A Basic Guide to Permission Marketing for Musicians

Posted by Tyler Allen on Aug 31, 2015 07:00 AM
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The marketing industry loves taking very basic practices and putting fancy yet unnecessary buzzwords behind them. Those terms make it seem like if you aren't in marketing, it's too complicated for you to do on your own. This is a very dangerous trap to get caught in, especially for indie and DIY artists.

However, there is one marketing term that I can dig, and it's one that all musicians should adhere to. The term is "permission marketing," which we briefly discussed here. Permission marketing – a term coined by entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin – is essentially an anti-spam/interruption messaging philosophy, which is very important for musicians to understand.

Permission marketing is just what it sounds like. Godin explains it as "the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them." So, an email newsletter that you opt in to read, a blog you subscribe to, or a social media page that you choose to follow and receive updates from are all examples of permission marketing.

Permission marketing's opposite is "interruption marketing," or that annoying version of traditional marketing that consists of unanticipated messages that disrupt your experience. So, this might be video ads that you have to watch in their entirety before you can watch that YouTube clip, pop-ups on a website, or unsolicited spam emails.

Now that you know the differences between permission marketing and interruption marketing, here are some best practices and advice for effectively getting your marketing messages in front of people who want to see them.

The power of email lists

Someone choosing to subscribe to your newsletter is a prime example of permission marketing. Fans are signing up to hear from you, and you have their permission to be contacted.

Try to find unique ways to gather names and email addresses. One of the most common routes is to gather information on social media, or even having a newsletter box on your website, maybe in your merch or touring sections. Having a solid list will enable you to send updates and exclusive content to fans. And that's really the power of permission marketing: building long-term relationships by making your fans feel as if they have a personal and direct connection with you.

However, when used incorrectly (or illegally), email can be a quick way to turn people off, too. You should never add people to an email list without their permission. Even if they bought your album via your website or you two spoke to discuss booking, it's just in bad taste, and goes against the essentials of permission marketing. Along the same lines, keep in mind the one of the pillars of permission marketing is delivering anticipated messages. If you lead your subscribers to believe that they'll be receiving a certain kind of email, and you break that trust by sending something they didn't sign up for and aren't interested in, you're going to lose subscribers and fans.

Prioritize quality over quantity

If a fan has signed up to your newsletter, follows you on social media, or has even turned on push notifications for your Twitter, you want to ensure that you're delivering a quality mix of content, rather than spamming him or her to death. One way to ensure that you aren't coming across as too spammy on your outlets or newsletters it the 70-20-10 rule. If you aren't familiar with the 70-20-10 rule, it's really the baseline for your social media frequency, and I advise every artist to check it out. This is a method that ensures that you have a good mix of promo, branding, and networking content, without scaring off or spamming fans.

You want to ensure you have a great balance, but you also want to ensure that the content you're posting is relevant and good quality. So, sure, you might put up those brand-building posts throughout the day, but if it's the same old "buy my album!" content fans have seen 100 times, it's time to either search for better content or cut back on posts until you have something better to put on your channels.

A lot of artists get so caught up in the search for frequency that they forget about posting quality content. When you focus too much on posting X number of times a day, you're going for a number rather than something fans want and need. Don't sacrifice unwanted visibility for needed value. Instead, find a groove that works with the amount of content you have, as well as the amount that you can create. Everyone can whip up some fun text posts, take their own photos, and share music/videos/articles that they like. Everyone already has that at their disposal. Get a good mix going, and try and come up with new, fun, and engaging content.

[How to Get Social Media Content for a Month From a Single Event]

Put yourself in your fans' shoes

The thing about understanding the importance of permission marketing is that we've all been there before. We've all gone to a website that has the same newsletter pop-up arrive eight times, so we just exit the site. Or we followed an artist on Twitter but were met with so many spammy DMs that we unfollowed. You've probably also gotten emails, or even phone calls, from random sales companies – all bothersome entities that stunt any brand's growth.

When you're posting, simply ask yourself: Is this message anticipated, personal, and relevant to the audience I'm reaching? Am I being authentic? Is this on brand? By simply putting yourself in the shoes of your fans, you can ensure you're coming off as an artist who genuinely cares about your relationship with your fans.


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As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.

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