We’re delighted to have worked with the North Wales based band Jackson Williams to develop a new website for them to tell the world about their lovely brand of original folk and Americana.

They already had a website, but had been focusing more on social media, and wanted to revamp their web presence, and overall strategy, going forward.

Introducing JWsongs.co.uk

JWSongs.co.uk screenshot
Jwsongs.co.uk (mobile view)

The new site was built using GeneratePress, and is my first site built with this framework. I’ve been using Genesis for years but since they got bought out, most long term Genesis users would probably agree, it’s gone downhill. To be fair, the WordPress landscape has evolved a lot since the Gutenberg Block editor came along, and so frameworks like GeneratePress are now thriving.

Using the Premium version of GP, I started out with one of the sample one-page sites, to create a quick and simple home page for Jackson Williams.

Fortunately, they already had some high quality images thanks to local photographer, Bob Machin of Bob’s Rocking Snaps. I added a blog section, creating a blog post template using Generatepress Elements. I also created content templates for the single posts and pages, and made a new footer. I loved the way you can include or exclude template parts on various post types / pages, and link into hooks too, to affect various positions within the page structure. It’s a really powerful combination.

What else did this site include?

The home page includes some embedded content from Bandcamp, showing latest releases, information about upcoming gigs, a bio section, photo gallery, mailing list sign up form and social media links. I also added a simple contact page.

GTMetrix scores – out of the box, with no specific time spent optimising, it scored very highly.

GT Metrix score for JWSongs.co.uk
Out-of-the-box score from GTMetrix

The site is hosted on fast Litespeed hosting from Guru, which is just incredible.
So, so glad to have switched away from Tsohost.

Do you still need a mailing list, in 2023? (and why you shouldn’t just pin all your digital dreams on a facebook page)

I would argue, most definitely! It may depend a little on the demographic of your audience, but in this case, I don’t think Jackson Williams’ audience have abandoned email in favour of TikTwit just yet.

Most bands, indeed a lot of businesses these days tend to focus on a Facebook page. They’re easy to create, and it’s convenient to quickly share little updates. The problem is the reach, which means that only a small portion of your followers will see your posts, and perhaps even more significantly, the ephemeral nature of social media in general. It’s here today, and gone tomorrow. Literally, you put all that effort into social media posts and have a one or two day window in which they might be seen. There’s only so long you can sacrifice yourself on that particular hamster wheel of constant content creation.

The problem with Facebook in particular is compounded by the need, over time, to invest money just to reach the people who already opted in to follow you. Let’s not be naive about it, Facebook just wants your money.

facebook meme

A mailing list is a direct connection with your customers and can lead to much higher levels of engagement and sales, if nurtured well.

With this in mind, I created a few sign up forms to integrate their mailchimp account into the website. Some of the forms are generic, and appear beneath each blog post. Some however, are specific to offers on the site, and the form is set up to tag those subscribers with keywords which allows them to be sent specific follow-up emails later.

Here’s the scenario – Skeet, the guitar player in the band, offers some free Travis Picking tutorials which are of interest to musicians, but possibly not to fans who don’t actually play the guitar. So it would be irrelevant for him to send Tutorial emails to those fans. He therefore needs a way to filter, or segment his audience so that he can send targeted emails to the right group of subscribers.

Travis picking guitar lesson

I created some custom sign up forms for inclusion on relevant pages, and made it so that the generic form (which is normally shown below each blog post) is NOT shown on those pages, to avoid confusion.

Ideas for the future

If the site were mine, I’d certainly consider implementing the following:

  • I would want a dynamic system on the front page to show the gig information. Presently, this info has to be updated manually. I could create a custom post type to make it really quick and simple to update new gig info to the site, and have this pulled into the front page dynamically. It would be a big time saver.
  • Developing an ecommerce store for merch sales, with options to include discount codes for mailing list subscribers. Running your own merch store eliminates those profit sucking fees. Totally depends on what you’re selling and how it’s produced though. Sometimes a more hands-off approach for a smaller cut is worth it, if it frees up your time.
  • Consider how best to support priority events coming up – individual gigs, music releases etc. There are lots of ways to draw attention to important things you want to promote, right across the site, and throughout an overall strategy. E.g. top/bottom bars and even pop-ups (sometimes!)
  • Mail list automations / sequences. These are essential, in my experience. Create an incentive for someone to want to sign up to the mailing list, then send them a sequence of nurturing emails to help build the relationship, giving value along the way. Later, when you’ve got something to launch, you’ll have a group of engaged folks who love what you do, eager to support you to keep doing it.

In the absence of time/expertise/funding, it’s imperative to just keep creating content and seeing what works. My biggest blogging successes were often complete surprises to me, and things that I was sure would be a winner, were often a flop. You can’t always tell, so just keep doing your thing and see what sticks.

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