Why start a music blog?
Starting a music blog is a time-intensive undertaking. You’ll spend hours every day searching for music, turning to reliable sources and listening to music people send you. You’ll write articles that will likely be overlooked at first. Keeping your site running will cost out of pocket, and it may take twelve months before your site begins to gain traction.
To be a music blogger, you need to have a reliable taste for music. You also need to have an interest in writing… a lot. The more you write, the easier it becomes, but expect to spend hours on your blog every time you work on it.
If you’re okay with this, then let’s talk further about starting a music blog.
Music blogging requires a long game strategy. You are building relationships with both your readers and artists you cover. It takes consistent work to gain regular readers, and time to build your online presence.
It also take a lot of work to convince Google that you’re an authoritative voice on the topics you cover. Landing on the front page of search engine results doesn’t happen immediately. We’ll get into this later in the article.
How do I start a music blog?
First, you need to decide on the genre(s) you want to cover. Being too broad will lead to confusion for your readers. They’ll want to know what to expect, and if they consistently find music they dislike, then you’ll be quickly forgotten. So narrow the genres down, but know that you have the option to expand or change your genre focus in the future.
You also need to determine what your writing style will be. Do you want to write lighthearted posts? Do you want a journalistic style? Will you be writing from first-person where it’s strictly your opinion, or will you try to present as much information as possible so your readers can decide for themselves? Some of this will develop naturally as you sit down, but having a strategy is wise so you can be consistent.
Once you know this, then you can decide what type of posts or articles you want to write. Examples are (but not limited to) opinion pieces, premieres, features, news-styled articles, reviews, interviews, and playlists.
Set text length goals for the different article types. We’ve found that 300 words is a good length for shorter pieces, and 500 to 1,000 words for longer pieces. Be prepared to stretch yourself.
Decide on how you want to share music on your music blog. Music blogs fifteen years ago shared Mp3s because people were wanting to download music for their iPods. But streaming services changed this landscape. You can easily embed music from Spotify, SoundCloud, BandCamp, YouTube, and other services. Keep in mind that if you want your music to be added to Hype Machine, you’ll need to post music from SoundCloud and BandCamp.
You’ll obviously need a blog name, but knowing all of these details will help you decide on one. Pick one that matches the feel and focus. Then you’ll want to talk to a graphic design friend who can help you create an image (or images) that creates the right feel, including colors.
What tools do I need for a music blog?
First, you need to decide on a host for your blog. There are a lot of options available, but I’ll share what I use: a self-hosted WordPress site. But there are other options to consider (some are free), such as Blogger, SquareSpace, Tumblr, WordPress.com, and others.
I use DreamHost to host Puddlegum.blog. Their Happy Hosting plan costs $11.99 per month, and you can host as many sites as you want. You can purchase a domain name (your blog’s site address) through DreamHost, such as Puddlegum.blog. The cost for the domain name will vary, depending on sales and on the top level domain (.com, .net, .blog). To help you get an idea of the cost, a .com site is $6.99 for the first year (normally $15.99 per year), versus $4.99 for .blog (normally $24.95). If you have already purchased your domain name from services like GoDaddy, you can transfer the domain name to DreamHost (you may need a friend to help you).
Once you have a domain name and the Happy Hosting plan, you can install WordPress directing through DreamHost.
Why WordPress? WordPress is the platform that 39% of websites on the Internet run. It’s flexible, and it’s meant to allow you to focus on writing and creating, rather than coding. WordPress comes in two forms: self-hosted WordPress sites (using WordPress.org), or sites hosted and maintained by WordPress.com. A self-hosted site costs more, but it gives you more flexibility and control.
From here, you’ll log into WordPress and begin setting things up. There are thousands of free themes, which give your site the look and layout. Or you can pay for a quality theme at Theme Forest.
You can add Plugins to your WordPress blog. Think of Plugins as apps that bring specific functionality to your blog. Most plugins are found on WordPress. The plugins I recommend are:
- Jetpack – provides statistics, and many other features.
- Smush – reduces image file sizes (speeds up your site)
- WP Super Cache – an easy to use caching plugin, which helps speeds your site up.
- Yoast SEO – a plugin that helps you create posts that Google will love.
To write an article, you’ll create a Post. Make sure you’re using the default Blocks editor (not the Classic Editor). To embed from SoundCloud, Spotify, or YouTube, just paste the URL for the song, album, or playlist, and WordPress will convert it into an embedded player. To embed BandCamp (or have more control with the other players), you’ll need select the HTML block (since WordPress is currently not built to automatically embed BandCamp music), and paste the Embed Code that the streaming services provide. (If this is confusing, reach out and I’ll gladly give you input.)
Tags and Categories help organize your posts. I’ll explain how Puddlegum uses tags and categories. I set up categories to separate post types. Interviews have a different category than Reviews. Try to keep it simple and basic. If you use categories well, you can include these categories in your menu.
Puddlegum uses tags as keywords. I limit these keywords to people, bands, record labels, recording studios, etc. This helps connect posts to each other. If I write about a band multiple times, these posts are connected through tags because they all have the same band tag.
A WordPress Page is meant for permanent content, such as a bio, contact information, or pages that pull your content (posts) together. You’ll create a few pages and hundreds of posts.
