[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
With social media platforms taking over the planet and becoming hubs of all sorts of information, some musicians have recently decided not to invest in things like EPKs, proper websites and even email newsletters. Sure, there is an argument to be made that these are somewhat outdated, but I personally believe that while they don’t hold the same importance they once did, they are still important and very useful, and artists at all levels of their careers should still be spending time and money on them.
Email newsletters may be perhaps the most old-fashioned of the items I mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. If they didn’t matter anymore, why would so many major companies work so hard to get people to sign up, keep them hanging on, and to make them as great as possible?
These days, people have been conditioned to expect something in exchange for their email address, so be prepared to give them something of value…but what? Here are a few suggestions you can use to increase the number of fans on your email distribution list.
An Exclusive Download
As a musician, you probably don’t want to get into the habit of giving away your art completely for free (though in the era of streaming, it’s harder than ever to get people to actually pay for your hard work), but there are situations in which you may want to offer free downloads of your tunes to those who earn the honor of listening.
You probably have a song or two (or perhaps many) laying around on hard drives that you have no intention of releasing or placing on albums, so this can be a wonderful excuse to get a lot out of those forgotten cuts.
Offer your fans a free download of a track they’ve never heard if they hand over their email addresses! This won’t sway everyone, but it certainly won’t hurt, and if you really weren’t going to use that one composition for anything else, why not make those who agree to hear from you feel special by hearing a tune nobody else gets access to?
This is less of a “get” if you’re just starting out and only have a handful of real fans, but it’s worth keeping in mind nevertheless. When you have a very small fan base, you should spend a lot of time corresponding with them, as there is no better way to turn a listener into a die-hard follower than by actually befriending them and forming a deep, real connection.
Once you start seeing your follower and stream counts rise, this offering will mean a lot more to those who don’t actually know you personally, but who have caught on to your music. Whenever someone signs up for your email newsletter, reach out to them in some way and start a conversation, or perhaps just include a personalized thank you. This can take place via email, since that’s the method of communication they’ve agreed to, or if you could find them on social media some way (perhaps you can ask for that information in addition to their email), as quite a few people may prefer to hear from you via those channels.
Make sure to include their names and something else that ensures they know you spent some actual time finding out who they are.
A Discount On Merch
If this plan works for most retailers, why shouldn’t you adopt the same plan? Many big stores offer a certain discount off either one item or a total purchase if people sign up for a newsletter, because they know two things:
1. It’s better to make a sale, even if it’s at a discount, and
2. Chances are, even if a large number of people use that sale code and then unsubscribe and never come back, enough will hold on (or even forget to remove themselves), and the discount will be worth it one day.
How you decide to make this work technically is up to you and may require a bit of work or research, and how much you’re willing to offer fans off t-shirts, hoodies, CDs and so on is also up to you…but I do suggest you really make it an enticing offer. Anything less than 10% off is not really the beckoning call you may think it is.
A Free Piece Of Merch
Many musicians, even some of the biggest names in the industry, make a lot of their money from merchandise, as people don’t purchase music like they used to and streaming royalties don’t quite add up for everyone like they should. That means that many rising talents are very protective of not giving too much away or offering everything for very cheap prices, because if they do…how are they going to pay their bills?
I understand this, I do, but just as is the case with giving away music for free, there may be times when it’s worth losing a bit of cash in order to hopefully make more in the future. Getting people to sign up for your email newsletter isn’t just a fun metric to track or one more small marketing tool you should keep in the back of your mind, it can be a serious moneymaker. The more fans who receive your missives about new releases, upcoming shows and yes, even new items being added to your online store, the more your revenue soars.
If you are thinking of giving away merchandise in exchange for email addresses, I’d suggest going with something rather cheap. Don’t hand over sweatshirts, but perhaps buttons, stickers, keychains, or the like. These are pieces you can have made in bulk and for relatively cheap, so you won’t miss them much. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to ship these giveaways (unless you find some other way to deliver them to your signees), so the smaller and lighter, the less they will cost you to mail.
This alone might not convince many people to sign up for your email newsletter, but when paired with one of the items above, it can be very helpful. In fact, this is something that those giving you access to their email inboxes deserve, no matter what.
Promise these fans that they will hear from you, but not too often. Don’t bombard them with every little notice or detail, but make sure they know they’re not forgotten! Also, ensure they are the first in the world to hear some great news every so often, whether it be a new single, video, album announcement, or perhaps they’ll have access to tickets at an upcoming concert before anyone else.
Essentially, promise your followers that if they sign up for this missive, it will be worth their while, as will every email you hit send on.