So, you want to write about music. We don’t blame you, as Eddie from Empire Records said, it’s the glue that holds the world together.
In order to build the best music blog you can build for yourself, you will need to know what you want to write about, and then build a website.
Why would you want to start a music blog?
To become one of the best music sites and top music bloggers around, right? Nah, it’s for the money, right? I know, it’s for the love of music.
It’s ok if it’s all three, but one thing is for sure, you better love to write about music, because the other two aren’t going to happen without that love.
But first, you should set some expectations.
You aren’t going to become one of the top music websites (at least not overnight). You probably won’t even become one of the best music blogs or best music review sites. Just embrace that.
Why not? There are thousands of music bloggers to compete with, so having high aspirations for your music blog is good, but probably not realistic (once again, to start). It’s tough to break into any industry, let alone one as generic as music blogging, where it’s already hard to discover new music websites.
Let’s use a random Google Search as an example - you’re competing with search terms like “reddit discover music” and “how to find new music reddit”. You aren’t going to beat Reddit, so temper the expectations for now.
So be patient and focus on the right things to do.
Good music sites tend to have great content that establishs a voice, chooses an angle, and establishes authority
If starting a music blog is purely a passion project, then the quality of your content matters only to yourself. And should you get readers, all the better.
But if starting a music blog is about building a portfolio of writing, experiencing music in a new way, or trying to earn a dollar, then amazing content quality is paramount to success.
Good content: the MOST important thing in starting a (music) blog
Choose an angle or a specific niche. For example, we verbally riff on alternative rock, grunge, and hair metal bands. It’s what we know and love, so it comes easy.
Our article on Van Halen Album Covers got us on to the first page of Google by writing good content (and doing keyword research).
We saw an opportunity (lack of “good” content) surrounding Van Halen album covers and reviewed their entire catalog.
Pro-tip: the VH article is far from done. We have much more content to add, which should only increase our ranking further. It was just important to publish when we did.
What are the best music blogs about?
If you’re a homebody, maybe you want to start an album review site. Or, if you are the partying type, maybe you want to write about concerts you’ve attended.
Here are some topics you can write about:
- Live shows
- Album reviews
- Artist/Band interviews
- Local or Indie music scenes
- The rotating Top 40
- MTV music videos
- Your own music
- and more
You could stay in one genre (country, jazz, edm), or you could talk about a specific topic like rap/rock crossovers. Or, you could just spit about everything musical in one no-limits take no prisoners diary.
Establish a voice early and often
Establishing a voice and delivering a unique message is the best way to acquire new readers.
The most important rule here is knowing your audience. If you sort through our 80s and 90s albums, you will find a shift in the voice and tone of our writing, most notably in the vocabulary.
Having lived through both decades makes it easier to alter, but words like “righetous” and “bitchin’” aren’t part of the lexicon of the 1990s. Just something to keep aware of.
Tools to help you write
Grammarly and Hemingway can help you improve your grammar (seems obvious) and they can help look out for spelling errors and other mistakes while you write. As an added bonus, it will score the “readability” of your writing and give you a word count - all good features.
Creating authority through your musical knowledge
Once you establish authority through good content, smart promotion, and sometimes sheer luck, the opportunities to grow your music blog will come to you.
For example, blogger Sophistefunk carved out a niche in the electronic music world. They have been invited to shows, received pre-released music, and xyz. They now turn away some music submissions because they are just too popular and their role has shifted from observer to influencer.
Maybe someday Pants and I will meet Kip Winger because of this blog.
Music Blog Quickstart Instructions
You could start blogging on Medium right now with a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Email account. 100% true. It’s (in some ways) a large magazine and you can get found from its internal search engine as well as external search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.).
You have access to an audience, you can join like-minded publications, you can network, etc.
Create a Medium account
If you want the easiest path to begin, this is where you should start. I don’t recommend using Medium for anything other than re-publishing, but you could go this route.
The biggest reason why is control over your content. What happens if Medium shuts down tomorrow?
