I'm a big fan of music. I'd like nothing more than to make a living developing websites for bands and helping them cultivate their online presence. Only one thing stands in my way: bands don't normally have a lot of money. If most local bands spend more than a couple thousand dollars on a website, it's just not going to be cost effective for them. Since the budgets are normally tight in comparison to the work involved, it's usually best to think creatively. With a little ingenuity, content management for band websites could be run completely off a few third-party services. The three services I've been looking at are Virb, Muxtape and Reverbnation.
Virb just launched a new version of their website, after an 18-month overhaul. Of the three, Virb seems to be the current, best option for the design conscious. As expected, you can manage news, tour dates and upload music. Additionally, Virb offers unlimited audio uploads, an RSS feed for news and a highly customizable, clean audio player, however no RSS or iCal feed for tour dates. While the social networking aspects are currently in place, using Virb as a band CMS is still not completely there. However, a Virb API and Virb Push service are in development, which could provide direct access to content on Virb band profiles.
Muxtape recently relaunched after completely switching gears. It's currently a public beta and invitation only, but there are seemingly big things going on behind the scenes. As hinted at on the Muxtape website and a blog post from lead developer, Luke Crawford, Muxtape is vying to become a one-stop shop for bands. It could potentially handle everything a band could require, but that capability has yet to materialize.
As it stands, Reverbnation is the most complete resource. In addition to providing the basics, the service provides FanReach mailing list management, distributed media tracking, street teams and digital distribution. They provide RSS feeds for news and tour dates. However, the provided widgets and embeds are not customizable and, frankly, pretty ugly. It's not so much that they're the most hideous widgets out there, but that they can't be integrated nicely into a design.
I realize there are many other things to consider for bands, but I'm looking at these services stricly from the standpoint of providing basic content management. To make this type of thing work, you essentially just need RSS feeds or an API. The overall idea is to update one place and have that information distributed to the various endpoints through some kind of syndication and custom widgets. It would be greate to have everything in one place as well as have some control visually, which is why I will probably wait on Virb or Muxtape to get a little further along.
One caveat is the management of photos and video. I always recommend utilizing Flickr and Vimeo (or YouTube), because I like the services and they are completely open. Virb already supports feeding in photos and video from said services. I'm sure Muxtape will follow suit. Reverbnation, however, is pretty closed, as they want to be a turnkey operation for bands. That makes Reverbnation a turnoff, in my opinion. I think bands should use every venue to promote themselves. If a photo on Flickr or a video on Vimeo leads someone to buy an album, I think it's worth managing those types of media separately. Especially, if everything is feeding into your website anyway.