How to Start a Band Mailing List – Quick Start Guide
Some may view emails as an archaic form of communication, but they are actually still one of the most vital ways to build your online fan base:
There’s a common saying in the online world: “The money is in the list”.
It’s no different for bands and musicians. Even if money is not the goal, increased engagement and direct communication can be easily achieved once you simply get your fan’s email addresses.
Here are the benefits of using email over social media:
- You have much greater reach over your fans via email: Although people can easily ignore social media posts, most still read or at least acknowledge emails that come into their inbox. Granted, gmail have some labelling that may mean your emails get put into a ‘promotions’ or ‘updates’ label, but the open rates are still likely to be quite high.
- Less money spent on promoted social media posts: Let’s face it; Facebook has greatly lowered the reach of band’s posts unless they pay money on advertising to promote the posts. It can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth to realise that the majority of your fans are not seeing your posts on their newsfeed unless you pay money. I’ve talked to active bands on social media where the vast majority of their fans were simply unaware that they were posting anything at all!
- You have total control over your communication: You can fully choose the format and content of your messages.
- There are much less rules to follow: Social media accounts are usually subject to much heavier rules than email marketing. For example, competition rules on Facebook.
- Much better investment long term: An email list is a much longer term investment than social media followers
- You have control of your list: Social media accounts can be easily cancelled or banned, even sometimes without good reason. With a list of emails, you can switch providers at the drop of a hat.
- You can be super targeted with your list: If you gather some information about your fans, you can segment and be very specific about what messages you sent out to different groups.
What can you do with an email list?
- Send out quirky and interesting news and updates to your fans
- Promote up and coming shows
- Promote music sales
- Promote crowd funding campaigns
- Promote your pateron earnings
You need an email service provider
It’s important that you start properly and use the services of an email provider. There are many reasons why you should not send mass mails directly from your own band mail account. I’ll get more into the details of that later.
As far as email service providers go, I recommend MailerLite, as it’s free for up to 1000 subscribers, and then it’s still quite cheap after that. Alternatively, I also can recommend MailChimp and GetResponse. Here’s some info along with the pros and cons:
Why do you need an email service provider?
Spamming Violations – Sending bulk emails via Gmail or Outlook can get your email account shut down due to email spam.
Reports – One of the biggest benefits of using an email provider is the ability to track emails. You get reports on how many fans opened and read your emails, you get to figure out what works and tweak your progress. Increasing the effectiveness of your email campaigns in such ways can greatly improve your results.
Privacy Violations – Sending bulk emails via Gmail or Outlook and not using BCC mean that the entire list can see each others email address, this can lead to data protection and privacy complaints.
Following laws and regulations – As per the CAN-SPAM act, you need to be careful about how you’re sending and collecting emails. Using an email service provider means that you can stay on top of these regulations. E.g. If you’re sending emails from your own personal email address, how do users unsubscribe?
Some providers are free: E.g. MailerLite and MailCheap are free options. There’s no better reason than that!
- Free for up to 1000 subscribers – Very generous
- Quite cheap once you outgrow your the limits of the free account
- Very good support, even for free accounts
- Good reporting
- Automation and reporting is not as comprehensive as the bigger business email services
- Free plan for up to 2000 subscribers
- Easy to use
- Nice integrations with other platforms
- Prices can get steep if you outgrow the limits of the free version.
- Bad support for free accounts
- Very easy to use, integrates nicely with website platforms
- Very decent email automation
- If you’re getting into designing landing pages, then GetResponse is a great option
- Not very strict on email content
- Spam testing
- No free plan available
The unsubscribe button: Although this button is not what you want your fans to press, it’s vital to the success of your email marketing campaigns. If people don’t want to receive your messages, they need to be able to opt-out. If they don’t have the option, they can mark your mail as spam or send in complaints. Too many spam complaints may see your email marketing accounts band or destined for spam filters until the end of time.
Strategies to obtain email addresses:
Make sure you’re being legal and white-hat about gaining email addresses. There are two ways to add email addresses to your list
Your fan opts in to your email address online: If you have a website, you can use an opt-in form to get the fan’s email address. You can incentivise your fans to opt in by offering exclusive tracks, early-access to news, free content, tips, etc.
You manually adding or import lists of email addresses: Don’t go buying email lists or sharing them with other bands. Here are some ideas for gaining email addresses:
- Check your online band/music accounts. Are there any accounts where you’re already gathering email addresses? E.g. Bandcamp allows you to collect email addresses for fans that are downloading your music. You can import this list into your email service provider.
- Collect emails manually: That’s right; we’re talking pen and paper here. Collect email addresses at the door of gigs, or at the merchandise sales stand. You could also take it one step into the future, and bring a tablet computer to your gigs with your email opt in form. This minimises mistakes and issues with reading terrible/drunken handwriting.
Automate email sending
Email automation allows you to automatically send emails to your new fans depending on different triggers. The easiest option is the ‘sign-up’ trigger. You can instruct your email service provider to send emails to your fans on specific dates after they sign up.
Day 1: A welcome email
Day 2: Free offer – An email with a free track or links to your free online streams
Day 5: An email with merchandise and album purchase links, or a link to your patreon account, or a link to a crowd funding campaign, etc. Using email automation, you can warm your fans up to supporting your band with purchases and fund-raising efforts.
What to not do with your email list
- Don’t spam your list with excessive emails.
- Try to send targeted emails as much as possible.
- Don’t buy email lists – this will get your account marked as spam very quickly. Also, sending unsolicited emails is illegal and could get you in trouble.
Summary – Creating an Email List for your Band
It’s easy to get started with creating an email list for your band. Right now, you might start small, but slowly building your list 10 or 20 people at a time can seriously pay off in the long run. Once you have a few hundred or thousand email addresses, that’s an investment into direct fan communication that’s hard to reproduce using social media.
Many bands invested countless hours in promoting their MySpace profiles year ago. That social network died a horrible death. Many fans will simply not have re-engaged with those bands on other social networks. Networks such as Facebook are already showing serious signs of dwindling support and following.
Throughout all of this, the one direct line of communication that you can bank on for many years to come should be your email list.