As you may already know, I advocate musicians having their own website, and there are a lot of reasons why.
First of all, it makes you look more professional. People will take you more seriously when you have your own dot-com domain name.
Second of all, you get to have complete control over your content, monetization methods, branding, and other important visitor-facing items.
Finally, there are a lot of extras you’ll get, like storage (you can upload and download files via FTP), customized email addresses, sub-domains, and more.
There may be a time and a place for free website solutions, especially if you just want to experiment with a new idea. However, there can definitely be some downsides too.
Let’s get into this.
Websites Are Not Cost-Prohibitive
There are two elements that make up a website.
The first is the domain name. This is the address at which the website can be found.
If you take advantage of a free service, your site might be hosted at someone else’s domain. That means you have less control. Your web address might end up being something like:
And that’s the best-case scenario.
Worst-case scenario, it will look more like this:
You have little to no control over that. So, it serves to reason that having a domain name that is simply:
Is preferable to the alternatives.
The second element that makes up a website is the hosting.
Sometimes, your domain registrar and web host are one and the same. Oftentimes, however, you might register your domain name with one service while using a different service to host your files.
It might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Your domain can point to any nameserver you want it to, which means the domain can be registered anywhere and still connect to any host.
Even when you put these two costs together (domain and hosting), setting up a website is not cost-prohibitive.
If you purchase a shared hosting plan, you can expect to pay somewhere between $2.99 and $7.95 per month.
Registering a domain can be done with as little as $0.99, but keep in mind that renewal costs can range from $10 to $20, and sometimes more. But that’s still cheaper than your hosting costs.
Conservatively, that’s basically $120 annually. You could do it with less, however.
Free Services Often Don’t Offer A High Degree Of Customizability
This is perhaps the death knell of free services in general.
Yes, you could take advantage of sites like Blogger or WordPress.com – and don’t get me wrong, they are great – but you’re going to limit your options as far as customization goes.
What are most businesses interested in? Profit, right?
This is why you see ads on Facebook. This is why Blogger blogs have a banner at the top that can’t be removed.
You have to expect that there’s going to be some self-interest on the part of the service provider when you’re making use of anything that’s free.
After all, wouldn’t you do the same? If people wanted to promote their products on your website, wouldn’t you expect some compensation in return?
Furthermore – and this is probably the greatest deterrent to free services – most musicians aren’t technical enough to back up their site and move it to a new host should that eventuality arise.
I’m not saying that you need to be a rocket scientist to be able to do this, but imagine spending an entire year developing content for your site only to realize that you can’t take it with you. How would that make you feel?
You Have No Control Over What Isn’t Yours
Invariably, some company owns the free service you’re thinking about taking advantage of.
Is there a history of companies being sold and traded? Have big businesses been shut down in the past? Are there businesses that have changed their business model completely over time? Absolutely.
Just think of the recent example of Squidoo being sold to HubPages. Sure, the content creators got to keep their articles, but they still had to transition from one platform to another, and that process wasn’t necessarily smooth. I should know, because I had a few lenses over at Squidoo.
Maybe the worst case scenarios will never come to fruition, but if they do, what does it mean for you?
If you’ve built up a big archive of content, it could mean losing it all.
If you’ve grown your list of subscribers and followers, it could mean losing all of their contact information.
If you try claiming ownership over the content you created, it could result in a lawsuit dispute (many social media sites “own” the content you publish to their sites).
I’m not saying that any of those things will happen, and if you have a good way of backing up your content and followers, more power to you. It’s just not a risk that I would take.
Is there a downside to setting up your own website? Of course.
First, there’s the technical aspect of it, which can be frustrating. If you’ve never installed or worked with WordPress before, that might be just one of many learning curves you’ll have to go through.
Second, there’s the cost. Again, it’s not significant, and you won’t even miss it once your budget is adjusted, but every business has some overhead.
Third, you are responsible for everything. For example, if someone doesn’t like you using their image on your website, you have to deal with it. You take all the risks.
Despite these downsides, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives.
What are your thoughts? Do you use a free website solution right now? If so, what has your experience been like?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.