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March 2008                ArchiveAdsSubmissions Links          Online Edition #3

Barbershop Websites

Using a chorus member provides easier access to the webmaster but not always more reliable website maintenance.  In either case having two webmasters with at least one from your group as maintenance backup might be helpful. 

If thinking of using a chorus member as webmaster their level of expertise will be a big part in determining the website features.  For just a Contact page a simple documents program can be used.  Most computer users are familiar with document programs like Microsoft Word which may already be available on their system.  Word is not only good for composing letters but for flyers as well, just like in a Contact page. It's saved as an html file for a web page instead of doc file as a printable document. 
The Calendar page level can be added in the same way and Word can produce web links connecting the two pages.  Some sites also combine the two pages on one. 
If your using a group member for a webmaster then going much beyond the Contact and Calendar pages they will need to be VERY computer savvy and prepared for the steep learning curve and time.  I have to say when I made the leap from simple blogging to webmaster it was a lot of work but rewarding.  The exposure it has provided the group and access to the public has proven to be a significant contribution.  Many of these features do require considerable maintenance, updates, and time.  A photo album can be very time consuming so if this duty can be split between the group's webmaster and a photographer that would be helpful but in my experience they are often the same person. 

4. Server.  The IP/ISP (Internet Service Provider) is the company you use to get online using your cable tv lines, phone lines, or some area wireless provider.  But a SERVER is the company that hosts your website, allowing internet users to access your website online which is stored on the server's own computer system. 
Many chapters and quartets are using the server It's a fairly basic setup with a few feature limitations.  It's generously provided for free to any barbershop music group by Steve DiNino from the 2002 Silver Medalist quartet Uptown Sound out of Ohio. 
For a server with additional services like email, running of certain software for music or forms, and to pick or reuse your own domain name recommends Virtual Creations, "A web development and hosting company run by Mark Virtue, a Barbershopper singing with Sydney Harmony and Ignition quartet, and provides commercial hosting solutions for many Barbershop groups."  I believe Virtual Creations' prices start around $60 per year.

Our chorus website is using the server  The cost is $70 a year and comes with many usefull features but their tech support right now is spotty at best. 
The Pioneer District website and online Troubadour publication are using server space donated by Matthew Tipton, the Pioneer District Director of Music & Performance, lead with Macomb County Chapter's Guardians of Harmony Chorus and the quartet Border Crossing.
The Pioneer District website was designed and is managed by District Webmaster Steve Sutherland, Musical Director of the Detroit-Oakland Gentlemen Songsters and baritone for the quartet Night Shift.

5. Domain Name.  This is your web address, your url, what you type into your browser to get to the website, like for the PioD website.  Many server websites have a search feature allowing you to type in a domain name you would like and it will tell you if it's available. 

Troubadour Logo

Getting Your Group Online
(click image for website)

by Editor Michael Baribeau
For fun I was blogging our chapter, posting photos and reports about our rehearsals and shows.  Like most blogs it had very little traffic and was mostly just my personal barbershop music log, weblog, blog.  Then I was approached by my Grand Rapids Chapter and now we have a new official website for the Great Lakes Chorus and there's even an online version of the Pioneer District's publication of the Troubadour (nicknamed e-Troub). 

OK, so that sounds cool but what good is it, would you want it, and how would you get it? 
1. Audience
2. Features
3. Webmaster
4. Server
5. Domain Name
6. Software
7. Web design

