Categories
webmastering

Building a website

I cannot believe I am building a website, again.

The good thing is that it’s much easier than it used to be, to build fairly attractive and functional websites if it’s mostly a matter of presenting information.

The bad thing is that I am terrible at the visuals and graphics and whatnot. So all I can really do is figure out how I want to structure the website, what content management system I want to use, and then find a good template that I can sort of wrangle sufficiently to get it to do what I need.

The existing band site is, I think, over a decade old. It runs (I believe) on Drupal, with a design template that allows zero formatting of post content. There’s nobody that’s technically proficient running it, and all necessary maintenance is outsourced to a company. So: not good for a lot of different reasons.

I’m going to build the new one in WordPress. It’s somewhat limited in terms of navigation structures, but it has an insane amount of templates, plugins, user communities, and other support. Plus it’s extremely easy for non-technical people to update pages and add content.

I have to decide, however, whether to support a multilingual site. And how much to try to keep the navigation and URL structure of the existing site, both for content access purposes and also in terms of SEO, in that existing search results actually lead to what it should, and people’s ability to find things without having to search all over the site. Then there’s a matter of moving the shop (complicated! configuring everything to conform with German/EU rules for e-commerce), and making sure that things switch over smoothly, and so on.

Also smaller issues: the old site has lyrics in a popup layer, which I don’t feel like I need to replicate. But I do want a nice way to go from the releases to the song info and then back out and so on. Need to make sure there’s good breadcrumbs. The homepage will be driven by the news section which is definitely a blog, but then, should any of the other sections also be blog/post-based, or should they be static pages that can be edited at need? Should the “live” page of upcoming shows be a sequence of updates or just the current status?

And images. All the new WordPress themes are very visual, which make for nice eye candy but really forces Every! Post! to have an associated attractive picture or video.

But at least a good theme takes care of all the UI issues: desktop vs. mobile, different screen resolutions, different browsers, etc. All the things that used to be such a pain.

OK, off to create a droplet and deploy WordPress and get started…

Categories
webmastering

Beginnings…

This is a place for me to park some thoughts about what I’m doing on a number of projects. What first brings me here is the work I’m doing with/for Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, building/running their Supporter project, now in its 4th phase, this time with help from Patreon.

A little history: back in 2002, I built and ran the first crowdfunding site for a band with the very first version of neubauten.org. Entirely hand-coded, and thank goodness the standards for user interface was low at the time because my HTML skills have not been updated since back then. We managed to reach a couple of thousand fans, ran 3 phases of the project over 5 years, and ended up producing 4 CDs (plus the limited edition Musterhaus series), two DVDs, and various other records of the band’s productivity at the time.

*mumble mumble* years went by, the Neubauten (what does one say? “Die Neubauten” works in German but “the Neubauten” sounds pretentious, the definite article in English clearly has a different resonance) were intermittently on tour and produced a commissioned work for Flanders in remembrance of WWI and released an ironically titled Greatest Hits album and so on. Finally end of 2018 there was a decision to record a new studio album, and then there was the question of, how to finance it?

In this age of laptop recordings and songwriting in bedrooms (and when that works for some people, great), EN is very, very old-fashioned in how they like to record. They want to work all together, in the same room, on their often eccentric equipment, to come up with musical ideas that may eventually turn into songs, with a sound engineer to help figure out how to record their equipment and have multi-track (digital) recordings of the entire process so that they can go back to older ideas and takes. The first thing that the band did, upon deciding to do this undertaking, was to block 10 week days a month for 10 months, so basically a half time job for 5 people plus studio time plus sound engineer and assistant. Plus the resulting album would be released independently, which means prepaying for all production costs (mastering, photo shoots, liner notes, physical production of products, promotion/marketing, etc.)

I went and looked at the current state of the art in crowdfunding options. I was pretty sure that we wanted to do a monthly subscription, because our prior experience with one-time pre-payment crowdfunding models had too high a cost of reward production vs. funds for the band, and the fact that the most devoted fan base automatically got a copy of the resulting album significantly cannibalized our retail sales. I then did a thorough comparison of the subscription systems out there — Patreon vs. Steady, for example, and also a number of plain old subscription payment management systems. I ended up going with Patreon because they had the easiest authentication plugins for the two main website features I wanted — a WordPress content site and a forum, which is currently powered by Discourse, and because they charged a fairly reasonable 5% of revenue. The pure subscription management platforms charged a little less, perhaps 2-3%, but I hoped Patreon would have more cross-pollination effects due to other artists/musicians on the platform.

Forward to now: Phase IV, as it’s now called, is drawing almost to a close and has done well. The band is almost finished with the recording portion of the project and will be working on finalizing the album (mastering will be mid February), all production material (liner notes, artwork, other content) need to be turned in by the end of February for production to a mid May release. There are rehearsal periods in March and April for the upcoming concerts, with a general rehearsal (with audience) on April 19th and a full tour starting late May.

Now comes the hard part: how to take this from the 600 supporters to the wider public? How to get people to pay attention to a 40 year old band which has evolved for those 40 years? How do we navigate the very fast moving and mostly digital music distribution and discovery landscape? How can we stay true to the character and history of the band without completely botching the social media game? What should we focus on, with our very limited resources?