5 Reasons Band Websites Suck (and Some That Don’t)

by on 7th March 2010 with 64 Comments

This post began purely as a showcase of well-designed band websites. Naturally, to begin my search I opened up my iTunes library and Safari and began checking out the sites of the bands in my collection. What I discovered shocked me; nearly every site I came across was profoundly lackluster or altogether horrid. I’m at a loss as to why record companies, who spend countless dollars promoting their big money makers, seem to be incapable of finding web designers that match the remarkable talent of their artists.

At this point the nature of the article changed entirely. Due to the wealth of ugly sites to choose from, today we’ll examine some of the reasons I think the band website industry really needs to step up and make some major changes. We’ll conclude by analyzing some examples to follow if you want to create a band site that doesn’t suck.

Landing Pages

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The first annoying trend I noticed is that the world of band sites is positively overrun with landing pages. Many designers don’t even seem to have an idea for what exactly a landing page is for beyond a place to type “enter site.” The site above absolutely blew me away by creating not just one, but two landing pages for double the fun. Granted, the first one is an admittedly great piece of art but I just don’t see the point behind it, especially when used with yet another landing page.

Many artists use the landing page as a tool to announce a new album. This makes sense when partnered with a “new site coming soon” headline. However, when I see one of these pages completely themed for the new album serving as a gateway for old artwork that doesn’t remotely match, the visual disconnect is unpleasant and confusing.

Visual Clutter

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Many of the sites I came across suffered from severe MySpace syndrome. What I mean by this is that the designers have overloaded the pages with widgets and small bits of disparate information or resources. Rather than presenting a cohesive message with a clear hierarchy of information, your field of view is completely stuffed with individual elements competing for your attention. Youtube windows, social network links, fan club news and music players are crammed together to create a positively claustrophobic experience. Under these circumstances, your eyes can’t quite decide where to go next or what to focus on. Instead they bounce around from graphic to graphic searching for relevant information as to what it all means.

Good interface design makes it immediately evident what you’re looking at and how to get where you want to go. You shouldn’t have to consciously sift through clutter, instead you should read and comprehend the important information on the page almost by accident. As an example, the designers of the 3 Doors Down site above have merely created some quick columns to throw everything into. Very little thought was given towards how to actually design the space to accommodate all of the information while highlighting the most important elements.

Shoddy Workmanship

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Several band/solo artist sites seemed as if they were developed with time as a much higher priority than quality. Perhaps in the rush to just get something (anything) up, the developers were forced to take shortcuts and completely forgo browser testing.

Even if you can’t find developers with anything resembling a sense of good design, you should at the very least hire one who can actually write standards compliant, cross-browser code.

Complete Dependence on Flash

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This one could go either way. On the one hand, you would expect a band website to be quite media heavy. This makes Flash a natural inclusion. Further, Flash can genuinely increase the richness of the experience in ways that aren’t commonly achieved through other means. However, many band websites seem to be so completely dependent on Flash that you can’t even enter the site without it. If band website developers are intent on creating Flash-based sites, I would recommend exploring some ways to provide at least a scaled back experience to those users without the proper plugin installed.

Auto-Play Music Players

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Good Assumption: Chances are, if I’m visiting your site I either already like your music or am at least interested in hearing your music. Bad Assumption: I want you to blast your music through my speakers as soon as the page loads, thereby scaring me so badly that I spill my Mountain Dew all over my keyboard. Having a music player on your site is absolutely essential for bands. However, I strongly recommend giving your users more freedom over when they want to use the player. Consider coding the player’s default setting to “Off” and encouraging users to listen through a visual callout. This is much less forceful and unpleasantly surprising than the alternative.

Band/Artist Sites That Don’t Suck

Now that we’ve looked at a few complaints I have against band websites, let’s look at some sites that are actually pretty well done. Admittedly, even some of the sites below suffer from one or two of the complaints above, just not to the degree that it completely kills the usability or aesthetics of the entire site. Also, it seems to be a lot easier to find well-designed solo artist websites than band websites so forgive me if this section is slanted a bit in that direction.

John Mayer

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I breathed a sigh of relief when I found John Mayer’s site. Not only does it rank very well using the criteria above, it’s simply a good looking site. The key here is organization of information. The homepage is made up of clearly defined, cohesively designed areas that contain a clear hierarchy of information and are completely void of clutter. The site is riddled with great photography, attractive rotating banner areas and readable typography. Hats off to Magnetic for breaking the ugly band site trend!

