The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins for Musicians
WordPress has become one of the web’s dominant web site design and content management systems. Freely available, widely supported, easily extendable, and entirely web-based, more than 70 million web sites use it (including this site). Originally created for blogging, WordPress is now far more than a blogging platform, and it can be used for nearly any type of site across the web.
This article isn’t meant to be a primer on WordPress. If you’re new to the platform, you may want to visit the home pages at WordPress.org and WordPress.com (the former is for those who’d like to host it themselves, the latter for those who would like it hosted for them; further advice here). But if you’re already up and running with WordPress, there’s a nice group of plug-ins that are of special interest to musicians, bands, and artists. All the plug-ins mentioned on this page are free.
MANAGING TOUR DATES
ConcertPress: An events management plugin specifically designed for classical musicians.
Event Organiser: Create and maintain events, including complex reoccurring patterns, venue management (with Google maps), calendars and customisable event lists.
Events Manager: Fully featured event registration management including recurring events, locations management, calendar, Google map integration, and booking management.
Gigs Calendar: This plugin is geared toward bands and musicians to manage and display a calendar of their gigs within WordPress. It’s meant to be as easy as possible for both the musician and the fan. It even manages venue data complete with mapping and ticket links.
GigPress: GigPress is a powerful live performance listing and management plugin designed for musicians and other performers. Manage all of your upcoming and past performances right from within the WordPress admin, and display them on your site using simple shortcodes, PHP template tags, or the GigPress widget on your WordPress-powered website.
PLAYING MUSIC ON THE SITE
Degradeable HTML5 Audio and Video: Shortcodes for HTML5 video and audio, with auto-inserted links to alternative file types, and fallback options. (I highly recommend using an HTML5-compatible audio and video player.)
HTML5 MP3 Player with Folder Feedburner Playlist: WordPress and standalone HTML5 MP3 Music Player with Playlist for MP3 Folder URL or Feedburner XML.
Here’s an older link to 14 Free Music Player Plugins for WordPress. I would personally recommend sticking to HTML5 players and not Flash ones, in order to insure maximum compatibility and accessibility.
NextGen Gallery: NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a slideshow option.
SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION
It goes without saying that it’s wise to have Facebook Like buttons, Tweet This buttons, and Google Plus icons on each page of unique content of the site. Numerous plug-ins already offer that in various configurations. Beyond that, here’s some plug-ins that offer unique additional capabilities:
Facebook: The new, official plug-in from Facebook.com that allows all kinds of Facebook integration. (Note: I highly discourage the use of the other popular plug-in called Facebook Comments for WordPress, which is older, and has been abandoned by its author after an outcry of dissatisfied users.)
LifeStream: Lifestream displays your social feeds and photos much like you would see it on many of the social networking sites.
Tweet2Download: Tweet2Download allows you to require a tweet and a follow in exchange for a download.
Here’s a very helpful and definitive article from Smashing Magazine on How to Integrate Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ in WordPress.
Blubrry: Blubrry PowerPress brings the essential features for podcasting to WordPress including full iTunes support, web audio/video media players and more.
PodPress: PodPress lets you host audio files, then output a podcast feed and manage the stream from the WordPress admin area.
Chords and Lyrics: This plugin assists in the creation of staffless lead sheets, also called chord sheets.
Easyfileshop: If you’d like to sell files directly (for example, offering a ZIP file of your album), this is one of the very easiest ways to do it. It lets visitors buy using PayPal and receive an instant download link to the file they’ve purchased.
Easy Digital Downloads: Similar to EasyFileShop (above), this makes it easy to sell digital downloads from your site.
Instant Band Site by Nimbit: Easily create a complete artist-band website with fan signup, gig listings, storefront and more.
Music Affiliate Pro: Search and insert affiliate links for music in seconds. Works with major digital music outlets like iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify, and eMusic.
Music Store: Music Store is an online store for selling audio files: music, speeches, narratives, everything audio.
Sell Digital Downloads: All in one WordPress plugin for selling digital downloads. It allows you to sell digital downloads via PayPal and manage orders from WP dashboard.
WP Artists: WP Artists Lite is a music solution for WordPress. Perfect for a band or label directory website.
NON-MUSIC PLUG-INS THAT EVERYONE SHOULD USE
Finally, here’s a quick list of plug-ins that, while not music-specific, I highly recommended for all WordPress sites: Broken Link Checker (automatically scans your site periodically and e-mails you if any links are broken), Google XML Sitemaps (lets Google know about everything on your site), W3 Total Cache (speeds up your entire site by caching it), WP-DBManager (manages your database and allows you to back it up), and Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (intelligently chooses related posts to display at the bottom of the current post – always give your visitors something else to read if the current page hasn’t whetted their appetite!).
There are uncountable numbers of WordPress resources on the web, but just to list a few of my favorites, visit Smashing Magazine’s WordPress section, SixRevisions’ WordPress section, and Webdesigner Depot’s WordPress section. If you’d like to delve deeper into WordPress for musicians via a webinar, check out the Music Marketing Webinar hosted by my friends Michael Brandvold and Brian Thompson. Also check out my article The Entrepreneurial Guide to Being a Musician in the 21st Century, which contains numerous ideas on promotions, marketing, and more.
I haven’t touched on WordPress themes in this article. There are hundreds of WordPress theme developers out there and the quality of design, browser compatibility, and support varies widely. I did, however, come across an interesting developer named Foxhound that has three interesting premium themes specifically for bands, and here’s a ManageWP article with links to a few more.