How many e-mails do you get from musicians? How many of them do you actually read? How many do you respond to? While many digital music experts constantly talk about the importance of the valid e-mail list to a musician, they seldom discuss what should be IN those e-mails. Given the messages I’ve gotten in the last few weeks, it’s clear that very few artists know.
In an admittedly unscientific approach, but fun nevertheless, I examined the 63 emails I got from artists in the last two weeks and found some very common ground. Some things artists do well, but there are five mistakes that clearly stand out that no artist should do.
1) LIST TOUR DATES IN A CITY OTHER THAN THE ONE I LIVE IN
By far, tour dates are the #1 thing musicians put in their emails, with nearly 60% doing so. Yet of that, over 2/3 of the e-mails did not list a tour date in my city or a city nearby. Egregious offenders are those who think I might attend a date over in Europe. Getting geo-targeted email addresses is easier than ever. If you don’t want to ask your database directly, you can use Rapleaf to get this information at a penny a person. If you think that’s too expensive, then imagine the lost revenue when they unsubscribe as they feel spammed by tour dates that make no sense. Bottom line: an email targeted with a tour date to the city the person lives in is exponentially more effective.
2) MAKE YOUR ALBUM RELEASE E-MAIL SPECIAL FOR FANS
I get it. You’ve worked hard to make your EP or album. You’re proud to announce it’s “finally here”. You and every other band. During the last 2 weeks, 43% of the artist emails I received were about their release. Out of those, only one artist offered their EP for free. Everyone else inundated me with buy links. Get people as engaged as possible. Most people already are trained to buy at iTunes and Amazon, so unless you got sale pricing, focus on engagement rather than purchase. The album release is special to you, but probably not to the reader on the other end. Make it special.
3) CREATE MORE VIDEO CONTENT AND LINK TO IT
Chances are your phone has the ability to record video. Chances are you have a YouTube channel. Why don’t you use it more often? Less than 25% of the emails had links to video content, music or otherwise. It’s far cheaper and easier to create than an album release, yet was linked to half as often. It doesn’t have to be a song. Have it be commentary, behind the scenes, or answering fan mail. Anything, but just engage your fans. If you feel you don’t have enough content, force yourself to make some content. And if video is just too much for you, link to a blog post. Which reminds me…
4) CREATE MORE BLOG ENTRIES AND LINK TO IT
Why do so many music biz people know Bob Lefsetz? Because he emails everyone his blog entries. Only 20% of musicians linked to their blog entries. If you wrote one and didn’t include it in your email, you wrongfully presumed your fan saw it. They probably didn’t. If you didn’t write one, then get off your ass. I sell more books from my blog entries. And I rarely mention buying the books in those entries. What do you think will happen to your music sales if you engage this way?
5) CREATE MORE FAN INTERACTIVE ITEMS AND TALK ABOUT IT
If I combine every email that mentioned a fan contest, a Kickstarter campaign, a Stageit webcast, and the like, it still came out to less than 25% of the emails I received. Conversely (and oversimplifying), this means 3/4 of the emails I got were all narcissistic emails extolling the artists’ greatness. Make it about the people reading it. Engage them and give them something of value. Only one artist actually answered fan questions in their email. They stood out. Believe it or not, while “fan engagement” is now officially a buzz term, most musicians still have yet to catch that buzz.