Beatcrazy

You're a local band looking for gigs, trying to sell records, and generally taking advantage of every opportunity to be seen and heard. You've taped fliers to telephone poles, offered your CD to various record stores, and called every club in town.

There's certainly no substitution for hard work, but in the Information Age, more and more local bands are discovering that the Web -- arguably the cheapest, farthest-reaching publicity network in existence -- is an ideal way to spread the word about who they are and what they do.

Building and maintaining a Website isn't quite as simple as Xeroxing a flier or printing up a sticker. There's nothing more frustrating than a slow-loading, partially functioning, or out-of-date site. And it's disappointing to type in a band's Web address -- such as www.gate.net/~noizboiz, for the Latin band Puya -- only to get the "File Not Found" message.

Broward County blues-rockers the Livesays maintain a bare-bones site at www.digitalstreet.com/livesays, but it offers all the necessary information: a band biography, a list of upcoming shows, and audio samples of the band's music.

"It's the budget Website," admits Billy Livesay, the band's frontman. "It was made by our drummer, and it's just something to get us started so that we could have some advertising on the Internet." The Livesays were lucky to have a Web-savvy band member; many Web designers charge as much as $600 to build a site.

One thing Livesay wants to improve on the site is the way in which audio samples are downloaded. Currently, visitors must download an audio file and then play it using a Real Audio player (which also has to be downloaded if it hasn't already been). A faster method is using what are known as "plug-ins," which load and play the songs with one click of the mouse.

The Pompano Beach grunge outfit the Bus is one of many bands using plug-ins. It also deserves kudos for an easy-to-remember Web address, www.thebusweb.com, and for including a phone number on its site for potential booking agents, reviewers, and fans.

A good Website can serve as sales outlet (for CDs and merchandise), concert guide, and billboard. But it should also show a little personality. The Boca Raton rock band Damn the One uses its site, www.damntheone.com, to house audio clips of the members' pets. The Fort Lauderdale punk band Medicine Ball has a nice bit of animation featuring a circular saw blade at users.aksi.net/~dogg/medicineball. And those Broward County stalwarts the Shackdaddys have a site that incorporates everything from their music to an offbeat travel guide covering South Florida at www.neverglades.com. (Check out the photograph of the smallest post office in America.)

If you're paying for Internet access and e-mail, call up your provider: Your account probably comes with five megabytes of free server space, which is enough to build a decent-looking site.

"You still have to advertise in trade magazines and stuff, otherwise people aren't even going to find your site," notes Livesay. "But depending on who's looking, anything helps.

 
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