All the good domain names are taken. At least it seems that way sometimes, but you can still choose a domain name that rocks for your band, or any other purpose, if you just put a bit of thought into it, and follow these simple guidelines.
If you’re wondering why you should register a domain name, and not just use a free website service, be sure to read the previous article I wrote, 5 Reasons you should own your own domain name.
OK, now that you’re convinced, let’s get started.
I’m going to assume we’re working with a band, or musical artist, but even if that isn’t the case, these steps would still apply.
The basics of choosing a domain name
Our goal is to choose a domain name that rocks, will be easy to remember, easy to type in, and readily recognized as yours. With that in mind, here are a few ground rules.
Keep it short: domain name length
Because of technical issues involved, your domain name must contain at least 3, and no more than 63 characters (excluding the .com). Try to stay on the shorter side of the allowable range. Trustmeyoudonotwantadomainnamethatlongoritwillprovetoolongtouse.
When developing your domain name, be aware that the only accepted characters are letters, numbers from 0 to 9, and -. And my advice is to avoid the numbers and dashes if possible. It is best to simply stay with letters, as this is much easier to communicate to someone. If you include a number then you have to specify “the numeral 9” or “a small hyphen (dash) symbol”. That is just awkward, especially if you are announcing something from stage. And people will have a much harder time remembering these special instructions. Keep it simple and stick with letters.
The only time I suggest a hyphen be used in a domain name is when it becomes necessary to prevent confusion, or head off mockery. Say you were registering a domain name for a website to help people find a therapist near them. You’ve come up with the perfect name, “Therapist Finder”. Now stick that in a .com and it becomes therapistfinder.com, which is a totally different service! So in that case, if you are absolutely sold on the name, you’ll need a hyphen, therapist-finder.com. In all other cases, avoid hyphens.
Easy to spell
Numbers and hyphens aren’t the only difficulties you should avoid. Complicated spellings are troublesome as well. Try to make it as easy as possible on your fans and internet visitors, by avoiding things that would be difficult to spell, or confusing. Does that have one l or two ll’s? Is that “Sarah” with an h or “Sara” without an h? You see my point? Also, any word people aren’t likely to know how to spell easily.
.com still rules
Now we come to the hard part. You need to choose a domain extension. There are a lot of choices these days, but .com is still the best choice.
If you are not in the United States and only intend to play and market your music locally, within your country of origin, then feel free to ignore the .com advice and go with your own country’s extension. But you have any plans to tour in the US, or just outside your own country, it would be worth snagging the .com extension.
You can always do both. Use your country specific domain extension and the .com extension. In a future article we’ll discuss domain routing and I’ll tell you how to aim them both at the same website, so that either of them will send a reader to your page.
Avoid extensions like .net as an alternative to .com. You’ll be better off to come up with a new domain name and not use a lesser extension. No one is going to assume your website is found at yourbandname.net. They’ll look at yourrockingbandname.com by default. And you’ll always be explaining it from stage and in conversation at the merch table.
The only exceptions I might allow for this are if you must have a particular name that is unavailable at .com, under some circumstances it may work to use .band or .rocks, but I would think long and hard about that. People won’t look there by instinct, but it will be easier to communicate than .net and more memorable.
Choosing your domain name
This is where it can get difficult. Hopefully it won’t, but it can. If the name you want is too common, there is a good chance it will already be taken and you’ll have to choose a different domain name, which is not always easy. Don’t go search for your name just yet though! Have a little patience. Previously, I shared why you shouldn’t start searching online for your domain name until you’re ready to buy it. So let’s come up with some ideas on paper before we do anything online.
Your band name = your domain name
The first choice is obvious. Whenever possible, your band name and your domain name should match. It’s that simple, and it’s OK to break some of the above rules in this regard. If your band name has a number or a hyphen, and your fans all know this and it’s obvious, then go ahead and use it in your domain name.
A good example of a band name being the domain name is the Lonesome River Band. If you had to guess their domain name, you’d be right to guess lonesomeriverband.com. It’s a great band, with an exact matching domain name.
Shortening the name
But what happens when you can’t get your name exactly, either because it would be too lone and cumbersome, or because it’s already taken for some reason? Now it’s time to get creative!
First, try shortening the name by dropping a non-essential word or by using initials. One example of this is the band 5 Seconds of Summer. Their website is found at 5sos.com. They use the abbreviated form in much of their marketing as well, so it makes sense. It forms a memorable acronym. And it is a good example of breaking the rule about using numbers in the domain name.
Adding to the name
Another option is to add a prefix or suffix to your band name to create a usable domain name. You’ve got a couple of choices here, but make sure that whatever you do makes sense. Don’t add something that just doesn’t belong. Add something that serves as a keyword and will help people find you on google. If you were looking for your band online, visited the yourrockingbandname.com and it wasn’t your band, what would you search for in google to find it?
One obvious, but effective suffix to add is the word “band”. If band is not already in the name, it becomes an obvious choice and one of the first things someone would think to add when searching. A great example of this is the band Blue Highway. Their domain name is bluehighwayband.com, a perfect choice.
If your band is part of a somewhat niche market genre, then you may want to try adding the genre name as a suffix. The bluegrass band Detour was not going to get detour.com, it was long gone. They made a good choice when they registered detourbluegrass.com instead.
If you’re a solo artist and can’t get yourname.com, a good alternative is to add the instrument you play (if that is what you’re known for) to the end of your name. Guitarist Tim Stafford faced this choice, but it makes perfect sense for him to found online at timstaffordguitar.com.
Another way to approach it is to get creative with your domain name. If you do this, you’ve got to make sure it “works” in people’s minds. It will do you no good to get creative if others think it is cheesy, awkward, or in poor taste. But it’s not a bad option if you pull it off. Guitar instructor Tony Watt needed some way to differentiate himself from all the other Tony Watt’s online, so he became theoriginaltonywatt.com, which works splendidly. It’s memorable, wryly humorous, and just bold enough that you just have to check it out.
Whatever choice you make with any of these options, just make sure you put enough separation between yourself and any pre-existing websites, that the teeming hoards looking for your band won’t become confused. You don’t want to send them to someone else’s site by mistake, so make sure your domain name is unique. Don’t just be a singular, or plural, or alternate spelling of someone else’s name.
Get it on paper
So spend some time with these ideas and create a list of your top five choices for a domain name. In my next article I’ll help you get online and register your domain name.