Okay, so you have an email list – great! When used properly, email is one of the best ways to both increase music sales and develop a stronger relationship with your fanbase. You’re going straight to people’s inboxes without having to jump through the various hoops the crowded social media platforms present.
But going direct poses a few problems. An email address is a much more personal form of communication. People don’t just give their email address up to anyone. They're trusting that you'll send them valuable and interesting information -– and if you abuse that trust, you’re getting an unsubscribe. This fear of unsubscribes is probably one of the biggest factors that keep musicians away from diving into email marketing.
So how do you get past this and ensure you’re always sending your fans valuable and relevant content? The first step is organizing your list.
What does it mean to segment your list?
All email providers like Mailchimp, Fanbridge, AWeber, Emma, and Get Response will allow you to set up different “lists.” These lists are where you’ll gather the email addresses of people interested in hearing from you.
Typically, lists are grouped pretty broadly – so you may have one list with all your subscribed fans, and maybe another with your industry connections. You wouldn’t want to send your industry connections your marketing communications - they’d find it spammy. In the same way, you don’t want to send fans a pitch for an upcoming gig, so it’s best to keep them separate.
Within a list, you can further split up your subscribers by interest or by the actions they've taken. In Mailchimp, you divide your lists into “groups,” though other email providers may call these “segments.” So, for example, you may have a separate group within your "fans" list for people who have actually bought something from you.
Keep in mind that people can be in multiple groups or segments, and many will move around depending on how they interact with your emails.
Why organize your email list?
Before we get into how to segment your lists, let’s answer the big question: what's the point of doing all this work to organize your lists into different groups or segments? In short, if you want email to really work for you, you need to be sending your fans things they want to see. Someone who literally just joined your list is going to be interested in different content from your biggest superfans.
I want you to think about how you respond to emails you receive. What causes you to read, click through, or engage with an email? More often than not, it’s because the email is relevant to you and you find it interesting. If, on the other hand, you get a bunch of emails that are irrelevant, you probably either stopped opening them or unsubscribed. It’s all about being relevant.
How to segment your list
The easiest way to segment your list is to divide people up into three groups: leads, fans, and buyers.
- Leads are people who literally just joined your email list. Maybe they opted in to receive a free song or EP, or perhaps they just read your blog and want to be notified when you have a new post up.
- Fans have been on your list for a little while. They regularly open and click through your emails (you can get this info in your email analytics, which is built into all email list services), and they may have responded to a survey or joined a contest.
- Buyers have actually purchased something from you, whether that's an album, a T-shirt, or even supported you on Patreon or PledgeMusic.
You can definitely segment your list in more ways than this. For example, if you’re a producer, you may have a group of fans who are interested in getting mixing tips or Pro Tools files to do remixes of your songs. If you tour regionally or nationally, you may segment your list by location so you’re only emailing local fans about a gig in their area.
What to send to your different list segments
Let’s say you have a new album out. Here are three emails you could send to your segments to make your email campaign more effective.
Leads may not be interested in spending money on your music yet, so sending them a big sales announcement probably isn’t the most effective way to get their attention. Instead, tell them about the album, share an interesting story so they can get to know you better, and give them one song for free. Definitely give them a link to buy the full album, but keep it subtle.
You could even follow up after a few days or a week asking if they liked the free song, and a give them a stronger call to buy the full album.
Fans are somewhere in the middle. Some may be interested in buying your album, while others would rather listen to it on Spotify or head over to YouTube for the music videos. Instead of offering your free stuff or your more expensive bundles, choose to send these fans a link to the digital download of your album.
Buyers are your biggest supporters. They'll most likely purchase a new album if you have it out, but they may be interested in going further if you give them the opportunity. Before you even release your album, you should give these fans the opportunity to pre-order. A lot of musicians offer their fans the chance to pre-order the album a few hours before everyone else.
In addition to pre-orders, you could also experiment with deluxe or exclusive bundles. If you recorded some acoustic versions, offer them a deluxe album with the bonus tracks. If you got merch made, give them the opportunity to buy an album and a T-shirt together, maybe at a bit of a discount.
I hope this has given you a better idea of how you can start organizing your email list. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – even creating just a few groups will help you send your fans the content they’re looking for.
If you want more email ideas, you can download these 10 email templates for free. We’ll break down the 10 most common emails you have to send, go through what to include, and look at an example for each.
- How to Build Your Band's Email List From Scratch
- 5 Reasons Why Email Newsletters Are Still a Vital Marketing Tool for Musicians
- 4 Ways to Grow Your Email List at Your Next Gig
- 6 Tips to Ensure Your Band's Email Newsletter Rocks
Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.