Which is more: $17, $170, $1500, or $4000?
What’s the difference?
- $17 is the approximate cost of registering the domain name for your name, your stage name, or your band name now.
- $170 is the approximate cost of registering your domain name and keeping it registered for ten years, just to protect it until you get around to starting a web page
- $1500 is the minimum it will cost you to dispute your case if someone else registers your name, stage name, or band name first.
- $4000+ is what it could cost you to fight it, and you still might not get your own name back.
Bad Reasons for Not Registering Your Domain Name – You may think it’s too early to start thinking about putting a “public face” on your music; you may not feel ready to start a web page; your band may just be something you throw together for weekend gigs; you may be part of a band that has a great web site so you don’t think you’ll ever need your own; you may think it sounds too complicated; someone in your life may be telling you that it’s a big step, and you should really be sure you can make a living making music before you invest that $17.
Bad Consequences of Not Registering Your Domain Name Now and Keeping Up With Your Registration – Many artists and musicians put off registering their own name as a domain for reasons just like the above list. Then some opportunity arises, and they realize they need a web page right now, but they find that someone with the same name or stage name or band name has already registered the domain name that they want to use. So they wind up settling for some substitute that’s not as good or intuitive, and fans or followers trying to find their home page, they wind up on the other person’s or band’s site.
You May Have More Competition for Your Domain Name than You’d Think – In most cases, someone registering what “ought to be” your domain name before you do is accidental. If you have a common first name and a common last name, chances are there are hundreds, if not thousands of folks who share your name.
It’s not unheard-of for two bands in two different parts of the country to come up with the same band name at the same time. This isn’t a problem, unless you get a big local following, go out to start a web page, and realize that the other band is there ahead of you, and your fans are all going to the other band’s site.
First Come, First Served (in 99% of Cases) – In such cases, possession is more than nine-tenths of the law. If you’re name is Jane Smith and you registered the domain name JaneSmith.com, nobody is going to be able to claim that they deserve the domain name more than you do. But if someone else named Jane Smith has already registered the name JaneSmith.com before you got around to it, then you will have to go with some substitute. Like JaneSmithMusic.com or JaneRSmith.com or Jane-Smith.com or whatever. The problem with these substitute names is that folks almost always try janesmith.com first. Even if the other site isn’t active, they’ll just get an error and assume your site is down.
A “.org” name as your only domain name doesn’t work, because nobody tries those before they try “.com.” That said, if you manage to register your own domain name before someone else does, you might want to consider registering the .org version just in case some OTHER Jane Smith comes along and tries to be cute. Yes, it will cost you an extra $6-14 a year. Skip the fancy coffee for two days next year, and you’ll cover that expense.
What if the Band is Your “Brand”? – What if you’re part of a band that has a great web page? Are you married to these people? Well, even if you are, is there no chance you’ll ever write, record, or perform on your own? Let’s say you keep your domain name registered for ten years, and then the band breaks up or you want to start a solo project. You’ll have spent ~$170 protecting your name all that time (far less than you spent on guitar cords and strings). But that’s still WAY better than trying to promote your “own brand,” and discovering that somebody else “owns your name.”
Even if you have a domain name that goes nowhere for now, or just links back to the band page, that’s still better than losing it permanently.
Staking Your Claim to Your Band Name – What if your band has the cleverest name ever, and has built up a local following? Registering the domain name and having at least a rudimentary web page that it points to gives you a certain amount of protection against someone else a thousand miles away coming up with the same name, registering the name first then suing you for using it. Technically you’d have to register a trademark to prevent that all together, but it at least tells the honest folks you were there first.
If you wonder why I’m so adamant about this, it’s because in another line of business, when the web was just getting started, competitors registered business names that I had been using pre-web so I couldn’t use them for myself. They did it to other people in my field as well. And now there are professional scammers (called “squatters”) whose business model revolves around such shenanigans.
What if the Other Person Goes Away? – It used to be that if someone let a registration lapse, you might have a second chance at it. GoDaddy even had a service for letting you “backorder” names in case the other person let his or her registration lapse. But that almost never works anymore.
If the other site got any traffic at all, once it lapses, the domain name registration company or someone else will almost inevitably “monetize it,” which means they’ll register the domain name themselves, host it on one of their own servers and put a bunch of links to business that pay them for sending them clicks. It doesn’t even matter if the links make sense. Let’s say the owner of JaneSmith.com loses interest in whatever she was doing or selling and lets her rights to the domain name lapse. Even if you’ve done a backorder on the name, if she’s been getting more than a few hits a month, someone who is in line ahead of you will register the name, and keep using it as long as enough people click on the links for the domain name to keep paying for itself (at under $10 a year at the wholesale level, that can be a very long time).
When you go out to a JaneSmith.com site that has been “monetized,” you’ll see adds for things that neither you nor the other Jane Smith ever had anything to do with. You may also see a line that says “This domain name is for sale” or something along that line. If you click on the link and start a conversation or place a “bid” with the current owner of the domain, you’ll soon learn that they want between $1500 and $5000 for you to buy your own name from them.
In the meantime, people who don’t have your real URL bookmarked will be hitting the “zombie” site, then tweeting you and saying things like, “I went to your web site, and all I saw were ads for bustline improvement products.”
Remind me, once again, how much did you save by not registering your name when you had a chance?
Ironically, I chose the name JaneSmith.com to use as an example. As it turns out, there really was a JaneSmith.com, and Jane let it lapse, and now it’s been “monetized.” Please don’t go there unless you really need to see what one of these “zombie sites” look like. Somewhere out there is a real Jane Smith who would love to have this domain name, but who will never get it as long as people keep clicking on the zombie site.
Caveats – Please don’t let this part scare you into inaction, but there are three warnings I need to add.
Don’t let your domain name registration lapse. When you sign up, put it on auto-renew, and be sure to report any credit card changes to your domain name registrar. If you let it lapse, it will turn into a zombie site that – like Jane Smith – you’ll have to pay “real money” to get back.
Be Ready for “Web Setup Scammers.” As soon as you register a domain name, you’ll start getting e-mails from people offering to help you get your web site set up tomorrow for $30 or so. They are mostly scammers after your credit card number. When you do get a web site started, you need to control it yourself, even if that means having a friend set it up and show you how to update stuff.
Be Ready for “Logo Scammers.” You’ll also get e-mails from people promising to make you a memorable business logo for $30 or so. Some are just after your credit card number. A few will actually make you a “logo” that looks like it cost all of $30. Don’t bother.
Watch out for Domain Name Scammers. When it gets close to time to re-register, you’ll start getting emails and letters in the mail warning that you’ll lose your domain name if you don’t register with them right now. So instead of spending ~$17 to renew with your original provider, you get frightened into spending $50 or $100 with the scammer. Some of them will actually register your domain, but they’re not your friends.
By the way, once you actually get your web site started, you’ll start getting approached by people promising to help you get to the first page of Google search results. They are scammers, too, but that’s a subject for another time.
Don’t Be Stupid. By now some of you are looking at the list of scams above and thinking it’s all too complicated. Maybe it is.
But don’t let the silly side-effects of staking your claim to some tiny portion of cyberspace scare you into letting somebody else get there first. It’s a very small investment, considering what you’re already spending on equipment, etc., but it’s one you may very well wish you’d made at some point in your life.