Pro-tip: always save your writing elsewhere, either locally, or if you’re comfortable with it, a service like Google Sheets or Dropbox.
Starting a music blog (the right way)
Starting a music blog, or any blog for that matter, isn’t difficult. What is difficult is reading other music blog success stories and coping with your impatience to get to their level. They make it seem like:
- Pick an idea
When in reality it’s a lot more like the instructions for how to draw an owl (Google it).
Creating the blog: technical instructions
For the walkthrough, let’s just assume you purchased ThrashMetalHistory.com. Cause, you know, thrash metal seems like something fun to write about.
Not as fun as hair metal, but we’ve cornered that market (not really).
- Finding a domain name
- The blogging platform
- Setting up email/social accounts
- Growing your music blog
- Promote, promote, promote
- Make the money
Step One: Choosing a (good) domain name
You already knew that selecting a good domain name is important for business, but it is equally important for blogging as well. That is why knowing what you want to write about before starting your music blog is key, you want your domain (and brand) name to represent the topics you wish to write about.
Domain name as branding
Let’s take Alternative Nation and Metal Sucks as examples.
AlternativeNation.net positions itself as an authority on alternative rock music, stating that it, “… covers alternative rock’s biggest bands and has featured interviews with members of bands like Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.”
That is 100% on brand. You know exactly what you are going to get when you go to AlternativeNation.net.
MetalSucks.net is a bit more confusing. Why? Because it’s a heavy metal news-themed website. You’d expect them to bash heavy metal, not extol it. Just keep it in mind when you are choosing a domain name.
Another thing to keep in mind when branding your music blog is getting some level of consistency with your domain name and social accounts. You will want them to match if possible. If not, once again you could add some modifiers.
Domain names and social account consistency
What you don’t want is to blog on ThrashMetalHistory.com and have @BobRocks61938 as your twitter handle. It’s just not consistent and your readers will find the change jarring. Do yourself a favor, when you decide on a domain name, research all of the social platforms you want to participate on to see if they have the name available.
Where to buy a domain name
We used Hover to purchase the domain name for this website. Though they are more expensive than some other options ($13 to acquire, $15 to renew), their service has been outstanding and their reputation seems to be solid.
Step Two: Choosing a platform to blog on
With so many options available, it can be hard to figure out where you should turn to. It also depends on your technical skill. Knowing some HTML will certainly help you to master web publishing and to create a successful blog.
For our purposes, let’s map ski trail difficulties to the effort of creating various blog types, starting with Green Circles as the easiest, all the way to the notorious Double Black Diamond (hardest).
Why? We love skiing. Especially Apres Ski.
Bunny Slope (Easiest): Medium
Creating an account on Medium.
As per the section above, Medium is a straightforward writing platform for authors. Create a Medium account.
Green Circle (Beginner): Blogger, Wordpress.com, Tumbler, etc.
You are comfortable uploading photos, writing posts, etc. on your social media platform of choice. Maybe you know a little about HTML, web publishing, or computers in general. Or perhaps you have made several posts on Medium and now want an upgrade.
If so, you will want plug-n-play options like:
These services and/or blogging engines will offer a bit more customization than Medium while retaining a lot of the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) friendliness that writing on Medium offers.
Pro-tip: you could use a service like Zapier to automatically save your data from blogging platforms like the ones above. Just a thought.
Blue Square (Intermediate): Basic self-hosted blogging
Ok, you’re starting to cook with gas now. Self-hosted blogging is one of the best ways to own and control your content, as well as the look, feel, and functionality of your music blog.
- Basic HTML website
- Wordpress (self-hosted)
Get a domain name, get some hosting, and start FTP’ing files like it’s 1995.
To be fair, the “basic website” is still a viable option for marketing, blogging, sales, and more. Blogging tools did make publishing easier, per se, but all they are doing is automating the process and templatizing some key essential parts like global navs, sidebars, widgets, etc.
HTML5 web templates
Who wants to start from scratch? I don’t.
Something like the Editorial template could go a long way toward making your music blog shine. Plus, it’s free.
