I have recently had a lot of experience with creating community websites for both my bands You and What Army and Interabang. There have been some trials and tribulations along the way and I thought I should share my findings! I will be discussing Drupal and PHPBB among other things.
Sounds like some sort of kids cough medicine, but it is in fact the most user friendly CMS I have come across. This is not to say it isn’t complex – it is user friendly in the way repairing a car engine would be user friendly – you still need to know what you are doing or things well get very messy very fast.
The brilliance of it lies in the sheer volume of mods and hacks available for it – I, for example, have used a “User Points” mod combined with an e-commerce module, making the users earn points for posting on the forum (Which is actually the only weak point of the module – more mods can be used to fix this though) and being able to download songs from the online store with those points. Interactivity is always a good way to keep fans coming back!
I’d say drupal is the way to go for people who are a little more experienced with web development, or fancy a hell of a challenge if they aren’t. It is so much harder to set up than a simple forum/website combination, but once it is set up it is a lot easier to change the content.
PHPBB Forum + A website
This is the other option I have attempted. It is easier to create as you don’t have to play around with any templates when making the website, and there are a zillion and one phpbb templates so you can do minimum customisation there to get it matching the site. There are also similar mods to the ones I suggested above – points + online downloadable content store.
The problems occur with the messiness – a lot of different sections means keeping things feeling like they are one and the same piece of web content is a challenge. However, as I said it is a lot easier to set up initially if this isn’t such a concern to you.
Overall, if you are experienced then I would reccommend the CMS direction – the flexibility and customizeablility make it ideal for complex community based sites. However, if you are a relative newbie and looking for a simple place for fans to communicate, a forum is definately the answer – no need to overcomplicate things!
Any other suggestions for Band Community websites? Maybe online alternatives? Post them in a comment!