Jamie Cullum

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To continue with the soloist trend, Jamie Cullum is another artist with a really great website. First of all, there are photographs of exploding pianos all over the site. If you don’t think that’s amazing, you just don’t understand quality photography. Other than that, the site is remarkably clean compared to the typically overloaded artist site trend. Again we see information that is organized in an attractive and very visual visual fashion. You aren’t bombarded with music automatically but if you want it, you can’t miss the giant play button in the header. Finally, the white background contrasts beautifully with the black footer making for a clear separation of the main content from the supporting links. You can thank the designers at UC48 for being another strong force in the death of ugly band websites.

KT Tunstall

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KT Tunstall’s site features some excellent custom comic book art from Robin Footitt. I absolutely love the half tone shading style of the artwork and the goofy overly dramatic characters. The primary navigation of the site is at the top to make the site easy to use, but each section of the comic book illustration also serves as a link to a specific area of the site. Completely unique and unmistakably not a MySpace page.

More Good Sites

Now that we’ve discussed what can be done to make a musical artist website that doesn’t suck, here’s a few more that more or less get the job done in a stylish and usable fashion.

Rocketclub

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Dave Matthews Band

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Zac Brown Band

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Collective Soul

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Third Eye Blind

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Robbie Seay Band

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Conclusion

Despite the handful of sites that break the mold, most band sites (signed or indie) simply aren’t as well-designed as they could be if they were put into the hands of the amazing artists and developers we feature on this site on a daily basis. I’ve said it a few times in this post already but I really think MySpace has ruined the image of what a band website should be. The cluttered module based layout is neither attractive or user-friendly and should be abandoned by the music world in favor of visual consistency and adherence to basic design principles.

Use the comments below to tell us who your favorite bands are and what you think of their websites. Also be sure to share any really great site design examples you find whether you like the band or not!

Comments & Discussion

64 Comments

Comments & Discussion

64 Comments

  1. max tsukino says:

    I would like to suggest two sites…

    one for the sucks list:

    http://www.u2.com

    is a band that I absolutely love and a website that I absolutely despise… useless landing page(s), visual clutter, not complete but still dependence of flash…

    one that i think should be the example to follow, not only the way it’s made but the way the content is managed:

    http://www.nin.com

  2. Masha says:

    Its true! I used to give my students a project where they had to re-design a band website. Many interesting challenges.
    Great post – particularly love that double splash page :D

  3. Every band site pre 2004 had a splash screen. My most hated of enemies.

    Nice post – bookmarked and shared.

    Cheers,

    Lee.

  4. Perki says:

    Awesome breakdown of a band website, i’m in the middle of redesigning my band’s website at the moment, and i’ve come across all of the points that you mention.

    The fact that a band can have some of the nicest artwork, intricate details and subtleties, but yet as soon as you look for them online, you’re faced with monstrous websites that contain bearly, if any of the information regarding that album, or if it does, its scattered throughout 20 different boxes thrown around a page.

    Thanks for the post, really good read!

  5. Dom says:

    Take a look at http://www.DepecheMode.com. Nice, clean, and easy to navigate. They have a lot of content, because of their massive back catalogue and history. But everything is easy to find and easy to get to. It’s evolved over more than a decade, and was nominated for an MTV award in 2001 (when it was nowhere near as good as it is now)

  6. Trevor says:

    Excellent post – great timing, for me. This week I’m going to be designing a couple of band’s websites, and It was nice to have a blog post addressing the ways that most band websites fail, and to know them so I can avoid them.

    Not that I would EVER put a double splash screen, that’s just ridiculous. Haha.

    Trevor

  7. I think that The Decemberist’s website is pretty amazing. Check it. http://www.decemberists.com/

  8. Roxi Copland says:

    Hey Joshua –

    I found your article tremendously helpful – I just released a new album and am in the middle of chats with my web designer about the importance of brand continuity – we’re working towards redesigns of all my social media sites to reflect the latter. Your examples of the good, bad & the ugly are fantastic, and I plan on using them to help clarify to my designer what I’m looking for. More web designers (and artists!) need to read this – I think I’ll go repost it on Twitter. Thanks, and cheers!

