Wordpress Options: Wordpress.com
If you are going with Wordpress, and that decision is worth at least one post of its own, one option is Wordpress.com which gives you the basic features of Wordpress without the additional flexibility of plugins. I'm not up to date on other limitations but, in the past, they allowed you to have Amazon affiliate links but nothing else including no iTunes links.
Not having iTunes affiliate links is, in my mind, a deal killer for musicians if they are focused on maximizing revenue so, though I recommended considering Wordpress.com a while back, I no longer do so.
However, Wordpress.com is basically managed hosting of what is, for the user, a limited Wordpress install. They do have a lot of features for musicians and their security is solid. Speed will be affected by what you put on the site
If you are considering Wordpress.com, find out everything you can about the limits and how they relate to your longterm plans.
Self-Hosted Wordpress Installs
Wordpress is, at its heart, open source software that can be downloaded via Wordpress.org. There is a multisite option so that one install of the software can host a huge number of sites. Wordpress.com is a Wordpress installation. From here on out references to Wordpress refer to sites using the downloadable software and not to sites at Wordpress.com.
In the past people have typically either had their own servers or hosted on low-cost webhosts who left a lot of the management up to their customers. This works relatively well if you like learning a lot of technical stuff and worrying about security and all the other issues raised by maintaining a website yourself.
I'm not one of those people and it wasn't until the relatively recent development of managed hosting for Wordpress that I found the right fit. In my case, I'm willing to learn quite a bit about Wordpress but I'm not willing to learn to program or keep up with settings for security plugins and the like.
If you do prefer to go more hands-on, I'd suggest considering Sucuri for security purposes. Best of luck with speed. Do evaluate your host's history and see what users are saying. SiteGround seems to be a solid choice at the moment for those taking this route.
Managed Wordpress Hosting
Managed wordpress hosting is a fairly new option that combines the efficiencies of shared hosting with quality support. Managed Wordpress hosts typically specialize in Wordpress and have fine-tuned their systems to support Wordpress.
Managed hosts take related but different approaches to security but the main difference I see is whether or not they charge you to clean up your site. In one instance I encountered a high fee for that so, as with everything, check out the details thoroughly.
A lot of old time Wordpress people are big supporters of managed hosting because it allows them to give clients who can't afford the support of a developer an affordable solution.
Price is where the issue comes up for most people. You could host a site for around $4 a month on a host like SiteGround or pay a minimum of $15 a month but more likely around $25 a month to get started with managed hosting.
For me the question was, are my sites which are the center of my work and current life important enough for me to spend $25 each on 3 or 4 of them. In my case, yes they are. If you're claiming to be going pro with music, it's worth it to you as well.
I've been exploring Wordpress for my site DanceLand. Now that I'm using managed hosting, I'm really not worried about security issues. The hosts handle updating Wordpress itself which is key. A major cause of hacked Wordpress sites is Wordpress installs and/or plugins that haven't been updated.
You'll still need to login in on your site or on a Wordpress dashboard like ManageWP at least once a day to update plugins. But, if you're serious about it, logging in once a day is no hardship.
Managed Hosting Options
A wide number of Wordpress pros have cosigned managed hosting. I can provide links if folks are interested but a lot of the following draws on Wordpress pro blog posts and various email exchanges with Cliff Seal and Chandler Coyle.
WP Engine is probably the premier managed hosting service. I had a mixed experience but it was before I understood a number of different things. Their support was good but I'm hearing some mixed reports of late.
The one major downside I see with WP Engine is that they count bot hits as part of your traffic. That's the stuff services like Google Analytics screen out as noise. Given their pricing is based on traffic, that makes WP Engine a problematic choice.
Synthesis specializes in not just Wordpress hosting but Genesis Framework site hosting. If had a Genesis themed site, I'd be on Synthesis.
However DanceLand is on Synthesis and it's the happiest I've been since my early experiments with All World Dance. It also came with not only the Genesis Framework installed but with a Genesis theme. I'm not sure if I'd have to pay for those the next year but since the Framework has to stay to use their hosting I assume they take care of that.
There are some additional SEO goodies that I'm not using but they're likely well worth the effort given the developers involved. The only downside I can see so far is if you just didn't want the extra software which is understandable.
Pressable, formerly Zippykid, is well known but they're still getting their act together. You can have up to 5 sites on there for $25 if the traffic's low. I've got a couple of sites like Flux Research on there as well as some experimental installs so I can play with themes and plugins.
Unfortunately they've been plagued by downtime and slow speeds and I'm moving the live sites to Flywheel. They seem to be working hard but for now I can't recommend them.
Flywheel is a managed hosting service that is targeting designers though anyone can use it. One of their features inspired by designers' needs is free staging. You're able to develop a site and work with clients but don't have to pay till the site goes live.
Individual sites start at $15 a month which is the lowest price I can find in managed hosting. But they aren't waging a price war so there isn't the likely potential for degrading service that results from price wars.
I'm hearing great things. I did check them out when they first launched but they were still working a few things out and I wanted to wait and check them out again once they'd been around a bit. I'll start moving sites there in the next week or so and should know more soon.
A New Wave Of Managed Hosting
Evermore is a new managed hosting site with additional features available such as eCommerce and an events calendar. Evermore was cofounded by Cliff Seal who stays very busy.
It's part of a newer wave of managed hosting options that confine the universe a bit more by focusing on a particular Wordpress framework or simply limiting the options. The pricing is also a bit different with a hefty upfront fee. It's worth a look and you can find out more here as well as on the site.
I wanted to mention it since Cliff has been particularly helpful in my journey through Wordpress. To be honest it's a different proposition than the above mentioned hosts and I'm not sure I would recommend it for the musicians on whom this post is focused. However, if you like what they offer, I'm sure they'll be offering excellent service.
More Wordpress For Musicians Ahead
I could say so much more on this topic and provide a lot more links.
Please let me know in the comments if you have questions or other thoughts on the topic. And also let me know if you want me to focus on specific Wordpress-related topics in the future.
There's no one way to do this so let's share what we know as we move forward.