Keeping Google in mind while you blog
Earlier, I mentioned that music blogging requires a long game strategy. When I wrote this, I was thinking about Google. Traffic from Google searches takes time to build, but once you have it, your traffic will dramatically increase. So write with Google in mind… without betraying your readers.
While this is always changing as Google adjusts the search engine algorithm, there are some basic things that will help increase your standing with Google (read up on SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, and use Yoast SEO to achieve these goals).
First, think of the keywords that people will be searching for in order to find your blog post. Include these keywords in your post title, the post URL, the text, the image titles and descriptions (image searches also attract traffic), and in your excerpt (a summary), headings, and tags.
Second, include links in your posts. You’ll want to link to other sites. This is really helpful for your readers (your site becomes a resource). But it also helps Google understand what your site is about.
Third, try to get incoming links. Incoming links are links from other relevant sites that link to your posts. This is critical, and it takes a lot of time. If you’re writing quality content, people will link to your site. As authoritative sites link to your posts, Google will begin to see your blog as authoritative. If your blog is seen as authoritative on a topic/genre, they’ll push your posts to the top of search results.
One of the most authoritative sites is Wikipedia. If Wikipedia pages begin to reference your blog as a source of credible information (and your blog has to gain respect as being reliable), then your site’s credibility will dramatically rise in Google’s eyes.
Fourth, link to your own posts. If you use tags correctly, you can tie your content together. For example, when you’ve written several posts about bands that are label-mates, all of these posts will share that record label’s tag. So when you’re writing a new post about a band on that label, link to the label’s tag page (a page that lists all of your posts with that tag) on your site. This helps people find other articles about bands signed to that label… and Google loves the organization because it makes logical sense to their system.
Yoast SEO will help you achieve some of this. It provides immediate feedback on readability and SEO analysis. For example, if you write too many lengthy sentences (20 words or more), Yoast SEO will suggest that you edit your text.
Considering that playlists are the leading source for finding new music, you’ll want to build a playlist(s) on Spotify. This takes time. But if you can develop an influential playlist, people will come to your blog to learn more about the music you’re playlisting.
When you update your playlist(s), create a post about it on your website. This helps people find your playlist, and you can provide details.
If you utilize playlists, don’t make the mistake of creating new playlists for each year or month. Why is this a mistake? Every time you start a new playlist, you’re starting with zero playlist followers. Instead, if you can set up playlists that are refreshed with new music, you can slowly build your followers.
Receiving Music Submissions from Artists, Labels, and Agencies
Because you’ll provide exposure to new music, people will want to send you music. I suggest setting up an email account specifically for this. It won’t take long before you’ll receive 10 to 80 emails per day with music requests. I have also found that if I approve of 14% of these requests, the music I share will be selective and not too broad (I settled on this percentage through Submit Hub).
Submit Hub will pay you roughly $.50 cents per song you listen to. Keep in mind that you’ll need to provide feedback on songs you decline, so this take time. Submit Hub is a nice platform to organize music submissions, but it can get overwhelming quickly if you approve too many songs (this is where the 14% comes into play). You have the ability to set a limited number of submissions at a time, but know that you’ll be under a time limit to listen and decide on these songs.
Utilizing Social Media
As you post, share your posts on social media so it’s in front of people where they’re at. This will help draw traffic, but it will also help bring exposure to the music you’re covering. Artists will be very appreciative!
What I’ve found is that Instagram is where people are the most active. You’ll be able to develop connections with people on Instagram more so than other social networks. Communicate with people here. But don’t expect a lot of traffic directly from Instagram, since you can’t add links to posts (you can in the bio). Instead, people will be more likely to visit your homepage to find a post they saw on Instagram.
Twitter is another great network for connecting with artists. But you won’t receive much traffic from Twitter either. On Twitter, you can share content from other sites, share opinions you might not write in your posts, and be personable.
Facebook is the network that sends the highest traffic. While this network might not be well representative of your readers, the likelihood that someone will visit your post when it’s shared on Facebook is quite high.
What is Hype Machine?
Hype Machine is a site that aggregates blog posts from hundreds of blogs. What that means is, they take new posts from music blogs and adds songs to their database, as long as the song you’ve posted is from SoundCloud or BandCamp. This helps expose your blog to people looking for these artists. If a song you posted appears at the top of their popular charts, you’ll gain some nice traffic.
I don’t have the stats to support this, but it appears people aren’t as active on Hype Machine as they used to be. But, it’s still a great tool to use, and holds high respect by many. Plus, it’s great for boosting your search engine results.
Other things to consider
There are so many ways to engage with readers and listeners that this post doesn’t cover. Consider:
- Posting music on YouTube
- Starting a podcast
- Playlisting and sharing music in SoundCloud
- Starting a radio show at your college or community radio station
- Guest blogging on established blogs, magazines, or local press
- Starting a hyper-local music blog
There is a lot more to be written about setting up and running a music blog. But my hope is that this will give you a basis for getting started (or deciding whether or not to start a music blog). We need more music bloggers to help bring exposure to the music we love. It’s a huge benefit for artists or labels you want to support. Whether it’s worth your time and money is your decision. But if you can build something incredible, it can become a nice side-income (or lead to jobs in the industry). Just know that it will take time to get there.
P.S. – If you’re curious about my experience with music blogging, check out Puddlegum’s About page.