Where? at HTML5 Up.
For advanced users and CSS fun, check out Tachyons.
Like many blogging engines, the advantage of using Wordpress over creating a basic website is the lack of repetition in page creation and copy and pasting you have to do. That’s really a quick summary for what Wordpress does, it automates all of the obnoxious parts of manually building a website and allows you to focus on the content creation.
Now, the fun part.
Wordpress is famous for its 5-minute installation. Yes, I have struggled with it too, don’t give up. Messing around with a Wordpress install is a right of passage for anyone in web publishing. The gist of it is as follows:
- Download Wordpress
- Create a Database and a User on your web server (the hosting you chose)
- Upload Wordpress files onto the root directory of your web server
- Visit your domain (ThrashMetalHistory.com)
- Start writing!
But to be sure, you should follow the real Wordpress installation instructions.
Note: Having a test server and setting up fancy local environments is beyond the scope of the article.
The way I see it, you have three options and three options only.
- Use a Wordpress or Automattic (WP creators) backed theme.
- Buy a reputable theme from a seller like Array Themes
- Build your own
Do not go down the rabbit hole of random free Wordpress themes. It is just not worth your time. Even purchasing some random themes can totally bust apart your blog.
Wordpress plugins for your music blog
- Yoast SEO (free): Just a fantastic plugin for optimizing your site.
- Jetpack (free and paid): Opt for paid if you can spare the change if only for the daily automated backups, as eventually your WP site will get hacked. There are other worthwhile features as well.
You will need to move files onto your server (web hosting), so you will need a FTP program. Below is a list of paid and free options. I’ve used CyberDuck and FileZilla, but that was a few years ago.
As always, do your own research.
Text Editors and other IDEs
Text editors are an essential part of creating websites and these are highly recommended and free. Experiment with them and go with what you like.
Don’t be a cool kid and use TextEdit or NotePad or whatever is built in on your computer, it’s lacks features and development speed.
As a bonus, you will want to grab Emmet for enhanced capabilities like advanced selection and code wrapping features, markup expansion, and more. I know Atom has a package for it, and I assume the other two do as well.
This is the point where all of the other “How to create a blog” sites out there recommend BlueHost to you. We won’t.
Why? It’s not because they care about you, it’s because they make a ton of money doing it. Do your research and choose the best hosting provider for you. If it’s BlueHost, then great. But, I think you can do better for the money-to-quality ratio.
Here is what we do.
Hosting a basic website
If you’re going for a basic, plain HTML website, use Netlify.
Not only is it free, but it optimizes your files, gives you access to forms, and automates the HTTPS process. I can’t recommend using them enough.
It’s been a revelation.
Hosting a wordpress blog
The original version of PantsandFizz.com used a combination of Digital Ocean and ServerPilot. It worked really well and is certainly a good choice for those experienced enough to set it all up. Here are some options:
- Digital Ocean & ServerPilot - What we used originally. Would go back to it if there was a compelling reason. Good experience.
- WPEngine - Managed hosting. Have heard good things.
- FlyWheel - Managed hosting. Tried this on another site and it seemed decent. Didn’t stick around long enough with that music blog to get in-depth.
Note: Perhaps it was a lack of knowledge or experience, but getting the SSL certificate for Digital Ocean hosting was a pain. ServerPilot made it easier for about $5/mo. - just something to keep in mind if you go that route.
Benefits of self-hosted publishing
Blogging services, social media networks, and web services go out of style or shut down frequently. What happens to all of the content you spent hours and hours writing? It’s gone and lost forever in some cases.
Black Diamond (Advanced):
For web developers, content strategists, and DIY power users, the options are unlimited. You could have full stack custom CMS setups, static site generators (Jekyll, Hexo, etc.), or bespoke hybrids like Craft CMS or Statamic.
Tools to check out:
- Drupal: Free. Open source. Rich ecosystem like Wordpress.
- Jekyll: Free. OG static-site generator. Better supported than Hugo, Hexo, etc.
- Hugo: Free. Faster than Jekyll.
