Whether you’re trying to get people out to your band’s first show or trying to sell tickets for a major festival after 20 years in the industry, you may have the same thought going through your mind: Is anyone going to come to my party? You can’t make people go to your show or become a fan, but there’s plenty you can do to connect your music to people who are going to love it. Marketing is a big part of what separates successful bands from bands that play to empty rooms.

In this series, we discuss three of the most popular aspects of marketing your band – email, social media, and your website.

There is no other marketing medium as valuable as email. With email marketing, you get to fully develop the relationship between you and your fans.

When it comes to social media, you’re really just borrowing an audience that major platforms spent a lot of time and money building. These sites constantly change the ways they decide who sees what content because they want pages to pay to reach fans. But email is different—whether or not fans open every email, they’re going to receive every email you send, provided you don’t trigger any spam filters (which we’ll discuss below).

If you’re new to email marketing, you’ll want to start with a platform that has a free tier, customizable templates, a visual drag-and-drop editor, and is easy to integrate across other platforms. MailChimp is a popular option, and is one of the few that has a free pricing plan (up to 2,000 subscribers) and integrates with almost every social and web platform you’d ever use.

Getting people to sign up for your email list is all about creating value. Here are some things you can offer to get people to sign up for your list:

  • First dibs on tickets to shows
  • New and exclusive music
  • Contests
  • Merch discounts
  • Band updates before they hit Instagram

Try a few different tactics, one at a time. It’ll give you a good feel for what works for your growing fan base, and it’s easier to stick to a consistent value message. You don’t even have to give something away, you can just ask your fans something engaging, like Courtney Barnett, who asks her fans what they “really feel” and has them add a song that describes their feelings.

Even if you don’t have a website yet, you can get people to join your email list at your earliest shows. Paper lists aren’t bad, but if you have an iPad, MailChimp has an app made to collect email addresses called MailChimp Subscribe.

The only thing you absolutely need from subscribers is their email address, but you can ask for more. Keep in mind that too many fields can scare off potential fans. Name, email address, and location are usually all you need, though you could ask for birthdays to send fans a little something special once a year.

Location is crucial for getting the right people informed about your shows when you’re touring. If fans get too many emails that don’t apply to them them they’ll unsubscribe. It’s fine to send an email to your whole list when a series of shows or full tour gets announced, but keep reminders about specific cities relevant to those who live nearby. Be sure to let people know in the subject line that the email applies to them. For example, saying “We’re coming to Cincinnati!” vs. “We’re coming to your town!”

Here’s a great example of this kind of email from Japanese Breakfast.

Earlier, I mentioned that your fans will get every email you send them. Of course, that isn’t true. If you’ve checked your spam filter lately, you’ll probably notice that there are some legitimate emails in there. Here are a few quick tips for keeping your emails out of the spam filter:

  • Keep your subject lines relevant, conversational, and don’t use all caps. All caps (or other unusual capitalization) especially is a major red flag to email providers. This doesn’t mean your subject lines shouldn’t have personality! It just means your subject lines shouldn’t read as shouting and should give recipients a general idea of what’s in the email. Otherwise, they probably won’t open the email, which is another signal to email providers like Google that your email might be spammy.
  • Don’t send emails constantly. Daily sends can be a signal to email providers that you’re spamming your list.
  • Send emails regularly. On the other end of the spectrum, if you send emails too infrequently, you’re more likely to see a lot of unsubscribes or bounces (this happens when an email address you have on your list no longer exists) on a single send. Your email marketing software might stop sending your campaigns when this happens. If you send emails at least monthly, you’re less likely to have on single email send with a high percentage of bounces and unsubscribes.
  • Use simple, clean formatting, and make sure your images aren’t too small or too big. Using a dozen different fonts and text colors and embedding enormous images look terrible and are common in spammy emails.
  • Make sure you actually have permission to email people. A big reason email recipients can (and do) mark emails as spam if they didn’t sign up for the list in the first place. Email providers like Google take this feedback into account, and if too many people mark your email as spam, email providers will just start pushing your emails directly into spam for everyone.

Per that last point, sometimes people who did sign up for your emails won’t remember. To curb this, you can do two things. You can send a welcome email when people sign up for your list (either automated or manually on a regular basis). In that email, thank people for signing up for your list, let them know what kind of messages they can expect from you, and include a clear link in the body of the email for people who want to unsubscribe.

Here’s an example of a welcome email from Artist Home, the organization that produces events in the Pacific Northwest.

The other thing you should do is include a reminder of where people were likely to sign up for your email list in the footer of every email you send (along with an unsubscribe link). This message doesn’t have to be super specific. An example could be, “You’re receiving this email because you signed up to get updates from our band through our website or at one of our shows. If you’re no longer interested, we completely understand, and you can click here to unsubscribe.”

Lookout for our next chapter in this series, where we explore how to use social media to get the word out about your music!