"I want to see something that immediately gives me a good indication of the artist’s vibe and what they’re all about. I want it to feel professional, like they’re someone who is invested in their career. And If I’m visiting in a professional capacity I’ll immediately want to read their bio, and see what press are saying about them." @Ross Smith
Ross has a unique connection with the music world, from helping brands and musicians design the perfect website to creating valuable online resources to educate artists worldwide.
It was truly inspiring to pick his brain about music, design and everything in between.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Eek, why is this the hardest question to answer?! I’d describe myself as a music lover and awesomeness aspirer. I have a massive love for Eurovision, sausage dogs, and chocolate. I’m fueled by coffee and determination, and was raised on a musical diet of Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton (before finding my own love of all things Pop Punk, Emo and Post Hardcore in the early 2000s).
How/why did you start Electric Kiwi?
Electric Kiwi itself actually started out as a personal blog way back in the early 2000s. After graduating from university, I decided that I wanted to start designing websites for musicians, and needed a company name. Since I already had Electric Kiwi registered, and people were always commenting on how they liked the name, I decided to stick with it.
I’ve always loved music ever since I can remember, and I taught myself how to design websites when I was around 12.
It just made sense to combine the two things I enjoy the most! And since I had studied popular music performance at university, as a performer, I could empathize and understand musicians in a way that maybe other designers couldn’t.
I started doing the odd project here and there while balancing an internship and full time employment, until I felt like it was time to make this my full time career. It’s been around 8 years on, and I still feel very lucky that I’m able to call this my job!
What is the first thing you look for when you look at a musicians' website?
It really depends on the reason I’m visiting! I think regardless of the reason, the first impression is incredibly important. So I want to see something that immediately gives me a good indication of the artist’s vibe and what they’re all about. I want it to feel professional, like they’re someone who is invested in their career. And If I’m visiting in a professional capacity (if I’m going to be interviewing them for a podcast, for example) I’ll immediately want to read their bio, and see what press are saying about them.
What do musicians get wrong when it comes to building a website?
It varies! Some musicians get a lot right, but overlook some important elements. The main things that I come across that I would consider “mistakes” would be things like not including contact information, not having a mailing list signup, overwhelming people with too many social media widgets and content in one place.
Bridge the Atlantic is an amazing resource for musicians of all levels, why did you start the show?
Thank you! We started the show for a few reasons. The main reason was that we wanted to offer advice and insight for musicians and other music industry professionals, to help empower them to grow their careers. The second reason is that we loved spending time together, so it was a good excuse for us to spend MORE time together, while also creating something that could help others in the industry. An added bonus has been the connections and relationships we’ve been able to build with many of our guests, too.
Which 2020 trends musicians should keep a close eye on?
I think the growth of streaming is always something musicians should be keeping an eye on. I know that the streaming payouts are still unfortunately very low, but I think that if artists are able to convert casual streamers into engaged fans, then streaming can be thought of more as an introductory tool, or a passive source of income. I do think that’s going to take time, and I’m not sure what the answers are at this stage, but I do think that’s where things are going to go (hopefully sooner rather than later!)
Can you share some tips for an independent musician taking his first steps in the music industry?
Sure. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how we can help each other, and make the music industry a better place for everyone. So I think the biggest piece of advice I would offer would be to respect other people, and try to help or collaborate with others wherever possible, rather than bring anyone down. The music industry is a small place, and you’ll find that everyone is connected in one way or another, and both good and bad news travels fast - so do what you can to make sure you’re building a good reputation. It’s so important.
As a designer we must ask: your personal top 5 album covers of all time?
Ahh, now this is a really tough one! I think my favorite album covers are ones that represent the music in a visual way most effectively, or ones that I have a strong emotional attachment to. I’d say some of my favorites would be:
Which songs/albums/artists do you have on repeat at the moment?
At the moment, I’m really loving:
What is the first thing you search for when you hear a new song?
When I hear a new song that I love, I instantly want to find out more about the artist - I want to hear more from them, and find out a little background. So I’ll generally see if they have a website, as ideally that should have their bio and a way to check out some more material (whether that’s video or audio embeds). Usually I’ll follow them on Spotify and various socials as well, and I’ll often send a Tweet to let them know I love what I’ve heard so far.