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10 Ways to Trade a Song for an Email Address

I measure my success as a recording artist by the growth of my mailing list. The best way to get someone to subscribe is to offer something in return, and a great song is a powerful incentive. Here are ten techniques to negotiate that delicate exchange:

1. The classic squeeze page. You’ve probably stumbled onto one of these before: a fine-tuned infomercial-style pitch with a clear call to action and no exit links. The sole goal of the site, often just a single page, is to generate conversions. In our case, a conversion means “squeezing” an email address out of a potential fan. Seamus Anthony describes the method here and demonstrates it using his own music here. It may do the trick for first-time visitors, but returning fans have no clear path to explore the rest of your content.

2. The homepage squeeze. Identical to the classic squeeze page, except for a small link that takes you to the rest of the site. Returning fans are forced to opt out every visit - an annoying speed bump. Then again, if the free song is rotated often enough, it may encourage repeat visits. Theoretically, a site could use cookies to bypass the squeeze page for return visitors, but I don’t know of any service or WordPress plugin that does it.

3. The “free mp3 download” page. This is my current strategy, but there’s definitely room for improvement. An SEO friendly “” URL and clever use of keywords can pull in traffic from Google searchers trying to freeload your music. While a simple “free mp3s” link in your site’s navigation isn’t distracting for repeat visitors, it’s easy to overlook. Still, I’m not going to force my fans to jump through hoops every time they want to post a comment.

4. The fan club. Thomas Dolby offers two full EPs exclusively to registered members of his forum. This soft sell approach encourages die-hard fans to join the conversation, but I doubt it pulls in much new blood. If your focus is to satisfy your existing fanbase, fan club exclusives offer a surefire way to retain their love and devotion.

5. The widget. Your mailing list service should provide a widget to gather fan addresses (I use ReverbNation’s FanReach, but FanBridge is another great choice). You’ll obviously need it for the squeeze page of your site. If you’re still sporting a MySpace page, you’ll want to embed it there as well. On sites where you can’t embed a widget, you can link directly to the signup form. ReverbNation and FanBridge provide every artist with a landing page to send potential subscribers to (for example, mine is here).

6. The Facebook page. As far as I know, you can’t embed a mailing list widget directly onto a Facebook page. Fortunately, RootMusic and ReverbNation have Facebook applications to run their all-in-one profiles, including mailing list signup, in their own tab. You can also build a custom HTML landing tab in Static FMBL, which isn’t as hard as it sounds. I’m using Facebook ads to direct potential fans to my FMBL tab, which encourages them to download songs from the Band Profile tab, courtesy of ReverbNation’s My Band application. Embedding a mailing list widget directly on my FMBL tab would streamline the process, but it’s beyond my technical abilities.

7. Viinyl. The slogan for this new service, currently in beta, is “one song, one site, one URL.” I’m auditioning it at It’s slick, simple, and direct, allowing the listener to focus on the featured song with minimal distractions. On the flipside, it doesn’t offer a clear path to the rest of my content. Whether or not that’s a fair trade remains to be seen.

8. NoiseTrade. Speaking of fair trades and horrible segues, NoiseTrade isn’t as streamlined, but it offers a high degree of control. Artists typically give away an entire release in exchange for an email address and a Facebook or Twitter update linking back to said release. Fans have the option to tip up to $100 (you get 80%), so it’s essentially a “pay what you want” model.

9. Tweet for a Track. A variation on the same theme, Tweet for a Track does pretty much what you’d expect. Fans enter their email address, which is passed on to the artist, and then share a link back to the song’s TFAT page on Facebook or Twitter. You can see it in action here. The catch is, they charge a minimum of $24.99 to share your fans’ email addresses with you.

10. Bandcamp. The backbone of my entire operation. Bandcamp offers up my discography to the world for sale, streaming, and sharing. Even if you don’t have anything to sell, you can host as much music as you’d like for free download in a variety of audio formats. You choose whether or not to require an email address on a per-song basis, and it doesn’t cost a penny if you stay below 200 downloads per month. Another great feature is their Facebook-embeddable widgets, which play right from the news stream.

Getting folks to subscribe is the easy part. The hard part is holding on to them! Nurture those new fans by communicating with them on a regular and consistent basis, and don’t think about selling anything until you hit 1000 subscribers.

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with sixteen years of experience promoting his eight Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (16) is another new one along the same lines as NoiseTrade and Tweet for a Track.

