“If you have nothing in common with American Idol and you don’t want to be the Pussycat Dolls, then you don’t really want to be on a label”
Trent Reznor, 2007

I wonder if, back in 2007, Trent Reznor knew how important this quote, and his actions, would be over ten years later.  He saw the problem early.  The music industry was changing, and the “old guard [was] dying.”  Fast forward a decade and look where we are.  CD sales are declining, downloads are peaking, and streaming music has become a new and fashionable craze.  Apps like iTunes and Spotify, and software like Soundcloud allow unsigned musicians to get their music in front of a vast audience and sell.  This is a good thing for the individual musician, however – many of them are missing the point.

They have gone social!

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, yes they are all good places to advertise your band, but they are by no means the best way to get your music across to your audience.  I know that it may shock some of you, but email is still far superior a method of getting your music out to your audience.  In fact, according to Bandzoogle, email marketing is “40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined.”  That’s an impressive statistic, one that should at least coax a musician into at least considering email marketing.  If then the musician still isn’t convinced into attempting an email campaign, then this simple fact might.

Email is future proof.  Social Media is not!

For those perhaps unsure by what I mean, it is simple.  An email marketer can build their lists with customers opted into and subscribed, and they can send the emails until the subscriber requests permission to leave the list.  But the permission has been granted to you to make contact.  Using social media, a like button, or a follow does not necessarily mean consent.  The data belongs to the social media site you are connected to.  Moreover, at any point Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media site, could start charging you to be able to use their software and contact their customers.  It would be a perfectly legitimate move for the social media sites to begin to charge it’s users, or even ban them from making contact with other subscribers.

To clarify, I am not suggesting that musicians boycott social media, in fact, any musician who decides that: Social Media really isn’t the way forward, needs to starting looking for a day job pretty quickly.  I am suggesting that Email Marketing is a better medium for selling music than trying to slot your new music video link in a rolling procession of memes and petitions, somewhere between Daniel’s roast dinner, and Marlene’s talking cat.  Here are five ways to incorporate email into your musical marketing campaigns.

The Price of Fame

2008, Nine Inch Nails sold copies of their albums, literally for email addresses.  2009 Coldplay did the same thing, and both bands built up a large contact list using this method.  Perhaps to some, this sounds like the quickest way to lose money.  A CD that may cost £10 in HMV, sold for an email address.  But this email address then receives newsletters selling tickets to concerts, or merchandise offers.

This is no different to any company who sends free samples of their goods out to a customer who signs up to a list.  It doesn’t have to be entire CDs, or a full album complete with orchestra and DVD of live footage.  Trent Reznor in 2008 scattered USB sticks with samples of his music, and you could do something similar.  A few tracks distributed in this manner could mean a large and active mailing list for you to interact with and ultimately sell tickets, and merchandise, to your followers.

The Direct Link

YouTube is a great tool, but it takes patience and time.  The chances of your music video being stumbled upon through some serendipitous happenstance is slim to none.  Let’s be honest.  YouTube spends most of its time telling you what it thinks you will like.  Unless you are a mainstream act who has poured money into YouTube, nobody will find your video unless they were searching very specifically for it.  So send the music links directly to your listeners.

People like to share music.  An interesting statistic shows that every minute, 323 days of YouTube video is shared on social media.  It makes sense for your socially active audience to be aware that there is a new video that they can share across their online social communities.

The Social Circle

This might sound like I am being flippant, but social media is not somehow ‘aside’ from email marketing.  The two do not exist on separate planes or in dimensions that cannot correlate to one another.  Social media is often about what is happening in the moment.  The crowd sharing pictures at gigs, tweets creating conversations between you and your followers, Facebook posts collect replies as you share a meme or an opinion.  Email Marketing generally deals with the future.   Social media captures you playing in Northampton – email marketing tells us that you are playing Cirencester and Stockport next.

In this way, the two forms of marketing compliment each other beautifully.  Your email marketing campaigns could draw the reader’s gaze to your social media accounts.  It is easy to place links and buttons that go to your main sites, where you can be followed and liked.  However, don’t let it stop you there.  Link them to a specific post or a video that has been posted on Facebook.  Urge they get involved with a debate or conversation that might be happening on Twitter.  Conversely, use social media to link to the opt-in forms where your listeners can opt-in to  your mailing list.  Your contacts will build exponentially if your two forms of media can work well together.

That Explicit Content

Without intending to state the obvious, but if you’re going to be email marketing, your content is just as important as if you were writing a blog or a post on social media.  It’s important to remember, if you are a musician, or emailing for a band, you are not just selling music.  You are selling personality, you are selling your image, and everything that goes along with being an entertainer.  An interesting article by Amp Music Marketing, makes the point that if you write “in stilted prose and with a pushy sales approach” you will alienate and disillusion your subscribers.  They will push that unsubscribe link, and trash your emails faster than I would bin Justin Bieber ticket.

Let your email marketing be as full of personality as your act would be.  Don’t be afraid of using a little humour, and sharing some personal anecdotes.  More than anything, a musicians email marketing must reflect the human behind the instrument.  Unlike the email marketers pushing insurance, cars, or furniture your product is not detached and inanimate.  You are the product, your personality and your history, and above all things, your email marketing could be designed to deliver this experience to your subscribers.


The beauty of being creating music, or other transferable media, is that it can be delivered to your subscribers.  So reward those on your contact list with some exclusive content.  Before you upload that video to YouTube, or before you drop that track to iTunes , send a sample to your devoted followers.  It’s the easiest way of saying thank you to people who have shown you a measure of adoration, and simultaneously are potential customers.

Everyone enjoys being on the inside track, and if your subscribers are two days ahead of the curve with your new track or video, then it may just earn a few more opens on the next email campaign.

Rapping up

So if you are a professional musician, are you email marketing?  You don’t have to sit there every day and create a newsletter, you don’t necessarily have to create even one a week.  Try creating a newsletter using software such as mailingmanager and speak directly to the subscribers who are buying your music and your merchandise.  There is no better time to start than right now!


Adam Ward is one of mailingmanager's platform specialists. The blogs he writes are not only based upon researching the industry, but also through his experience with us.