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3 Musician Marketing Basics: Newsletter, Products & Polls











  I’m just back from the mighty ASCAP Expo in Los Angeles. I learned so much from the hundreds of artists I spoke to over the 3 days there and I boarded the plane with a whole new perspective on just how confronting marketing and social media is to 90% of artists.

You guys REALLY hate this stuff.

You hate it so much that I literally felt like I had been beaten up over the concerns, complaints and sheer confusion directed my way.

So I will kick off with this: Making it in music is HARD.

No matter what side of the fence you are on.  My friends who are managers and agents and club owners work just as hard as my artist friends.  And, music industry professionals are still getting laid off left and right. This game (if you choose to play it) is not for the meek!

And now you, the artist are required to do a WHOLE LOT MORE than you might have 7, 8, 9 or 10 years ago (if you were lucky enough to have a label).

But here’s the thing:

The basic rules for success are still the same.

They have always been the same and those artists who understand this succeed: To Increase Your Bottom Line (no matter how you define your bottom line) you MUST focus on your fans!

The first step towards this is building rapport with everyone you come into contact with in person, social media and on your email list.

Amanda Palmer & Matthew EbeEveryone always references the astonishing Amanda Palmer as the poster child for success in this paradigm – the woman focuses on her fans!

You know how Amanda does this?

She STAYS at the venue after each and every show signing every CD and piece of merch and scrap of paper put in front of her

She STAYS until she has personally touched the last fan.

Then she STAYS in touch with them long after she has left their town with her newsletter, her blog, her Facebook posts and her Twitter stream.

She understands the rules of engagement.

It’s not magic – its just hard work.

You can have what she has too and here is how:

Today we are going back to three very important basics

(I’m not going to focus on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and all the social media that drives you bonkers this time – you can read many articles I wrote about social media on this blog)

  1. Your Newsletter
  2. Your Product Line
  3. Your Polls

FIRST: Your Newsletter

I have seen it countless times – artists that misuse their email lists and ONLY reach out to their fans when they have something to SELL them (a show, a new release etc.) but they never reach out to their fans for other reasons: to bond, share a funny story, or invite everyone out to the local bowling alley on a Tuesday night for a hang (I’m serious).

Every study on sales has proven one thing: People hate to be sold to, however people love to buy, and people always love to buy from people whom they like and trust.  People in Amanda’s circle of followers trust her.

Great sales people sell by creating relationships with their customers and knowing how to stay in their customer’s hearts and minds until the customer is ready to buy.

Now you may be freaking out here a bit – your Fans are NOT customers in your mind. Your fans don’t “buy” from you and you do not consider them in that light – I totally understand this but I am asking you to shift from  your artist mind for a moment and get into your business mind.

You (your music and your art) are a brand and if you want to make money you should consider this: Your fans are your customers.

They give you money to support your creative livelihood (if they are not yet, you need to put an action plan into place to make this so)

So there are some things to consider here based on looking at it in this light:

Do you have fan base to sell to?

This means:

A) An email list

B) An active Facebook community

C) Twitter Followers

D) Blog readers (and your blog cross posted on other sites such as,, Facebook and through Twitter links, etc.)

I consider a real fan base a MINIMUM of 5,000 across your social networks and 1,000 on your email list.

SECOND: Your Product Line

Do you only sell CDs and MP3s? (if you do, youdon’t have a line)

Do you have assorted merchandise?

A fan club / monthly offerings?

Do you tell your mailing list you are available to play private events, parties, weddings or BBQs?

If you do not have many things to sell you music begin to think about this.

Do you send well-designed, track able monthly newsletters?

If not you should switch to a service that has helps you create them and tracks how many people open them.

You should also install widgets for mailing list building.

I love  these:

THIRD Polls: Asking Your Fans What They Want

Have you asked your fans what they want to buy?

Interview them and ask!

Your fans may want coffee mugs or yoga mats and unless you ask you will never know.

In a Newsletter: Use Survey Monkey

Use the wonderful Survey Monkey To run a survey on your newsletter list and ask what your fans may like to buy.

For Twitter:  Use Twtpoll

Use to send a survey via Twitter

For Facebook: Poll Daddy Poll

Use to send a poll to your Facebook or Facebook Fan Page!

Do you have another talent that your fans don’t know about?

Do you paint?

Do you write?

Do you bake?

Is there another way you make money that your fans may want to know about?

You can start a Pledege, Rockethub or Kickstarter campaign and show off your other talents while you raise money for your music allowing your fans to support you even more!

Can you create some sort of monthly continuum program that your fans might pay a premium for?

How about a live track of the month club or a special new song you are working on? Would your fans pay $2 a month? (If you think so that’s $24 per fan and that adds up. Read all about how artist Matthew Ebel has achieved this here!

So to recap:

1. Build your email list!! Every day think about who can be added to your list.

2. Communicate regularly and consistently using a real email program.

3. When your list gets to be at least 1,000 strong,  ASK fans what they may like from you and how much they will pay

4. Create products and fan clubs and house concerts to satisfy your fans

5. Create a continuum program to get paid consistently or launch a fan-funding project.

6. Get paid more to do what you love.

I would love to hear any stories you have relating to these 3 marketing basics.

Please share them here.

Reader Comments (14)

Yes Ariel, you do work it. And it might seem churlish to criticize when you add the links and everything, which are very useful...

But. It's pointless equating the work musos do with the rest of the business. Three minutes work can pot a songwriter a million dollars. The rest of the time, it should be the law, that musos spend their time being and acting fabulous and charismatic and getting measured up for a Nudie suit, ordering drugs and discovering how to make their guitars go 'vrrroooom' - not managing email lists, thinking about how they can use their baking skills to 'add value' or communicating with fans, to whom they should remain an enigma and a mystery.