1. Audience.  Who's your audience and what do you want to accomplish?  For the internet if your looking just to keep members updated then email or an email newsgroup will work well and is free.  The Grand Rapids Chapter has all the member email addresses on a Yahoo newsgroup with weekly automated rehearsal reminders and the rehearsal report Chorus Notes by Chorus Manager John Trestrail.  But if you want to put a shingle out for the cyberspace public to see for learning about your group and activities then you want a website.
2.  Features.  There are several levels of online presence.  I've made up these distinctions but they seem to encompass what you will generally see. 
a. Contact Page.  the most basic website is just a Contact page with your group's photo, location, and contact info.  It requires very little expertise or maintenance.  But it's usefulness and traffic is limited.  A visitor might view it only once and not return.  It's essentially an online flyer.  
b. Plus Event's Calendar.  Next level is a site that also provides an Events Calendar.  It can either have just a simple list of scheduled performances for the year or a little trickier using software with some kind of calendar like pages.  This requires some maintenance for updating events.  It gets a little more repeat visit traffic by fans tracking upcoming performances and audiences confirming show times. 
c. Plus Public Relations.  A full blown website with multiple pages like the group's history, a page about the group, a page how to join, a newsletter, etc.  By including current photos, audio, and video clips this encourages visitors to explore the site.  This gives prospective members, audiences, and clients a more complete picture of your group.  Plus it's a nice morale boost for member's able to see photos of their recent shows and share with family and friends.  This means an online photo album and considerably more time spent in website maintenance. 
d. Plus Marketing.  Providing online ticket orders for attending shows, online forms to contract the group like for Singing Valentines, music CDs and any other merchandise.  Lots of Maintenance for this too. 
3. Webmaster.  If your hiring a professional webmaster they should be able to set up any website feature level (provided the server is equipped for it).  The upside is usually a professional and reliable site.  One downside is expense.  I haven't priced it myself since I had no money to spend anyways but I got a friend who charges minimum $1,700, but I assume there are prices both lower and much higher.  Another downside is maintenance.  Typically once your website is set up it can be tough to get a webmaster to update it in a timely manner.  And your group still may be expected to maintain things that require frequent updates such as a photo album.

Don't be surprised if your first choice is taken.  A small yearly fee of about $7 is required to purchase and maintain your domain name. 

6. Software.  If doing your website in-house your going to want to use some real website editing software, I think a popular one right now is FrontPage.  Or if your adventurous and have no budget (like me) there's all kinds of free software (freeware) online.  Some are no good and some come with trial periods or limits on features that you won't find out about until after it's installed.  But then your not stuck with them and you do get to experiment with different software until you find one your happy with for free.  I've been using a freeware WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get, (barbershoppers aren't the only ones who like long acronyms) the website editor Nvu (N-view).  It's pretty bare bones.
To upload your new website online sometimes the servers with the extra features provide an interface you can use.  But another useful method that is usually faster is FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software.  A lot of times typing the FTP username, password, and address provided by the server into an Internet Explorer browser will work like a Windows Explorer screen to your online directory but not always or sometimes with limits.  There are a lot of free FTPs but I've had trouble getting some to work with my particular system.  What has been best for me so far is the freeware FTP Core Lite. 
There's all kinds of other software but these will get you up and running. 
If you have any trouble using ANY software the best place for answers is the software's  online forum if they have one.  But even then half of the time you'll have to figure it out for yourself. 
7. Web design Style.  What do you want your website to look like?  Best way to answer this to take a look around.  Go to and view all the other group's, list your favorites, then pick and choose what you like about them and try incorporating them together.  If you right click on the webpage you like and from the drop down window select View Source (or however you Mac users do it) you'll actually see the code being used, then cut and paste the part you like into your editor.  It doesn't hurt to also take a look at some brand name sites and see what the big money is doing.  Use a template that comes with your editor or find one online either free or for a fee, or if your server provides one use their template for a starting point and add the code you like to it. 
What to expect from your site.  You won't see a big jump in ticket sales for shows, membership, or even website visitors.  For any of that to happen the website has to be part of a coordinated effort.  The web address has to be on your business cards, your flyers, posters, show programs, MC announcements, and any ads.  Group members have to be encouraged and repeatedly reminded to forward the website address to friends and family announcing upcoming shows.  Send out email announcements about the latest site updates of photos, news, etc.  Combine fundraisers with online visits.  Offer a drawing for a free Singing Valentine for having ordered online, or have a drawing for a free barbershop telephone message for an online ticket order, etc.
Be proactive.  If you never change the site then don't expect people to return.  Put your next performance on the main home page and a link for a map to the location.  Change the photos.  Add photos to a photo album, a Newsletter, a members only page. 
On a personal note.  I have been unusually blessed by a very supportive Chapter who gives me loads of attboys and they go a long way to making it all worthwhile.  Our donated server guys and webmasters put in a LOT of hours and typically gets very little feedback so be sure to give them a pat on the back.