It’s a question as old as time itself. How do I start a music blog in 2019? Does anyone even read blogs anymore? Should I just start a podcast?
Now I admit, I’m probably biased as a blogger myself… but I see so many benefits to starting your own site. Let’s go through a few reasons in case you still need some convincing before we jump in:
It’s like having an interactive resume proving your abilities in writing engaging copy, discovering new music, literally a billion things
You can improve your skills in writing, web design, photography, networking, etc.
You’re building your own platform that won’t change based on algorithms *cough* Instagram *cough*
Honestly, it’s an all-around great idea & it’s not even that hard to get started if you know what you’re doing. And hey! I know what I’m doing! So let me walk you through this and help set you up for success in 2019. 💫
HEY! Some of the links on this page are affiliate links! That means that at no cost to you, I could earn commission if you click on some of the links below. Sometimes it may even save you a couple bucks. Yeehaw!
Pick your niche
I struggled with this a lot in the beginning (and occasionally still do). I learned it the hard way and I won’t let you do the same! You have to niche down. Readers are so much more likely to return if they know what they’ll find on your site.
If they visit today for an album review and return tomorrow to find a soup recipe or something about the Paris catacombs… you won’t be their ~trusted source~ for anything. Because they don’t know what your thing is.
Unless you are the topic of your blog (which is also entirely possible), it’s too hard to hope that your readers will enjoy all of the same things as you. So pick the one you love the most and go for it!
Here are some questions to ask yourself that’ll help find your niche:
What do I love talking about more than anything?
Like to the point where friends/family roll their eyes when someone accidentally brings up the topic and I start going off??
Do other people get this passionate about this topic too?
Will I still love this after writing about it every week for a year?
It’s important to think about what value you’re going to be providing to people. What is the purpose of your blog? I’ve narrowed mine down to “helping people discover new bands, new career options, and new experiences within music”.
There’s a lot more you can do to narrow down your niche if you’re still stuck. I’ll have a post up on my new site soon if you want to keep diving in. But this is a good place to get started. Now it’s time to make it yours.
What’s your name?
Here’s my constant dilemma: I find an article or some information on a blog. I think “THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER READ”. I save the link… somewhere. Then I forget where it is. And I can’t find my way back to the site because their branding was weak and I can’t remember the name.
First off, yeah I should get better about organizing my links. But don’t let this fate befall your blog.
Try to think of a name that fits with your topic, but still stands out. Something between 2-3 words is perfect to keep it short & sweet. It’s easier to remember that than something too wordy (as anyone who listened to pop punk in the 2000s will tell you) (I still don’t know which song is which off of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out until the first few notes play).
Hosting & Blog Platform
If you’re new to blogging, this may be a bit of a foreign concept. What exactly are each of these things and how are they different? Let’s break it down.
The space on the internet where your website lives, like renting an apartment for your blog. It lives there as long as you’re paying rent for it.
The actual software you use to build the site. Like the furniture you put inside the apartment to make it look the way you want it to!
So how do you know who to pick for your host & your platform?
Well, lucky for you, I’m a big dumb idiot who’s made every mistake in this realm. I’ve ended up with host providers who don’t answer customer service emails. Blogs that look *Gordan Ramsey voice* blaaaaand, because there are zero customization options. Just the works. So here are my very best options, discovered through trial & error.
My favourite service for hosting is 100% SiteGround. I’ve tried a whole handful of different options and this one is literally perfect. Their customer service is outstanding, they’re affordable, and if you click the link above you can get it for even cheaper. Don’t say I never did anything for ya. 😉
A lot of people will tell you to use Squarespace because it’s aesthetically pleasing… but I still recommend WordPress. If you have some time to mess around and figure out how everything works, you can create literally anything you could ever want within WordPress. Anything you want to add on… there’s definitely a plugin for that. Plus, SiteGround has an option where they’ll load WordPress onto your site for you, it’s almost too easy to get started.
Themes are more subjective. There’s no real “better option”, since it’s all up to how you want your site to look and what tricks you want it to be able to do. Some things to keep in mind on your search:
Do I want a theme that’s better at showcasing photos or text?
What layout do I like best: A Grid? One column? Multiple columns??
Do I want it to have the ability to also work as an online store?
Is this theme optimized to work on mobile devices as well?
It’s worth looking through some of your fave blogs & websites to see what things you like about their layouts. Put together a wish list of things you’d like to see in your own site and go hunting! My favourite place to search for themes is either Creative Market or Theme Forest. They’re both great and I’ve never noticed any crossover between what you find on either of them, so you can scroll for hours. If you want to narrow down your search, here are a few that I love (and have used both past & present!):
YEEHAW! Now that you’ve got the basics laid out for your beautiful blog, it’s time to start adding plugins. If the host is the apartment & the platform is the furniture, the theme is your design choices & the plugins are like… appliances.
Plugins are like toasters (this is advice you will find nowhere else online, I can almost guarantee it). The house is great to live in but you need to be able to make it fulfill your needs. Like helping you reheat your leftovers. Or — in the case of your blog — embedding calendars, improving security, adding a better commenting system, checking your SEO, etc.
Plugins are easy because you don’t really need to go out searching for them. You just go to the “add new” page in your Plugins tab and start scrolling. The “Popular” page is actually a great place to start, because it’s a pretty good representation of what works best.
The few things I’d highly suggest you get immediately are Yoast SEO, Wordfence Security, Google Analytics by MonsterInsights, and Disqus. In order, they help with making sure your posts show up in search engine results, protecting your site from being hacked, seeing how many people are reading your posts, and adding a better commenting system (that lets through less spam!)
There are SO many options. Ones to add the “pin it” button over your images, add contact forms, integrate your Instagram feed into your site… the options go on forever. So start digging and see what you can find! If you don’t like something, you can delete it just as easily as you found it.
The only thing left to do before you share your blog baby with the world is to add in whatever content pages you want people to see when they arrive on your site. Set up your menu with the main categories that your posts will be in. Add pages for people to learn a little more about you and how to contact you — your About and Contact pages respectively
Anything else you want to add is extra. Go for it! The internet is your oyster! If you want to add pages to advertise your services, or other places they can find your writing online, or other blogs you think they’d like… do it. No fancy advice here, just do what you want.
Everything is set up and baby it’s time to go!! And this, unfortunately, is the spot where a lot of people stop. They keep wanting to get their site absolutely perfect before they launch. And there’s always just oneeee more thing they wanna change. But honestly, it’ll never be perfect. You’ll always find things to tweak, pages to add, new themes. But the key is to just… GO. Start!! Make any changes along the way, but start now. Get a couple of posts up so that when you launch, people already have a couple things to flip through.
If you need free stock photos for your posts, check Pexels. If you need ideas for posts to write, type a word into Google and see what auto-fills around that word. See if it sparks anything for you.
Don’t be shy about sending your posts to bands that you’ve written about. Tag them in the original posts, send them the links directly wherever you can, start getting them used to seeing your name sharing what they’ve been working on. Search online for music PR companies in your area and let them know you’d love to stay in the loop about their artists. They’re looking for outlets the same way you’re looking for content, so it’s a perfect partnership.
It’s daunting and it’s not easy to keep up with writing, especially in the early stages. But MAN is it ever worth it when it starts to click! Start now, see what happens. The worst that could happen is you improve your career skills… so honestly, there’s no real downside. And I’m here for you if you ever need any help! I’m in the process of launching a new site specifically for helping with blogging issues, so keep an eye over there for new helpful hints (it’s almost ready to go, I swear).