January 20 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

Actually, don't think of selling anything until you hit 2.5k subscribers but instead focus on getting there fast!

January 20 | Unregistered CommenterAmit

Fanbridge will let you embed a HTML SignUP form to Facebook.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond H

Was going to spend some time on this subject Brian, again I'll say it, always one step ahead and doing the hard work for us mortals!


January 21 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Glad you enjoyed it! Raymond, thanks for that info on Fanbridge.

January 21 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

What is the theory behind waiting until you have 1000-2000 subscribers before you sell anything? Did I miss something? Was that meant for Bandcamp only? Should you keep everything free on bandcamp? Trying to understand...I think this is going to be the foundation for all indie bands of the future:)

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Horn

Good question Christina! Someone asked me the same thing on my Passive Promotion blog, and I realized I never really elaborated on that point before. It doesn't refer to Bandcamp specifically.

I couldn't come up with a simple answer, but here are some rough ideas:

1. Artist development - It takes time to develop your voice as an artist and define who you are and what you represent to your fans.

2. Establish your value - Before you ask for money, you should prove your worth by giving away high quality music for free. Your subscribers need to become fans first, and maybe some of them will become customers later. Like a startup web site, you don't want to "monetize" until you reach critical mass.

3. Making a profit - If you've got less than 1000 subscribers on your mailing list, you'll be lucky to break even on a physical release with professional mastering and graphic design. If your release isn't strong enough to justify professional mastering and graphic design, it's probably not worth asking money for.

Anyone else want to jump in?

January 23 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Great stuff, as usual, Brian - thanks!!

As for point 1 in your comment, I think the primary reason for the clogged music landscape is that probably half (or more), of the artists with a Myspace or FB page shouldn't have even announced their presence yet.

It used to be that shedding and jamming for friends was accepted practice until an artist found their voice and discovered who they were...but alas, now the ego has an easy outlet.

The savvy artist will resist the temptation and recognize they only have one chance to make a first impression and work it out off the radar...then come out when they have something that will cut through the amateur clutter.

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

fan email = bullshit, goes to spam, no one cares
socializing online = bullishit, people are online for themselves and could give a crap about your band
radio airplay = maybe
live shows = maybe

Everything else = bullshit

Wake the *uck up.

January 25 | Unregistered Commenterbucko

Brian, have you thought about using landing page's specifically for physical marketing?

If you were to utilize a url shortening service, you could quite easily set one of the squeeze page's up with an identifiable short url to pass around at gigs etc.

That way you then know that the visitors to the page will be first timers and can work out how well it works at a live event. Comparing number of visitors to the squeeze page (specific to that event or project) and how many people have been shown it.

Another quick thought, you could even utilize it on a persons hand instead of an X or name of the venue you are at. Might be a bit weird with ' on a persons hand but the amount of smart phones at event's, it's worth a shot i reckon.

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Interesting idea Martin! I don't play live myself, but it sounds like a great way to segment the results of any online promotion.

January 26 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

bucko = right on the money

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Wow that Viinyl service looks pretty slick...Thanks for the Info

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterTM101 Radio

I really enjoy using bandcamp and was not aware that there are other software tools that does the same functionality. I usually keep use the music that are load on my waterproof mp3 player because it is what I use on the daily basis.

February 8 | Registered Commenteracua porto

Response to Bucko - and for anyone else.

Yes - the truth is that radio and live shows are still the best way to sell music and develop a following.

BUT E-mail marketing continues to work and it's been proved over an over again. It can't be completely ignored.

- Depending on your quality/genre of music you will have a certain % of people who if they are presented with the music will buy it - people are buying music online and paying for it all day long
- A certain number of e-mail will be marked as spam - but I get quite a few in my inbox from bands that get through to me - I read some, others I don't
- The more people you have on your list the more chance you have for a final successful sale
- Everyone is competing for not just your dollar but your time. If you can't get anyone to download your music for free, they probably won't pay for it either! We are uploading along side of all the known artists which is a good an bad thing. Give people a reason for purchasing yours over theirs and they will.

I make music and upload and sell online, but I also purchase a lot of music online. I love music and am always looking for something new to listen to. Not everyone is online just for themselves.

It's a hard world out there to make a living as a musician but it's only as bitter as one's attitude makes it!

October 16 | Unregistered Commentertunerustler

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