this URL is active, you can use music-player solutions like Wimpy Player, XSPF, and DewPlayer to play the file. They range from free to about $50. To use them, upload the player files to your site''s file manager or content-management system, insert the URL of the MP3 you uploaded into the example snippets of HTML, and add the HTML to your site. You will have options of which style of player to use, such as simple play buttons, mini-players, or a full-featured playlist tool that pops up and displays the artwork along with the song that''s being played. Also, explore the configurable options such as whether to allow downloads of the song or providing a link to the store where the listener can buy the song.
Lastly, you''ll need to decide whether to provide a direct download link to your songs. There are three reasons worth considering. First of all, mobile devices that can''t use Flash-based players can usually play an MP3 file directly. Second, fans can download the song, which means your artist name will appear in their music library every time they go through their artist list, something that helps your marketing efforts. And finally, MP3 search engines and MP3 sites like blip.fm can find these download links and incorporate them into their services, which help get your music discovered and shared by new listeners. This puts your music to work for you, bringing in new fans. After all, isn''t that the whole point of putting your music on the Web?
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are the authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide.