Use your own domain name for email
Many artists have their own domain name, often a .com, .ca or .net. It’s not hard to register one: pick something that isn’t taken, pay $10 or so a year with a domain name registrar to claim it, then maybe another $6-8/month for some basic web hosting.
Some web hosting packages will even include a free domain name registration.
Artists know that it’s a worthwhile investment. You may not have the money to design a website right now, but in the meantime for just a few dollars a month, you can still grab your own .com or .ca or .net and redirect it to your MySpace or Bandcamp profile.
That way, you can print yourname.com on all your CDs and business cards, and when you get that new website together a couple years later, the URL on your last album will take fans or industry contacts straight to your new website. Your own .com, .ca or .net looks more professional than a MySpace URL, and you can be pretty sure that 10 years from now, as long as you’re still willing to pay a few dollars a month, yourname.com will point to your online home, no matter what happens to MySpace or Bandcamp.
But domain names aren’t just for websites. The Internet is larger than the web. Email is another key tool for artists on the Internet. Yet, so many artists who have their own domain name still use their Hotmail or Gmail address publicly. If you have your own domain, use it for email too! Even if you just redirect your email to your Gmail account, like you might redirect your website to your MySpace profile, there are many reasons to use a yourdomain.com email address.
- It’s more professional. In the same way that yourname.com looks more professional than myspace.com/yourname, firstname.lastname@example.org completes that professional online identity and shows people that you mean business.
- It’s more permanent. Remember how cool Hotmail and Yahoo! were 10 years ago? That’s not as true today. Gmail still has a level of professional respect, but who knows if that will still be true in another 5 or 10 years. yourname.com isn’t tied to anyone’s name but your own, so it won’t get old or stale as trends change online. Also, you might decide to use another email service one day. Just like you can change a yourname.com redirect from MySpace to your new website, you can redirect email@example.com to Hotmail, Gmail, NewCoolMailService.com, or your own server without having to notify all your contacts or reprint promotional materials.
- You have control. This is important. Recently, I spoke with an acquaintance of mine who is a musician. He has his own domain name and website, but uses Gmail for email and his Gmail address is printed on his albums and all of his promotional materials. His Gmail account was cracked, the password changed, and then it was used to reset the password for his account on other services like Facebook and Twitter. The worst part was trying to recover his accounts — the password, alternate email address, and secret questions had all been changed, so the basic account recovery functions were useless. Google doesn’t do human customer service for its free, ad-supported services. With no one to call, his only hope was to try and prove to the advanced Google account recovery algorithm that he was the legitimate owner of the account. Using your own domain won’t make you immune from attacks, but you have the master key. If an email account is cracked, you still have control over the domain and the web host, so you can reset the password and take control back yourself, or hire your favourite web geek to help you. Worst-case scenario, a good web host will have a 1-800 line to call for technical support. Having the master key is much better than being at the mercy of a Google algorithm, especially if your business communications are at risk.
- You can create multiple aliases. Even if all your email goes to the same place, you can create different email addresses for different purposes to keep your incoming mail organized. You can use firstname.lastname@example.org for booking. It could make it look like you’ve got someone handling booking for you, even if the email does redirect to email@example.com. And, hey, when you do get a booking agent, or if you change booking agents, you can just redirect firstname.lastname@example.org somewhere else without having to reprint your promotional materials or update your contacts. Same with email@example.com and management. And, even if it all ends up in your own inbox, you can configure your email software to filter mail accordingly. For example, emails to firstname.lastname@example.org could be coloured yellow, email@example.com messages could be green, and firstname.lastname@example.org blue, or you might filter the email into different folders. Creating multiple email aliases can have benefits even before you have multiple people handling your email, and it sets you up for an easy transition when you do add people to your team.
- You can change your email software without changing your email address. With your own domain, you have maximum control and flexibility in changing where your email goes without changing your email address. You can use your Gmail account to manage email@example.com email, but you can change your mind later without having to change your email address; firstname.lastname@example.org might go to email@example.com today, but in a few years when you decide to use a different email program, the contact info printed on your last album will still be up to date. Better yet, don’t store all of your email on Google’s servers when you can put it on a computer for which you have the master key. With the right set up, you can store your email on your own server, keep it in sync between a mail client like Thunderbird on your laptop and the email client on your mobile device, and still have webmail access for when you’re using a different computer. Just like you might redirect yourdomain.com to your MySpace profile until you can invest in a new website, you can redirect firstname.lastname@example.org to your Gmail account for now until you set up your own server or computer to manage your email.
It’s usually very simple for any web developer to set up email. It may even be simple enough for the average technically literate person to do. I’d bet the person who registered the domain and set up your website could figure out how to set up email — whether that was you or your favourite geek.
Just like it’s worth redirecting yourname.com to myspace.com/yourname instead of using your MySpace address everywhere, it’s worth redirecting email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org instead of giving everyone your Gmail address. Don’t use a Gmail address when you can use your own domain. Using your domain for email helps to build your professional identity, gives you a permanent email address that you can feel confident printing and distributing, puts the master key in yours hands in case something goes wrong, and allows you maximum flexibility in changing your email software without changing your email address.
Many artists already see the benefit of using their own domain name for the web. Why not use it for email too?