- Craft: $300 (+60 annually). Multi-site, image editing, custom fields, and a plugin store.
- Statamic: $200. Comes built in with a lot of WP options you have to pay for like backups, security, forms, custom fields, caching, etc.
Why use a custom CMS or static-site generator?
Customization, performance, and a whole host of other reasons. Essentially, the flexibility and control to present content in new and unique ways is too good to pass up. This is especially true if you have a well-monetized blog.
No more #Wordpress— Pants and Fizz (@PantsAndFizz) July 30, 2018
Updated our site using @GoHugoIO and @Netlify. Improved our:
✔️ #webperf (a ton)
Blog post to follow on how to start your own music blog (with custom Hugo theme)#MondayMotivationhttps://t.co/wUanaqSDD7
This website runs on Hugo, a static site generator, and we are using a combination of Github and Netlify to host and deploy the site. Netlify is really slick and offers an easy way to set up a certificate to get your site running on HTTPS, a must with Google’s new “unsecured site” warning.
Note: A fair share of your potential readers will turn away after seeing that message.
If you got the chops and you’re interested, setting up a site with Hugo on Netlify could be quite the boon for your music blog. Even more, you can use Forestry to make everything even easier with Hugo.
Double Black (Expert):
At this stage, we are talking about Vox Media products like Chorus and such. This is well beyond the solo developer and if you are at that point, you don’t need to be here.
Step Three: Setting up email and social accounts
There are many ways to go about doing this. We personally advocate for having an email address with your custom domain name. This goes hand in hand with the consistency between domain name and social accounts.
For example, which email address would your readers assume to be you?
Hint: The answer is Number 1.
You will want to have everything lined up with ThrashMetalHistory, from your domain name and email address, all the way through your social accounts. Essentially, a user going to all of these sites should get to you, the Thrash Metal Buff.
twitter.com/ThrashMetalHistory facebook.com/ThrashMetalHistory instagram.com/ThrashMetalHistory
And so on. It’s just good branding.
Note: I just checked, someone has facebook.com/thrashmetalhistory - that’s why you need to do the research
What to do if social accounts aren’t available
Remember, do all of your research ahead of time. This will prevent issues down the line. If you really love a domain, but there aren’t exact matches, that’s ok, you can work around it.
Here is what I would do if I found myself in that position. I would modify my handle in some way, shape, or form. My website would be ThrashMetalHistory.com, but maybe my twitter handle is @ThrashMetalHistorian - or - @HistoryOfThrashMetal.
That way, you are keeping with the spirit of your brand and still linking direct ties to it.
I can stress it enough that you don’t want a clean break, as in the case of @BobRocks61938.
Can I use my own personal social account(s) to promote my music blog
Yes. That is the exception to the rule. If your name really is Bob Rocks, then go for it.
Feel free to use your social accounts to promote and grow your music blog. I’m sure your inner circles already know that you like Thrash Metal, and for that matter, they probably like Thrash Metal too and will find your music site entertaining and worthwhile.
Step Four: Growing your music blog via email, SEO, and links
So, you’ve got your music blog set up and maintained, what is next?
The answer is growth. You can grow your blog in many ways, the most reliable being search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization: keyword research, backlinks, and the wiki strategy
Learning SEO is worth your time if you are even the slightest bit interested in growing your music blog. Strategies include on-page optimization, ranking for long-tail keywords, setting up a robust internal structure, amongst others.
Keyword research for your music niche
You will want to discover low difficulty keyword opportunities to help you rank. As I’ve said, one core focus of our website is on nostalgic 80s and 90s alternative rock, grunge, and hair metal bands and music.
Beyond being music that Pants and I love, it is low difficulty to rank for. As such, we are slowly climbing the ladder for music search terms like “Iron Eagle Soundtrack (top of page 2)” and “Rocky 4 Soundtrack Songs (also top of page 2)” without any backlinks, just because we wrote content that matches the searcher’s intent.
