Choosing a website domain for your band
by Dan Coe
So. You’ve realised that, despite all the different ways in which you can cultivate an online presence for your music, a website is still the best means by which to headquarter and centralise your creative output. Fantastic. Have a biscuit. Now begins the process of creating said website, and making it utterly fantastic. First things first: you’re going to need (and register) a domain. But what should you go for? After all, this will hopefully be your digital home for many years to come.
Here are some top tips and points to ponder which should help you make the right choice, first time.
To .com or NOT .com (that is the question)…
There are many reasons to stick to the traditional .com domain extension. Whilst there are plenty of fun, appropriate (.band) and even edgy domain extensions out there (.wtf anyone?), .com remains the most well-established, credible and easy to remember. This last point is important because you want to make life as easy as possible for fans and interested parties trying to find your site. And if you’ve gone with something whacky like www.thebeatles.porn people are unlikely to guess it off the bat (or at all, most likely).
Many users, especially those who aren’t that tech-savvy, will automatically type “.com” at the end of every domain without thinking about it. Aside from anything else, most smartphone keyboards automatically have a .com button. If the .com isn’t available, you could use your home country’s extension (.uk, .us etc) or a relevant, intuitive new-style extension like .music or .band, which will at least differentiate you from business or other sites that share your band name. In summary: unless you’re dead set on making a statement through your domain, make finding your site as easy as you can.
Do you need keywords in your domain?
If, rather than having aspirations to headline Glastonbury one day, you’re a wedding or party band, as long as your band name is quite short you may be able to get some search-friendly keywords into your domain name, which will help you rank higher. For example, if your band name is Toxic (why would you name your wedding band ‘Toxic’?) having the domain toxicweddingband.com will help you rank better for ‘wedding band’ searches.
Similarly, if you’re an up-and-coming orchestra that wants to gain more organic visibility on the web, and are also called Toxic (why would you name your orchestra ‘Toxic’? What’s wrong with you?), then toxicorchestra.co.uk could help drive more traffic to your site. By using keywords in your domain name, you tell the search engines what your website is about. Even if additional phrases like ‘orchestra’, ‘party band’ or geographical identifiers (‘Manchester punk band’) are not warranted, you still need to think about keywords, even if it’s just your artist or band name. In other words, don’t feel tempted to use anything other than your name, as that’s what people will intuitively look for and type in.
Keep it short
Unless you’re the aforementioned wedding or party band, an orchestra, or have some other reason to put in extra keywords, keep your domain as short as you can. Don’t be tempted to put in the word ‘official’ or anything along those lines. This can be added to the page title tag element (the top line you see in the search engine result and in the browser tab) if necessary.
Avoid hyphens if you can
Time was, hyphens in domains were a sure sign of spammy sites and treated as such. Nowadays, Google et al are much better at using other signals to ascertain whether a site is full of crap or not and there are plenty of websites with hyphens that rank very high within their particular niche. However, they don’t look as nice and neat as their non-hyphen equivalents, so avoid hyphens unless necessary. Define necessary? Okay. Necessary would be when to not hyphenate would likely lead to typos (when people try and type in your website address directly) or just create lack of legibility, such as with instances of double letters: let’s say your band name was Fapp Press Secretary (why would you n…. never mind). fapppresssecretary.com is a dyslexic person’s nightmare. In fact it’s an English professor’s nightmare. The chances of someone typing that in correctly first, second or third time are very slim. Better to have fapp-press-secretary.com or perhaps fps.com, especially if you’re often abbreviated as such anyway, in branding or artwork (think New Young Pony Club’s NYPC moniker).
Before you choose and register a domain name, try to find out if there are any other bands, businesses or organisations using the same or very similar name. This is particularly important if you’re just starting out. It’s common for still-forming and newly formed bands to go through a few band name changes and going to register a domain might be the first time you realise there are actually 30 other bands (and one orchestra) called Toxic, for example.
Or you might think naming your band Legless Veterans was a stroke of creative genius, until you Google it and realise it’s actually a prominent, registered and fully trademarked charity. You can perform a trademark search for band names just as you can for businesses, so it’s worth doing. If The Chemical Brothers had done it (if there were such things available back then) they wouldn’t have originally released music as The Dust Brothers (a US production duo whose lawyers came-a-knockin’ on Tom and Ed’s door). There are numerous well-known bands who had to change their names to avoid trademark infringement. Don’t let it happen to you. Or do, then change your name to something like The Chemical Brothers and become global megastars.
Don’t hang about!
Each day thousands of new domain names are registered from all corners of the developed world. If you start to get some success and don’t think to register your band or musician domain name, there’s nothing to stop unscrupulous opportunists from registering it before you, waiting till you get a nice record deal, then demanding a huge sack of cash to buy it off them (if only I hadn’t misremembered the name of this guy I saw on YouTube and registered tedsheeran.com). It has happened countless times in the past, with dotcom boom prospectors rushing to register the names of brands before they got their acts together. Once you know for sure your name is ‘the one’, get it registered ASAP…