And did you really mention Amanda bleedin Palmer? Is there really no one else? Maybe there isn't...

May 16 | Registered CommenterTim London

I love this advice, Ariel! I'm just starting a new band, and I only have a few people on my email list. (Don't even have music yet!) Instead of waiting for 1000 fans, though, I've decided to already ask people what they want from my newsletters and from my band.

I set up my Fanbridge account to automatically respond to new signups with a message to ask the band what they want from the newsletter. Instead of selling on shows or music, I'm trying to start with a more personal, one-to-one conversation.

Great info! Thanks for this article!

Nice work Ariel. I have so many aging artist friends who felt like they shouldn't have to do anything that equated to business and now they're facing retirement with nothing to retire on. They treated their art like a hobby and now they have the success a hobby brings.

By the way, love the graphic!

May 17 | Unregistered CommenterClyde Smith

@Clyde 'They treated their art like a hobby' which is all they would have time to do if they followed the above advice.

May 18 | Registered CommenterTim London

I still think the email list is the most important thing and even more important than that is building a list of people who have actually pulled out their credit card and paid for your music.

Once you've got that you don't need to beg people to promote you anymore.

- Chris

As a fan, I can say the following: I don't care about mugs, t-shirts, trivia about the personal lives, etc. I want to hear better music. Where is the next Bach, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd? We are drowning in a sea of self-promoting mediocrity.

Musicians: Focus on your art. Even more importantly, focus on your lives. Your music expresses who and what you are. So be something worth expressing.

As a musician and creator myself, I also don't want to spend time on all this business and promotion side. Not only does the business focus take all one's time away from creating and performing music, but it will most likely corrupt one's musical work as well.

May 19 | Unregistered CommenterVersus

Tim London - I adore you for always bringing it back to the art and the creation. And yes I should have mentioned one of the 50 artists I represent who is NOT Amanda Palmer - but just like Ani DiFranco in the 90's Amanda is the one indies try to measure up to. I'm not saying all this stuff is fair, Lord knows that it's not, but how is anyone going to find out about the art if artists don't tell a single person about it?

Thanks for keeping it real from the artists perspective.

May 20 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

Great article and much respect Ariel. I also agree that artist should focus on their craft, and that a very large portion of their success is certainly about the music. I also believe that to really succeed the artist must walk before they run, pay their dues, travel the country in a van, learn as much about the music business as they can from publishing to performance royalties - not to be experts in every field of the business, but they should understand, and must do it themselves until they (or label) can get enough attention and afford to hire an agency to handle this for them. And that goes for every other element of their career not just the digital portion. Articles like this give these young artist proper direction to start be build their fan base, and hopefully with that not be so overwhelmed in all they must do today to get noticed. I really hope this and more articles are found by these young talents. --Rob

I am interested to know if musicians who do not want to do the business have a plan for who will? In this day and age you need to not only have great music but also show business sense. A musician who is not willing to do the things Ariel talks about should not expect to see much in return. Anyone with a job in the "real world" does things they don't enjoy to succeed both financially and further their careers. If you plan to make music your career one would assume you would need to make it your job and not expect to enjoy every part of it.

May 23 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

paying dues... proper direction... plans... careers...

it sounds so... mundane. Not at all fun. Why would anyone wish to take such a slim chance on having enough money to live on if all they end up with is a job in IT?

To reverse the argument, @Aaron, I am interested to know if those who want to do the business have a plan for the music they will make.

A manager, realising he finally has the tools he needs to cut out the musician! Lucien Grange, your dream has come true! Silvia Rhone - you need never shake the sweaty hand of a rocknroll guitarist ever again, just boot up Garageband and Fruityloops and off you go.

May 23 | Registered CommenterTim London

Gonna be honest. Never heard of amanda palmer, so she cant be that great.

May 24 | Unregistered CommenterJack

@Versus - I wanted to respond to your comment. All this business side stuff is an art form too. I think the turn off for musicians, and I am one, is that it can appear to be formulaic, non-emotional, and un-human like. But just remember when you market, have it be from you. Use any of these DIY strategies as a guide and just because everyone is doing them one way doesn't mean you have to do it that way. Make them your own.

With regards to all this stuff taking up time. In reality, not many of us create music 24/7. When we write a song, we just write a song. For me personally, I don't have my guitar in hand all day writing songs, I'm also on the computer, email, etc. What I say is don't completely dismiss the business stuff. There has got to be just even 30 minutes a day to use social media when a song isn't coming to you or you're not on the stage performing. Start small with whatever you feel you can do.

I'm not sure what you mean by doing any business stuff as corrupting--selling out perhaps?? I don't like that either. But I will say in my experience, just talking to fans online or in person, goes a long way to establishing trust which leads to them appreciating your art and wanting to spend money to have it. Unless you're giving it all away, which is cool too.

Brian Franke
@bfrankemusic (Blog)

I agree that musicians should focus on their lives and craft first, as I found it can be easy to only think about building fans and become obsessed! In the spirit of sharing useful tools for developing your music career, here are some of the sites I use regularly:
Love the ability to bulk social network using their widgets.
Send my music to record labels and music publishers and get feedback.
I use this for my newsletter to my fans as it is cheaper than many competitors.
Nothing better for sending songs in my view
Found a few musicians to work with from this small site!
Not joined but looks interesting
Listen to music online for free

January 19 | Unregistered Commenterdanby

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