Every musician absolutely needs an official website. Many artists think that creating a good website for their music is very difficult and/or very costly. However, the blogging platform WordPress makes it really easy for musicians to set up powerful websites for practically $0. And the best part is, you don’t need to be very tech-savvy to build one!
Also, many musicians out there believe that having a bunch of social networking profiles is a good enough substitute for an official website. FALSE! Social networking profiles should act like little funnels that lead all of your fans to a single location: your official website. I could go on for hours about this, but that’s another post entirely. And most likely, if you’re reading this post, you already know this, and already have a website set up with WordPress. Kudos to you. Now let’s get to the plug-ins.
I’ve separated the plug-ins into the following categories so you can jump around if you prefer to read that way:
In my opinion, the best part about WordPress is its enormous community of developers, which has given rise to thousands upon thousands of useful plug-ins that you can add to enhance your existing WordPress website. If you are considering, or already have an official website set up with WordPress, below are some of the most useful plug-ins out there that can help take your website to the next level.
SEO & Performance
This plug-in comes bundled with WordPress, and is a must-use for all musicians rocking a WordPress-based website. Akismet is a spam-blocker, and a damn good one. This should always be the first plug-in you activate to protect your website from all the spineless spammer jerks out there.
2. WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO is the most complete SEO plug-in that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview that helps you optimize your page titles, meta descriptions and keywords to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
I came across this plug-in recently, and decided to start using it over the previously popular “All in one SEO” plug-in. This thing is essential for any WordPress blog. It is a workhorse, and thanks to this handy guide at WPBeginner.com, it’s a cinch for anybody to set up.
3. WordPress Database Manager
Most musicians probably don’t have much knowledge about MySQL, the programming language responsible for the database behind their WordPress blogs. The WP-DBManager plug-in manages your WordPress database for you. It allows you to optimize, repair, backup, restore, delete, and run selected queries. It also supports automatic scheduling of backing up and optimizing of your database.
Imagine something happening to your database, and you losing all of your blog posts? Yeah, that wouldn’t be good, so make sure you install this plug-in on your WordPress website so you can always be backing up your data.
4. W3 Total Cache
I’ve tried a bunch of these caching plug-ins, and find myself coming back to W3 Total Cache every time. W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.
Basically, it helps make your WordPress website run a bit faster. It is quite a hefty plug-in and can be intimidating to set up, so I suggest you follow these instructions to make setup less of a headache.
5. Google Analyticator
Tracking stats on who is visiting your website is essential to your success as a musician online. With Google Analyticator, you can easily add Google Analytics tracking support to a WordPress-powered blog. Google Analyticator also comes with a handy dashboard widget that displays an overview of your website’s statistics gathered by Google Analytics using the Google Analytics API. Easily find out how many fans are visiting your website, where they are coming from, how long they are sticking around, what they are doing (hopefully buying your music!).
6. WordPress Download Monitor
If you will be making songs, lyrics, photos, artwork, videos, or any other kind of content available for download on your website, then WordPress Download Monitor is an incredible plug-in to help you track downloads. From this plug-in, you can upload files, track how many times they’ve been downloaded, organize them with categories and tags, create shortcodes (e.g. [freemp3_1]) to quickly insert them into blog posts, make them “members only” downloads, create custom URL’s, and more.
7. Disqus Comment System
Disqus is an enhanced comment moderation tool that replaces your existing WordPress commenting setup. With this plug-in, you can turn your comments section into a full-fledged community that encourages conversation. Disqus allows people to create profiles and upload a photo of themselves, so everybody can have their face on your website. It also gives your fans the ability to like your blog posts, and creates an RSS feed of your comments section for each post. It also utilizes the service BackType to display “reactions” to your blog posts, which show where your post is being talked about on the social web (things like retweets and trackback links).
The built-in search functionality for WordPress notoriously awful. This plug-in revamps that functionality, actually making search a useful means of navigating any WordPress website.
9. Contact Form 7
Every musician’s website needs a contact page. If you are uncomfortable displaying your e-mail address publicly, then the Contact Form 7 plug-in is a great alternative. It is a very simple plug-in that creates a contact form that has basic spam protection. Takes all of five minutes to set up, and if you know basic HTML & CSS then you can customize the forms however you wish.
If you’ve ever wanted to ask your fans a really quick question about something, using a website poll is a great way to do that. WP-Polls is an AJAX-powered, polling plug-in for WordPress that helps you create, display, and keep track of multiple polls on your website.
bbPress is the best forum plug-in out there, created and maintained by the boys and girls of WordPress themselves. It easily integrates with your existing WordPress website, and can be a great solution for a place where your fans can hang out and interact with each other.
12. Facebook “Like” Button
The Facebook “Like” Button has been around for a few months, and is now seeing some heavy usage. It’s a great way to get a link to your website to show up on your fans’ Facebook profiles, and I highly recommend using this plug-in to insert a “like” button on every post and page in your website.
13. Twitter Button WordPress Plug-in
Twitter users love to re-tweet things they like, and it all started with this goofy little button. Tweetmeme’s Retweet Button is the defacto standard, and is used by some of the largest web companies in the world. It’s insanely easy to use and install, and should appear on each of your blog posts so fans can start talking about you with their Twitter followers.