  9. sknob says:

    Hopefully, my band site doesn’t suck to badly ;)

  10. Nice Roundup. “Auto-Play Music Players” are really ‘Turn off Or On” because some it varies with the soundtrack. If Its a soothing or calm soundtrack it will make the visitor to stay on the page much longer and vice versa (From Statistics survey)

  11. John says:

    I agree with you that most of band websites really sucks in terms of design and usability. BUT, usually this is not the fault of the designer but the BIG BOSS’s desperate marketing to make more more sale. All they see and care about is $$$. They dont really care about design or aesthetics, usability…or sometimes even music if you know what I mean. =) Client’s or bosses tend to take to much control over the design even if you explain why your doing this or why your layout is clean. Sometimes they think if there is a large page left empty , that you have to fill that with ads or something… I think most of the beautiful or successful band websites are those clients who have given trust and full control over design to their web experts.

  12. ezra says:

    I am a pretty huge fan of http://www.andygridley.com, maybe a little too clean but looks to be thought out pretty well.

  13. Chris White says:

    Great post! I agree that many band websites just get too cluttered without a clear sense of content management.

    With that in mind, check out former KISS lead guitarist, Bruce Kulick’s, website at http://www.kulick.net . I think it’s design principals and content layout fall in line with the Good Band Website Design. Thoughts?

  14. Dan says:

    I like one of the local Connecticut cover band’s sites, http://www.rockdirty.com . It’s simple, but it conveys all the necessary info cleanly without annoying distractions.

  15. James Cotton says:

    “Bad Assumption: I want you to blast your music through my speakers as soon as the page loads, thereby scaring me so badly that I spill my Mountain Dew all over my keyboard. ”

    SO TRUE

  16. Nice article. There are a plethora of poorly designed band websites out there.

    Some of friends started a website where you can buy templates for your band website that don’t suck. They’re designed specifically for bands and come with a music player, tour dates, etc.

    http://bombplates.com

    DISCLAIMER: I’m not getting paid to nor was I asked to post this comment. I really think my friends have got something good going here. Hopefully we can clean up the internet, one band website at a time!

  17. Domagoj says:

    Totally agree with you, especially about the flash pages… flash can be so nicely integrated in pages, and still have them useful for non-flash viewers… but… seems to me flash usage went this way – we’re so damn cool, so if you dont have flash, we dont need you…hm?!:)
    Anyway, about band webpages… most of the bands are left to themselves with it, so either the band will pay for a website, or they will find an enthusiastic fan who will make it for them… unfortunately, record labels are not paying for bands websites AFAIK…
    And at the end, i like your music taste…!:)

  18. Bill says:

    Dave Matthews Band site has no visual clutter?

  19. Frankie says:

    This one really sucks. http://www.lennykravitz.com/
    Same people that made Jack Johnson’s site.

  20. Carson says:

    I really like these ones:
    coldwarkids.com
    chriscornell.com
    and i few more i can’t think of right off the bat here. good post tho.

  21. Thanks for all the feedback! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks band sites tend to suck. Also, thanks for sharing some good ones!

  22. Thanks for the positive feedback on the Robbie Seay Band website. We’ve been designing band sites for several years and aim for excellence in design and user interface. Glad to hear that you feel like we hit the target with RSB!

    Blackpulp Designs

  23. Paradox says:

    The band Röyksopp has a very good site, by any standard.

    Clean, clear, concise, simple music player, and prominent blog.

    http://royksopp.com

  24. Thanks for the insight. I have recently started getting into cd design and am hoping the websites will follow. This is a good pointer in the right direction.

  25. Nice post Josh. After reading this, I’ve noticed that a few of my favourite bands use landing pages — I’ve never really noticed before. Don’t get me wrong, the landing page is nicely designed, but does it really need to be there? The bands site is http://www.shallowbay.com/ by the way.

  26. Zack Smith says:

    I fully agree with what you’ve said; thanks for pointing these out for inspiration. Take a look at our latest, if you like (hope you enjoy it):

    http://thewallarecovery.com

  27. At Josh’s invitation, I’m throwing my band’s site into the mix. It’s not the greatest design, but it doesn’t violate any of the above 5 reasons. And it looks good on a cell phone: http://signalsfromsatellites.com/

  28. Gareth says:

    You can not get much better than this bands site: http://laserbeast.com/

  29. Perki says:

    And here is my bands new site… only put it live yesterday. Hope that it ticks all the boxes?

    http://pencilin.co.uk

    Would love some feedback if people wouldn’t mind?

