Creating a band site using Wordpress

The best plugins to use

My latest project was to redesign and build my band Chanabra a new website. Since then I've redesigned a bit, The information below is still useful, just don't use my site as an example!. We aren't particularly well known and don't have a large fan base (yet!) so we only really needed something simple that we could update with news and new songs. Myspace is dying, (yet we still have one) and I think having a standalone site looks much better.

Wordpress was the obvious tool to use, and as I have some experience in it, I thought it'd be a simple task. Nope.

Now I quite like Wordpress. Easy to set up, easy to configure, easy to theme. Finding decent plugins, however, total nightmare. No sorting function as far as I can tell, so you have to scroll through hundreds of plugins, each with a dubious rating, installing and uninstalling each one (with each plugin leaving a ridiculous amount of files behind). Needless to say my search for the best plugin was not a fun one.

Therefore, I thought I'd create this simple guide with a link to the plugins I've used. There may be better plugins out there, but I couldn't find them. Let me know in the comments if you did.

The Guide

Because this guide is mainly about the plugins, I'll be brief for the set up.

Go and download Wordpress, install it on your server, and apply a nice theme. I just modified the default twentyten theme slightly, as I didn't need anything fancy. See, brief.

Plugins

For a band site, you'll probably want somewhere to play your songs, a link to your twitter (and other social media maybe), a photo gallery, and an area for your gigs. I presumed Wordpress would have these plugins in abundance, and I was right. However, that means the market is saturated, and the quality is definitely lacking because of it.

MP3 Player: This wasn't actually too hard to find, and so I gave up after I found this flash mp3 player. Easy to configure, supports multiple playlists and has a decent admin area. The only things I don't like are the visual style of it (very default flash components), and I'd love the ability to count plays. Lacking these features, I know I'll end up making my own one day.

Twitter client: Again, this was quite easy as well as I'd previously used a plugin on a site I made last week. It's simply called Twitter for Wordpress, and allows you to show your tweets in a widget. Simple, and very easy to set up.

Gallery: This is where I found it tricky. There are so many gallery plugins on Wordpress, all doing slightly different things, and none of them doing it that well. I went through 5 before I found the aptly named Lazyest Gallery. It's easy(ish) to set up, can run off folders of images or uploaded images, and supports multiple levels in the gallery. My only concern was some of the styling, but after some css/php tweaks, it came out looking ok. It even includes a decent widget to display a random or specific image.

Gigs: I had previously used GigPress, but didn't really like it. Gig Calendar is much better in my opinion. You can add upcoming and previous gigs, add a calendar to specific page, and there is even a widget for your next gig.

Whilst not band related, I'd also recommend the maintenance mode plugin. Set yourself up a new 503.php in your theme folder, and active maintenance mode. Now, non logged in users will be directed to your 503.php, whilst you'll be allowed to browse the site as usual. Perfect for upgrading!

Other useful tools

During all of this, I did check out Nimbit. However, I couldn't get their MP3 player to work (all I could get were lovely xml errors), and some of the features I wanted were hidden behind a premium membership. I think they may be useful if you want to sell your music and have some money, but if you want to do all of this for free, I'd avoid.

Another site to checkout if Wordpress scares you or you don't have much experience in web development is get-ctrl. Don't let the ridiculously large font size put you off, they seem to offer a great free deal to artists.

So that's my brief guide. I hope it helps, and if there is anything I have missed/got wrong, please, let me know in the comments!

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