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Wednesday
Aug032011

Why No One is Reading Your Newsletter

A little over a year ago I read a chapter in Ariel Hyatt’s book Music Success in Nine Weeks on newsletters. After reading it I felt like I had made many many mistakes with how I was writing my music newsletter.  I began a journey in salvaging whomever I had left that was reading them to use a new format to re-engage them in my music career.  One in which I feel many musicians will have to do based on what I am going to say below.

As part of continuing to learn and improve my newsletters to my fans I also signed up for newsletters of some regional and even local acts in the Washington, DC area.  I was not surprised to see that many of the same mistakes I made being made by my fellow musicians.

In this post I’d like to share some of the obstacles and common mistakes musicians make in their newsletters that contributes to why no one is reading your newsletter.

 

  • People have too much email:  If you get 20 or more email messages each day, you’re pretty much a typical email user.  I get tons of email and don’t always read everything.  Depending on who you get an email from is a factor in if you will even open the email or perhaps delete it.  So just realize your email, which is asking for someone’s attention, is competing with the hundreds of emails people get each week (both at their job and at home).
  • “Come to my show” is too Predictable: When I see an email from a musician, I know they’re a musician.  I’ve grown tired of emails that focus only on a bands shows–because I already know you’re going to play live somewhere.  There is more to your career and to YOU as an artist, so start sharing that.  It’s cool to announce an important show, but I get bored if all you talk about is where you’re playing and how great a show it will be and that you’d love to see me there.  It’s boring.  And I won’t go to your show.
  • Newsletter is sent Sporadically or too often: Once I got a newsletter from a band I really enjoyed.  And then I didn’t get another update for a few months, at which point I sorta forgot who they were and actually didn’t know much about who they were as a band since so much time had passed.  Rarely do bands do the opposite in sending emails too often.  In both cases though, folks are likely to unsubscribe or to never read your newsletter because you’re either too in their faces or not in their face enough.
  • WAAAAAAAYYYYY Too long: I have a good friend who goes on and on and on in his newsletter.  Time is your enemy in a newsletter–the longer it takes to read, the less one wants to read.  It’s not that your fans don’t care, it’s just that their time is short and they have other life things going on.  And if your newsletter is just all text, it isn’t visually appealing by the way.
  • Autobot response: I personally use an autobot response when someone joins my mailing list online.  In person I can thank them and get to know them a little better and I aim for my personality to come through in my auto responder.  In it I thank them, explain I send one newsletter a month, try to get them excited with the lure of contests and stuff I do, and then I end it.  Short and sweet.  However, I’ve seen other newsletters asking folks to buy something right away or just point them to the artists website without much engagement.
  • You don’t introduce yourself to new fans: If you’re made to feel special for something you have just found an interest in, it’s likely you’ll return to it and look forward to hearing more about it.  Musicians typically forget to say hello again to their new fans.
  • The one-sided conversation: The best newsletters are the ones that ask the recipient to get involved.  Ariel Hyatt calls this giving your fans a call to action.  Don’t just send a message, start a conversation!  If you don’t, you won’t know what people think of the newsletter.  I have some ideas at the bottom on what could work.

 

If you’re exhibiting any of these unhealthy habits STOP.  Here’s some advice I can offer you when you rethink how to do your newsletter:

  •  Get thee to a Newsletter Program: There are many.  For musicians you can use ReverbNation’s Fanreach.  There’s also Fan Bridge, iContact, Constant Contact, and others.  These programs allow you to add emails, segment them into groups, and see how often your newsletter is being read.
  • Send 1-2 newsletters a month.  And no more.  If you want to send two, spread them out with a week in between.  Better yet, ask your fans how often they prefer the frequency of communication from you.
  • Be strategic in the time in which to send it out.  If you email your newsletter on Monday, chances are it won’t be widely read.  Same with Friday.  Research shows the best day of the week is Wednesday.  Also be aware of the time of day.  Your fans with jobs may be busy from 9am to 5pm and not check their email much at night.  So try around the lunch hour when they are most likely free or even around 3pm.  I have also heard emailing early before they start work may help because you’re email will be one of the first they see.  And last remember holidays are a factor.  Like don’t send a newsletter the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day.  Really there is no ideal time, so my advice is to try a variety of times and see what your open rate is based on it.
  • Be in and out:  People today want snippets of information–quick, concise and to the point.  They don’t have time to read all the details of your life unless they’re truly invested in that.  Ideally with all the email people receive, the shorter the newsletter the better.
  • Start using Photos, Links, and Video:  Your newsletter should try to incorporate other types of media.  Photos are a great visual and videos can be interactive as well.  You may even want to try doing a video newsletter instead of writing it out.  The other bit of advice is to use links.  Perhaps if a fan wants to read something more you can include a link that will send them to your blog or news page on your website.  Treat your newsletter like it’s an online newspaper where fans can pick and choose what to read and interact with.
  • Segment Your List:  If you had a message for your fans in a certain city, would you blast the message out to everyone on your list in every city?  The logical answer is no, but this is done.  Whatever email program you go with, make sure to segment your fans geographically (usually with a zip code), but also demographically (gender, age)–and whatever makes sense for your fan base.  The idea behind this is so that you can target your messages in newsletters to specific groups of fans.
  • Send a thank you to new fans each month or even after each show: You can make new fans feel welcome not only through an auto responder, but also sending them a welcome newsletter.  Think of this in the sense of a more formal initial greeting or even a thank you for signing up.  Try not to sell anything right away, but you can certainly put links to your online store or iTunes if they’re interested.
  • Engage your fans: This is by far the most important piece.  Allow a conversation or some type of action to take place.  I myself have done contests, free song give aways, and even had my fans vote on the album cover for my album.  Create a community where fans have a say.  I know some musicians don’t want to do this, but try it and see how it feels.  I think you’re fans will love you even more.
Take some time to rethink your newsletter and improve it.  For me, the time invested has had one fan exclaim, “I feel like I know who you are”, just through my newsletters.  Go out and start engaging them.
Brian Franke is a singer/songwriter in Washington, DC.  This post appeared on his Thinking Aloud blog.

