The internet is a tough world, and you may not make it out alive, or, at least, your business will suffer. In my quest to not starve post-pandemic, I have been researching websites to find places to play up and down the east coast. During my research, I have found a recurring theme: the web presence of a lot of restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries is off, and I have observed the following: websites are not being updated, there is too much focus on social media, and there is a general lack of clarity.
It should be noted that I am going to websites for a specific reason, and it is not because I intend to patronize said establishment, necessarily. I am going there to determine if they have music, and if they do have music, if I will be appropriate for the venue. My research is continually hampered by the fact that a sparse number of venues update their sites regularly. Specifically, their event section is often out of date, linked to a social media site, or simply non-existent. Typically, if the event section leads to a social site, the feed on said site is usually haphazard as well. There will typically be pictures of food, but there will be no information about specials, products, pricing, or, and most importantly in my case, events. As well, more than a few sites have out of date or broken contact information. When I view these instances from the perspective of a musician trying to find work, it is frustrating; when I view these instances from the perspective of a customer, I do not want to patronize the establishment. In my view, a website should be informative, easy to read, and updated as often as necessary.
Because online presence needs regular maintenance, I can see why folks lean on social media. It is easy, ubiquitous, and not without merit. Accepting that social media is useful for all the preceding reasons, I still feel that it should not be relied on, and if it is, it needs to be used differently than a personal account. The questions still must be: why are folks seeking my establishment out online; more importantly, what will drive sales? Of online marketing, I have read before that it does not matter what form you use so long as it is used well. Social media was previously a good way to reach new customers in a cheap, organic, and efficient manner. However, I believe that is no longer the case. It has been my experience that Facebook and Instagram have essentially stifled most real organic growth in favor of the pay-to-play model. Thus, if you want people to see your posts, you must pay…a lot; this was not the case seven to ten years ago. Additionally, I would posit that it is harder on social media to keep a customer’s attention. I do not know about the rest of the world, but I know that it is super easy for me to get down a rabbit hole on social media as it is designed to keep folks scrolling. I believe the social media framework is antithetical to keeping a customer focused on a specific brand without a brute force attack, but if the customer has been driven to a brand’s website, then it should be easier to maintain the customer’s focus.
Customer focus is paramount; thus, it is equally important that websites need efficiency and clarity. Barriers to sales should be eliminated, unless those barriers are driving more sales: upsells, special offers, etc. (Who is this musician, and why is he talking so much about sales?) I get that it is easy to want a website to be pretty and flashy. It is easy to want the website to reflect how you feel about the thing you sacrificed so hard to make and sell. However, it should be remembered that folks are coming to your website for information, not you (unless you are the product, as in my case). When I go to a website, I want it to answer the following questions: What does the company sell; how much does the product cost; and where and how can I obtain the product? Any value-added propositions will then be subcategories of the preceding questions. For example, if I own a brewery that has live music to enhance the atmosphere at the venue, thus improving the customer experience, it behooves me to have an event section that links to the musical act that will be playing in the venue on a specific date. Almost every time I play a venue that links my music to their website, at least one patron will come up to me and say that they checked out the venue’s website and saw a link to my website wherein they checked out my music and decided to come to the venue.
As you may have guessed, there are some limitations to my findings. First, and foremost, I am biased as a road-dog musician looking for work (not a fancy musician that plays listening rooms). The reasons I go to a particular website revolve around this perspective. Second, I have confined my research to venues that have music, specifically acoustic solo musicians. These venues often have music as a value-added proposition and not as the main product, or reason for going to the venue. Additionally, the venues are typically small to medium sized venues that are likely not a chain.
In conclusion, venues need to do better. Everybody involved loses: the venue is losing money (and customers), the customers are having a bad experience and getting frustrated, and I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out if places have music (and if they do…if I am a good fit for the venue). I understand that venue owners are wear a ton of hats. It is easy to get mired in the daily tasks of keeping a business afloat. I get it all to well. I never knew when I decided to be a musician that I would be spending so much time doing so much administrative work. Currently, making music seems to be only 10% of my day. Perhaps I need to spend more time making music, and then someone would offer to do all this admin stuff for me. Who knows…? I do believe, however, that this stuff needs to be done. If you do not have time or knowledge to do it, then hire someone who does. There will be a sunk cost for sure, but it will eventually pay off if the product is good. If you are a business owner, and you want to do better, Google things like SEO best practices, online marketing best practices, and social media best practices. Be sure to include the phrase “for [insert your type of venue or industry]”. Shoot me a message, and I will tell you my opinions on why your website sucks (or does not). Reach out to a true professional (though they are expensive…for good reasons sometimes). You are on the right track. You have made a website, or you are thinking about your web presence. Now you just need to take it to the next level.
Tell me what you think about this Boblog in the comments. Shoot me a message. Come see me at a show! (Be sure to check out my shows section on the site for all the information of where I will be!) If you like the things I create, consider being a Patron! Last, but not least, tell someone that you love, that you love them. Life is short, and they need to hear it. I love you, and can’t wait to see you at a show!