  30. Eugen R. says:

    Flash is annoying, but done right it can be an amazing experience for a band website. Just check out the Johnny Hollow website ( http://www.johnnyhollowmusic.com/ ), their atmosphere is looking through every corner of it… The one who designed it must be a master of Flash, I daresay.

  31. Susan says:

    Great post; so dead on! Myspace has clearly ruined the music GUI. Hoping some of these bands/designers will take notice of your good examples. Thanks for posting!

  32. steve says:

    some buddies of ours just did a site, which is pretty cool. http://www.thegeese.ca. They are using this new tool called sayvee (www.sayvee.com) which seems pretty cool.

  33. Like Like Like
    My favorite is “Rocketclub”

  34. Max says:

    I would like a professional opinion on my bands website. Yikes! do I know what I’m asking? gees

  35. Duss Rodgers says:

    Great post! I think bands need to realize that their fans are really looking for information and not the flashy glitzy stuff. I also think that having an option to collect fan information is also key. Then they have the option to ask their fans what it is “they” want and accommodate what their fans like…

  36. Rishi Patel says:

    Here’s a website I designed for a band in Austin:

    http://www.bocaabajo.com

    I tried to keep it simple and clutter-free.

  37. Kathy Banta says:

    I’m at the beginning of creating my web page. I have a web builder in my family, but to connect art with good web writing doesn’t always go together. I am drawing and he is writing the code. Thank you for clarifying what the goal should be.

    Kathy

  38. Ryoga says:

    It’s funny because there are sites in the bad list that are on hold of a redesign process or have been already redesigned I guess this post started to make some serious buzz, that applies also to the comments section, even the Lenny Kravitz site is under construction now.

    although I don’t agree with some of the sites that were classified as “good” there are sites with a lot of clutter there.

  39. Kim Mer says:

    I really like some of the sites here, and great infomation you’ve got here. One site I found today was http://www.isettheseaonfire.co.uk , I hadn’t heard of the band but I just think there website works really well. :)

  40. Back 2D Lab says:

    It should be called sucky bands and their sites. Just our opinion : D Here’s a good site.

    http://www.rush.com/

  41. Some really good points raised here and some really good examples of good sites. I have a few band sites bookmarked as I have one or two I will hopefully be working on over the next few months.

    From my own experience I have found that sometimes it is the band that want everything going mad and music playing. They believe that is why the user is there. I have even argued if that is the case the used can just hit play and make the choice them selfs but only to be ignored. My previous boss was always of the opnion if thats what they want give it to them.

    Any hows, thanks for the great post.

  42. great post and great tips! I hate landing pages, generally they’re over-indulgent toss! Chances are i know there’s a bloody lp to promote otherwise i doubt i’d be there! let me get into the site before trying to sell me something! Perfectly correct about the myspace problem, it really looks hideous and sucks big time. no doubt the reason why myspace is slowly dying! why would i what to base my design on something old hat and confusing with no regard for my users sanity! Look forward to more posts. cheers

  43. Aaron says:

    Haha – gotta love those auto-playing audio players. Thanks for the post – very well thought out.

  44. Mom Blog says:

    My cousin has a band website that is exactly like the shoddy ones described above!

  45. Chicago Kids says:

    Nothing is worse than the auto-play when you open a website. I usually close out before I let the page finish loading.

  46. Yeah, the worst are the music auto-play ones, you immediately start looking for the mute button, or just hit back. It gets even worse on some of the auto-play sites, when you navigate to a different page on their site, and the auto-play song starts over again with each page load…

    Robbieseayband.com is listed as good, and it does look good, but they have auto-play turned on as well, with the abovementioned page and music reload problem :-D

    Tom

  47. Le Marquis says:

    What about the latest trend. Redirecting an Artists webpage to Myspace or Facebook. Seriously!!!

  48. Nico Boesten says:

    Thanks for your honesty in this. I thought you were actually quite kind to the “websites that suck”. A lot more you could have said but these basic tips are key. In my experience, it seems that cash (or the lack thereof) is a major problem and with the rise of DIY sites, a lot of people just don’t get it.

    Would love to know your thoughts on the best DIY websites out there…

  49. bill says:

    you listen to awful music

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