While social media continues to dominate the focus of online marketing discussions, there is no question that email has, is, and will continue to be the key to success for musicians. With a strong email list and a proper email marketing strategy, comes long-term success.
Why email is so important?
“Email marketing has been shown to be as much as 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined.”
Ultimately, the answer is simple. You own the email list, and with it the permission to reach your fans directly to connect, stay in touch, and sell music, merch, tickets and more. Email marketing has even been shown to be as much as 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined.
So with that said, we’ve put a guide together covering all you’ll need to know to get started with building your own email marketing strategy.
Choosing Your Platform
The first thing you need to do is choose a platform to host your band’s mailing list and newsletter. Due to the can-spam act, it is illegal to host a newsletter without offering a form of ‘unsubscribe’ within, so running your newsletter through your Gmail account and BCC’ing is not an option. Plus, email marketing platforms give you a much more robust experience, allowing you to use HTML templates, track and review analytics, and more.
There are several options available to musicians to choose from, many of which are specifically built with music marketing in mind. Of course, we suggest the go to be Bandzoogle’s very own built-in mailing list tool.
If Bandzoogle is powering your website already, this is a no brainer. It features many native solutions such as offering fan incentives to build your list (free song/album downloads), and automatic geo-location to help better identify where your fans are (great for booking!).
Other options for a mailing list service include MailChimp, which is a great standalone email marketing platform, though it doesn’t have a direct focus on music marketing. It’s free up to 2000 subscribers, and you can easily embed the signup form onto your website. There is alsoFanBridge, which is another easy to use, standalone email marketing service. However, there is no free option (plans start at $19.99/month).
Building Your Mailing List
Once you have your email platform chosen, it’s time to start building your list.
It’s important to note that people must opt-in to your mailing list, as is required with any form of permission marketing. With that said, the first step in building the foundation of your mailing list is to build a list of everyone you already know and send them an email specifically asking for their permission to join your mailing list.
Once you’ve got that setup, there are several other ways to continue building your mailing list over time, including:
Email for a stream / download
Access to exclusive past content
Future access to pre-sales
Incentivize existing email subscribers to help drive new subscribers
For more ideas on how to build your mailing list, check out 9 ways to build your mailing list (and sell more music online)
Frequency of Newsletters / Emails
And now the fun part – time to start sending newsletters! But how often should you be sending newsletters to your fans?
The goal here is to focus on consistency. In other words, how often do you feel you can send your newsletter in a regular interval. Once a month? Once every two weeks?
The best way to test the waters here is to start less frequent, get comfortable, and pick up speed. It’s always easier to deliver less content to your fans, and then reward them with more if you can, than it is to start delivering tons of great content, only to have to scale it back.
There is both an art and a science to sending out an effective newsletter on a regular basis. You don’t want to hold onto too much information for too long, as your newsletters will become overwhelming to your fans and likely to be ineffective.
But you also don’t want to send so often that you run out of compelling content to share. You’ll need to test it out with your own fan base, understand what works and what doesn’t, and make tweaks from there.
What to Include in Your Newsletter
But wait… you’ve decided to send a bi-weekly newsletter, and you’ve figured out which platform to use, and you’re actively working on building your mailing list. So what type of content are you supposed to include?
Well, the answer is really just yet another question: What are you trying to achieve?
The answer to this question will help you to determine the type of content you should include in your newsletter.
Are you hoping to engage with newly interested fans?
If so, maybe focus on a YouTube video where your band covers the song(s) of one of your main influences to help these new fans learn more about you and your music in an accessible way.
Are you trying to build loyalty from your existing fans?
If so, maybe a personal note explaining the meaning behind a recent song, and/or a photo of some handwritten lyrics.
Are you planning to use your email marketing channel as a way to sell more albums or tickets?
If so, make it clear and concise. Then make sure you include some sort of an intro and/or other content (like a music video) so your newsletter doesn’t only feel like a sales pitch.
These are just a few of the many reasons why you may be ready to send out your first, or next, newsletter. And the reason may change from one newsletter to the next. Always try to think through your goals first, and then determine what sort of content will help you to achieve those goals.
Each newsletter should have one clear ‘call-to-action’
Your call-to-action could be a button or a hyperlink, driving fans to whatever it is that will achieve your goal.
Selling albums? Include a ‘buy the new album’ button. Increasing awareness for your new music video? Include a ‘watch the new video now’ button.
Avoid including more than one call to action, as it can not only cause overwhelm, but any call to action that is not focused on achieving your goal cannibalizes your opportunity for success.
“If the subject line isn’t attention grabbing, the email won’t be opened.”
A note on the importance of a killer subject line:
No matter what you put in your email, if the subject line isn’t attention grabbing, the email won’t be opened. And that great email you worked so hard to put together will never be seen.
Again there is an art, and a balance, to a great subject line. You want your fans to be so intrigued by your subject line that there is no question they will open the email. However, it needs to be relevant. You don’t want people to open the email, only to be annoyed that whatever you promised in the subject line doesn’t actually exist.
The best way to find success with subject lines is to simply test them and learn using split testing (sometimes called a/b testing). The idea here is that you create two separate subject lines, and send each one to a small % of your overall mailing list, maybe 10 – 15% each. Whichever one has the strongest open rate is the one that the remaining fans on your mailing list will receive.
Tip: Think of your subject line as a tweet. The length should be similar, and ultimately needs to be compelling enough for someone to take action. Rather than a click or a retweet as you may achieve via Twitter, here you get the open.
And finally we come to the science of it all. Marketing is only as good as the goals you’ve set in place, and the best way to tell if you are effectively meeting those goals, is to analyze the data. You can then let it inform how to improve the next time around.
All email marketing platforms will give you the open rate and click thru rate of your newsletter. Use this data week after week to create a benchmark for yourself to understand your average open and click thru rate.
You may find after a few months that you average a 20% open rate and a 5% click thru rate, but you noticed that the one time you included a personal note as the introduction to your newsletter, you saw the click thru rate jump to 10%. This is a great insight to help you create more relevant content moving forward.
Or maybe one week you decide to use a question as the subject line and you saw that average 20% open rate jump to 40%. Again, the data here is telling you something! Use this and develop a series of winning strategies that will help you to achieve your goals, no matter what they might be.
This post was written by Jon Ostrow. Jon is the Director of Sales at Bandsintown, Founder of MicControl, lover of all things music, a raging Phish head, and a coffee addict.