So probably the most underused tool in the musician’s arsenal is their mailing list. Not enough musicians with free Mailchimp accounts take advantage of all that they can do with the power of their mailing list. This is a really tricky thing of course because it requires you to get off your ass and spend some time learning a back-end system, but guess what, even that isn’t that tricky. MailChimp and its peers make this an easy task and I think you’re going to actually end up getting a lot of value out of it. Look at it this way, if your band is making let’s say… $200 in the kitty off a show, that is to say, you are at a pretty decent level. All things considered, a single show is like 10 hours of work, so the band is making $20 an hour and probably investing a ton of time and money up front. Well, if you get good at emails then you can sell a few shirts with every email and your band will be making way more per hour, meaning that you can fund all sorts of other cool projects to better fuel your art. So let’s get granular on the basis of my strategy.
First and foremost, you need a way to collect emails for your mailing list. There are some pretty obvious ways to start doing this, but it’s when you get granular that it gets interesting. The obvious ways are of course things like making it so that when your fans download music for free off of Bandcamp they have to turn over their email address. Another great way to do it is to just post about your list and even make a way for people to sign up at shows, ideally with an iPad or something so that you don’t need to pick apart random peoples scribbles. But honestly, everyone has seen those things – what will REALLY get people going through, at least in my opinion is going to be creating something completely exclusive for your mailing list clients. If you’re trying to do that then why not create a sample of the product you are trying to sell? That’s right – get a track and make it exclusive to those on the mailing list. Hell, if you have the resources even do a mini EP with a track, a cover song, and a live recording. THAT will get you names.
Then in terms of what to send out, you need to remember that your goal is not to have people click the dreaded unsubscribe button. So once they’ve been latched in not only do you need to service them with the exclusive thing that they get for being a part of your community but you need to keep them latched in. The best way to do this is to offer discounts and free shit. For example – if your list is big enough and it’s making enough money then maybe it’s worth offering a free shirt or a pair of tickets in every email. Hell even toss it in the subject line, eg: “Come See Us On Tour! Win Free Tickets!” These are the things that boost that crucial clickthrough rate and get people interested in what you are doing. Again, you need to remember that crucial marketing rule that no one cares about you and they only want what is good for themselves. Well, it’s on you to figure that out and to bring that value, otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
As for the actual contents and when to reach out there are a few key rules to be following here. What I’d recommend is to not worry about hitting your mailing list too much if you’re only hitting them once a month or less. However, also be sure that you are not hitting your mailing list less than once every three months. Broadly speaking you want to hit your list for important things, not one-off shows, but rather upcoming records, tours or other major announcements. In all of these though you need to be including value for the fan beyond just ‘information’. If they wanted information they would go to your social media pages. What they want is an incentive to stay, so loading it down with goodies is going to be key. What I also, recommend too is ensuring that you hit people twice about any big thing at a minimum. That is to say, if for example, a tour announces, you might want to hit them three months out when it announces, six weeks out when you’ve started to sell tickets and then again right before the tour starts.
If you have a truly dead period for your band, then your mail outs should not be about upcoming local shows or small things but rather content pushing merch sales etc. The thing is, even with a small mailing list you are pitching directly to the people who are the most interested about what you are doing. You are pitching to the people who are passionate about your band and were curious about the exclusive content you were offering, frequently because the kind of exclusive content bands can offer is very much superfan centric. So realize this and realize that these are relationships with people who want to buy from you. You don’t need fucking Patreon, you just need to do a mail out offering people five bucks off of a t-shirt they might want. Mailing list strategy is essential because you want to give people a way to become obsessed. This is your hot target demographic, double down on them.
Once you start to get good at this mailing list stuff there is a bunch of good shit you can do like lookalike audiences on Facebook, setting up different groups, breaking down by zip code… the list goes on, but that’s not really important right now. What’s important is to get a start. A lot of you have mailing lists you don’t hit and more of you don’t even have mailing lists at all. Social media accounts change, we are seeing a mass exodus to Instagram right now and soon that platform will die too. Social media comes and goes, but your email is forever. Don’t you want to be really good at locking in where your fans will be not just next year but in the decades to comes?
Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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