There are so many plug-ins out there that can allow your fans to share your content via e-mail, and various social networks. In my opinion, ShareThis does it the best. Download the plug-in, generate the code, paste it into the settings, and you will have a simple and effective way for your fans to share your content a zillion different ways.
15. MySpace Crossposter
Since MySpace has made some pretty hefty updates lately, I’m not too sure if this plug-in still works. I would still give it a try anyway, since MySpace Crossposter is the only plug-in I know of that automatically integrates your website’s blog posts with your MySpace page’s blog posts. Everytime you hit that “Publish” button, the post will be automatically published on your MySpace blog as well. Super handy, and a great way to keep your MySpace page updated and active.
UPDATE: The MySpace Crossposter plug-in does not work anymore (big surprise, right?). I suggest trying Status Updater, by Francesco Castaldo. This plug-in lets you automatically update the status on your Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, and MySpace profiles whenever you publish a new post. It doesn’t cross-post to your MySpace blog, but at least it updates your status, keeping you “active” on MySpace, which I guess is still worthwhile.
16. Cute Profiles
If you are active on multiple social networks, it is really important that you link to all of those social networks from your official website. Cute Profiles provides a very neat, and obvious way to display all of your social media profile links. The great thing about this plug-in is that the buttons are anchored to the side of the browser, so as your fans scroll down the page, the buttons scroll with them so they are always visible.
WordTwit is one of the many ways you can automatically send out a tweet every time you publish a new blog post. The plug-in is very lightweight, and can automatically shorten the URL’s of your blog posts to fit in the 140-character limit of Twitter updates. It also provides some basic statistics about the tweets it sends out.
Out of all the forum plug-ins I have played around with, this is among my favorite. bbPress is a (somehow) free software plug-in that makes it insanely easy to create a community on your website for your fans to interact with each other. Forums are a great way to engage your core fan base, and even turn some of those fans into friends!
18. Wibiya Toolbar
The Wibiya Web Toolbar instantly adds interactive and user-friendly experiences to your WordPress website, such as live notifications, live chat, recent posts, YouTube video galleries, language translations, 3D photo galleries, a direct facebook and twitter connection, social share buttons, the Facebook “like” button and much, much more.
This this is an incredibly powerful and useful tool for musicians. It sits right at the bottom of your page, and is a great way to encourage more fan interaction on your website. To get an idea of how awesome this toolbar can be for musicians, check out Allison Weiss’ website.
From her toolbar, fans can receive live notifications about upcoming shows, view recent posts from her blog, watch all of her YouTube videos, share her website on social networks, “Like” her website on Facebook, participate in the live chat room, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Damn!
19. Flickr Photo Album
Personally, I think that creating simple Flickr badges and slideshows, and inserting them as widgets on your sidebar is good enough to display photos on your website. But, if you want something more robust, definitely consider this plug-in.
The Flickr Photo Album plug-in will allow you to pull in your Flickr photosets, and display them as albums on your WordPress website. There is a pretty simple template provided which you can customize to 100% match the look and feel of your own website, so it doesn’t look all awkward and cheap.
Streampad is a really cool plug-in, similar to the Yahoo! Media Player plug-in, that automatically plays back all the music on the current web page. If you post .mp3 files in blog posts often, or have a list of .mp3 links on your music page, Streampad will play back all of the songs on the page automatically, so users don’t have to go searching for the next link.
21. WPaudio MP3 Player
If you ever intend to post any .mp3 files in your blog posts, WPaudio MP3 Player is a really slick plug-in that converts the .mp3 file link to a small mp3 player that begins playing the track upon clicking the link. You can even customize how the link is styled, without editing any code! Very cool.
22. Chords and Lyrics
This is an interesting one that I have not tried yet, seems like it could be very useful to some musicians. The Chords and Lyrics plug-in allows you to create simple, staffless lead sheets, also called chord sheets. Using shortcodes, you can easily line up the correct chord above the correct lyric. This can be very useful if you want to create some simple tabs of your music so you fans can quickly learn your songs!
Gigpress is a plug-in built specifically for musicians and performers. You can manage all of your past and present gigs right from within the WordPress admin backend, and display your gigs using shortcodes, PHP template tags, or the provided GigPress widget. It looks super-slick, and is incredibly easy to use. The plug-in even creates an RSS feed of your gigs, so you can spread the word about your upcoming shows on other websites.
WordTour is an alternative to Gigpress, and has some other features that Gigpress does not. One of the cool things about WordTour is that a specific page is generated automatically when an event is added. Fans can RSVP to the event straight from your website, and share/like that specific event page on Facebook. You can also import related YouTube videos and Flickr photos, which can be a cool way to include some fan-generated content on your website after the event happened.
25. Events Manager
Events Manager is yet another plug-in that you can use to display events on your WordPress website. The feature that I really like about this plug-in is the inclusion of a Google Map right on the event page, on your website. Instead of a fan having to click and leave your website to view a map of the venue, it is included right on the event page within your website. There is also an RSS feed, and multiple languages are supported.
And that’s it! As a musician, all of these WordPress plug-ins will help increase the awesomeness of your official website. If I missed any good ones, leave a quick comment so the list can continue to grow!
[Image credit: Click here]