Reader Comments (14)

If people know of a band that really does newsletters successfully, post them and I'll sign up. I've never seen a truly impressive newsletter. The ones I get come quarterly, if even that regularly, and just seem like: "We're touring here, and our album is for sale here"

August 3 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

These are great tips. I think we'll have our fans vote on a title for our upcoming album. Now we just have to come up with some first.

August 3 | Unregistered CommenterMay McDonough

Brian,

Totally agree with your comments. Overall, I'd say to musicians to a.) Make it interesting b.) Have fun with it c.) Connect, Ask for input, etc. d.) Stand out.

There are too many newsletters I hit delete on. I'd really like for folks to share information about their experiences, behind the scenes articles, how to's, or share something about their personality. Once someone does that I'll guarantee I won't hit the delete button before reading the e-mail.

Thanks again,
Greg

August 3 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Brent

I think one of the best things anyone can do is subscribe to a dozen newsletters to see what people are doing right & wrong.

I personally am of the school where you should have four or five short bulletin points with links to get more information on them.

I have noticed one thing I like is when people mention a TV show that they like (assuming it's one I like anyway) as it instantly adds a personal interest.

I don't know that I would suggest images & flash being embedded in an email as I hate that. Just refer me to your websites version of the newsletter (which should have an RSS Feed).

Oh & my big pet peeve is people who use Fanbridge to send messages to all their MySpace friends messages. I get a couple hundred messages a day since that "feature" was added & that was the final thing that made MySpace lose relevance for me. When I'm sifting through MySpace for legitimate contacts I make a mental note that all of the people who have contacted me in that way are unprofessional.

Of course all of these things are just my take, great article.

nice article, brian. i send a newsletter once a month and people tell me all the time how much they enjoy reading it. and yes, people do like getting to know who you are and keeping up with what you're doing.

@freddy, you can check out my latest newsletter here.

i've been sending my newsletter for several years now. it is ever-evolving, as am i ;-) no question, the email/newsletter directly from you is the most important way of communicating with your audience. it takes you out of the noisy, disjointed social networks and into a real, human-to-human connection.

August 3 | Registered CommenterDee Stone

Thanks for a very useful article. It's becoming more and more obvious that people need to feel like they are getting personal attention from bands and labels. People are desperate to belong and love interaction. Will be taking a lot of these tips into consideration :)

Glad this post has been worth everyone's while. So Freddy asked for some newsletters that don't fit the typical "shows, sell stuff" formula. I recommend the following artists:

Matthew Ebel, http://matthewebel.com/
Sign up here: http://matthewebel.com/join-the-mailing-list/

Jonathan Coulton, http://www.jonathancoulton.com/
Sign up here: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/mailing-list/

Matthew Moran, http://www.matthewmoranonline.com/
Sign up here: http://matthewmoranonline.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e22b82f95bcd22a42e0143ff0&id=21474cd0d6


And you can read mine here if you'd like: http://www.brianfranke.com/news.html

It certainly is an ever evolving activity. The more you do it and consistently the better your newsletters will be.

Brian Franke

August 4 | Registered CommenterBrian Franke

people still read newsletters? 5 lines tops then.

Great points, Brian!

I also recommend MailChimp for newsletter software. They have been great!

August 4 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth!

Brian -- Thank you for the article and the follow-up examples. I appreciate it. As a new band, Eclectic Verve has received advice regarding what communication tools we should employ. Sadly there are few good band examples to emulate. It's difficult to find a good example of a band website, newsletter, etc. I appreciate your suggestions regarding newsletters! Continued success to you.

August 4 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Musil

Brian-

Hey, thanks for the recommendation!

August 4 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Nice article. I always like it when someone gives "realistic" advice to musicians. You forgot though to talk about the money. As in when is it good to talk about the cost for the tickets and where to buy them bla bla...

August 13 | Registered Commenterxalixo

Hey Brian,
that was a really good article. Thanks a lot.
About the recommendet newsletter tools like Fanbridge, Mailchimp...
Do you know if there is any test, which newslettertool is the best and why?

Best
MANTU

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterMANTU

Thanks for the post, and suggestions of newsletters to check out! A few months ago, I tried converting my band's mailing list over to ReverbNation's "fanreach", but somehow in the process of adding emails to their list, got flagged as a spammer. This was after adding only the first 10 emails, all of which were family or close friends of the band who assured me they did not flag any messages as spam. After jumping through several hoops to get back in ReverbNation's good graces, I tried adding more addresses with the same result. Are all the email services like that, or is ReverbNation known to be extra-picky?

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

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