Pro-tip: type your term into Google’s search box and see what “People Also Ask” questions pop up
Once we break into page one, our readers should pick up increasingly as we climb up the page. At that point, we will need to acquire more backlinks.
One benefit of being more visible is more people willing to share your content (assumably). It’s all one big cycle.
Keyword Research tools to use
- Google Keyword Planner: a free tool from Google
- Ahrefs: great for keyword research, if a bit expensive
- SEMRush: a paid tool for competitive insight that’s semi-expensive
Acquiring backlinks to your blog
Real simple, you need people to link to your site in order to establish trust in the eyes of Google. Backlinks to your website signal value to Google’s algorithm and will raise you in the SERPs accordingly. Of course, a handful of backlinks won’t help bad content rank significantly higher.
Good content will (hopefully) get linked to as it gets found via your SEO efforts, your Social Promotion strategy, and your ability to marketing your niche music blog.
Nat Eliason’s Wiki Strategy
Author, Marketer, and Tea aficionado, Nat Eliason, lays out a SEO technique called The Wiki Strategy that has helped him grow several blogs to 100k+ monthly visitors. The core principles of the Wiki Strategy are such:
- Write the best content online.
- Don’t make readers leave.
- Be keyword informed but not driven.
- Get other people involved.
- And make sure you’re doing good sourcing.
In terms of your music blog, that could mean that in order to write the best country music concert reviews, you will need to write about the artist, their albums, and their songs first. That way, you can link back to those things to help bolster your concert review.
Signing up for your email newsletter
If you’re interested in future monetization, than acquiring email subscribers should be a major focus for you. Sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter can gently, if done at the correct cadence, remind readers to read new material you’ve written, or to revisit old articles that they enjoyed previously.
If you’re creating a music blog for the sole purpose of releasing and promoting your own music, then your email list is your best opportunity to create sales. A reader giving your their email address has strongly signaled their interest and given you their attention. Do not waste it by being needy (and spamming them is NOT cool either).
A service like Mailchimp will let you get started on the cheap. If you want to go next level, perhaps something like ConvertKit might work.
Bonus: Adding value to your music blog via podcasting
How do you add even more value to your readers/users? One way to add some value is to start a podcast. Podcasting is great for music blogs, it brings a level of not only authenticity, but interest to the music blog reader that articles alone can’t convey.
A lofty goal for the PantsandFizz website is to create a radio show via podcast. If you return in the future, you may hear our sultry baritones exclaiming that The Singles Soundtrack is most triumphant, or that Sebastian Bach of Skid Row really kicks ass.
Tools to create your podcast
You can opt for an all-in-one platform, or, you can record, mix, and edit the audio yourself. It is really about your comfort and technical know-how.
Step Five: Promoting your blog
If knowing your audience is paramount to building a blog, then being where your audience comes next. Think about the demographics of each social platform and join the one(s) that make the most sense to be on.
For example, 30-60 year olds are the target age for grunge and hair metal, so we should probably focus on Facebook as it skews a bit older.
If you’re into what “the kids” are into these days, then you want to be Instagram and other platforms that skew toward a younger audience.
Promotions and Giveaways
One strategy for acquiring new readers would be to follow terrestrial radio’s path and give items of value to your listeners/readers:
- Concert tix
- Vinyl Records
- VIP access to events
To be honest, it helps if you have monetized your blog, otherwise the promotions budget will eat into your own wallet - which is fine if you have a clear path toward the success that you want and a few dollars is the only thing standing in the way.
Step Six: Ways to monetize a music blog
This won’t be comprehensive, but there are definitely ways to make money from a music blog.
Some things that come to mind are:
- Affiliate album sales (Amazon, etc.)
- Selling merch (T-shirts, stickers, etc.) to your readers
- Selling concert tix
Can blogging be my job?
Sure, if you’ve monetized it. Beyond that, you can acquire some great copywriting experience and establish writing credentials, enough to acquire a writing gig elsewhere. Maybe you could end up working for your favorite large music blog like Pitchfork.
Who knows. Who knows.
Feel free to reach out to the email address below if you have any questions. Thanks for reading.