Countless blog posts will profess to you that they have the 8 ultimate solutions to building your fanbase, or the 5 top tips you need to grow your audience as a musician.
Invariably they will all have the same regurgitated click-bait-esque elements, claiming that a case of covering all the bases, surrounding yourself with a collection of motivated people, getting a street-team, booking gigs and hoping for the best or any number of other solutions.
Some of the more well-informed posts will touch upon the importance of an email list, but I’ve yet to read a single one which puts anywhere near enough importance on your email list.
Your email list or database is easily the single most important thing you should have up and running as a musician, label, artist or DJ.
Over the past 10 years I have run record labels (check Ditto’s Record Label In A Box for a kick start!), released on other people’s labels, released my own music and released other people’s music. I can say with confidence the one thing that has increased sales beyond any other method, is an engaged email list.
I know I bang on about email a fair bit, but when I see something with such potential being vastly underused, I presume people just don’t realise!
How many people do you know who have shunned Facebook or removed themselves from Twitter or Instagram because it’s no longer seen as useful, or because their feed is just full of nonsense?
How many people do you know who are actively trying to “get off Facebook” because they feel it’s a distraction?
Maybe a couple, maybe a few, maybe a handful. I’d bet it’s some though, right? I know plenty people who hate social media, and I know a huge number of artists who are desperate to spend less time blasting nonsense into the ether. Nils Frahm notably made an exit this year. He said:
“Facebook et. al. have become unwanted companions in my life, despite the opportunity they are giving me to promote my music. Followers on facebook work as a new kind of currency today, but I find the political and moral costs that come with it too steep to stay in the game,” wrote Frahm. “This game starts with seeing you and me as currency, and goes on with trading something so intimate as music and human emotions in a digital market that benefits only the few. The picture repeatedly drawn to me is one where I cannot afford to leave Facebook because of the access to fans it represents. It feels like I’m being held hostage by a force out of my control.”
Even if it’s a small percentage of people leaving Facebook, consider this: How many of those people have email addresses? Most of them? All of them?
More people have email addresses than social profiles.
1 billion or so people might be using Facebook but According to a Radicati Group study from January 2017, there are more than 3.7 billion email users worldwide.
So vs the biggest social network in the world, good old email still has more than 3 times the amount of users.
How often do we hear people complain about the fact that their post, update or tweet has been missed by their own fans, because an algorithm has changed, or because the fleeting nature of social media has left their update festering at the bottom of an infinite scroll?
Now, there’s an algorithm at play when you send an email to someone. The dreaded spam filter, but it’s a far more sensible and tangible obstacle than any social media calculation.
Spam filters are relatively predictable, and are really designed to deliver the right email to people, so provided you can write a normal email which isn’t full of salesy nonsense or trigger-words that initiate a shift to the spam bucket, then you’re pretty much onto a winner.
Granted, you’re still up against other subject lines, you still have to handle image-loading and you can’t do fancy stuff like embed video or audio players, but you can encourage one of the most powerful actions someone can take on any form of communication — a mouse click or link visit.
For now, it seems like email is also future-proof.
A bold statement, but in the face of a changing social media landscape it seems relatively resilient.
Social media comes and goes. MySpace came and went, Facebook has come but hung around (too long if you ask me). Twitter sees ups and downs and various other networks appear and disappear. Some just as quickly as they have appeared.
Through all of this email has remained. Most of these networks even rely on email themselves. It makes sense that it will persevere.
This one is going to vary for everyone, but the most important thing is making sure that whenever anybody interacts with your music, you can encourage them to join your email list.
It’s possible via email providers like Mailchimp or SendinBlue, but also through things like download gates or Bandcamp.
For me (Stillhead), this is a case of offering people a selection of freebies that are enticing enough that they ask themselves “why wouldn’t I sign up for this?”.
I offer my first EP, a bunch of remixes, downloads of my mixes, videos, project files and even sample and patch packs for other producers. All in return for an email address.
Then once you have the email address, it’s a case of being respectful, but trying to build the relationship in an engaging, but friendly way. Autoresponders are a common way to do this, but to begin with you could even just email everyone individually and say hello. That’s how I started.
You’ll also want to build that relationship over time so that people hear from you relatively regularly, but get emails about relevant things.
If they have signed up with any interest in your music, you’ll want to let them know when you have new music for them to check.
You could take this much further, and segment your email list by location so that you can target people for particular gigs, or use it to arrange an appropriate tour. You could use it to recommend other artists, you could offer other assistance, or even look for one-to-one conversations with people.
Once you start to build a solid list of people who are somewhat engaged with you or your brand, then you’re in a position to feasibly monetise things.
Imagine you have 10,000 people on your list (maybe a challenge to begin with, but entirely possible over time) and you make a new album which you decide to release.
You email your list about it, and nothing else — you could feasibly expect 100 people to check it out and buy it, but probably a stack more — let’s say an engaged list would yield 500–1000 sales. That’s enough to fund the production of the physical album, or enough to put towards the next release allowing you to continue to produce, without having to worry about paying for PR, social media boosts, shows, press, blog submissions, channel promotions or anything else.
At the time of writing, I’ve stopped promoting my email list for Stillhead – as in, I’ve stopped actively pushing it on social media, I don’t shout about it anywhere etc – but I still get people regularly signing up, and even over the first 6-12 months of having it live, I built somewhere around 1500 subscribers. If I push it, and continue to add to the freebies, or utilise other methods like referrals too, then that could grow quite dramatically.
If you don’t have an email list set up in some way, and if you’re not collecting emails when it comes to your music, you’re making one of the biggest mistakes you possibly can.
Sort it out now. Get it set up, and start collecting email addresses. You’ll not regret it in the slightest.
If you’re keen to find out how, or to know more, then I’ve actually put together a course which takes you through the entire process and includes things like auto-responder scripts to try as well as various other bits of information that will get you up and running in no time.
It’s free, and I won’t sell, rent or spam your inbox.
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